Growing oriental mushrooms in a dark room.
Mushrooms are not plants, and require different conditions for optimal growth. Plants develop through photosynthesis, a process that converts atmospheric carbon dioxide into carbohydrates, especially cellulose. While sunlight provides an energy source for plants, mushrooms derive all of their energy and growth materials from their growth medium, through biochemical decomposition processes. This does not mean that light is an unnecessary requirement, since some fungi use light as a signal for fruiting. However, all the materials for growth must already be present in the growth medium. Mushrooms grow well at relative humidity levels of around 95-100%, and substrate moisture levels of 50 to 75%.
Instead of seeds, mushrooms reproduce sexually during underground growth, and asexually through spores. Either of these can be contaminated with airborne microorganisms, which will interfere with mushroom growth and prevent a healthy crop.
Mycelium, or actively growing mushroom culture, is placed on growth substrate to seed or introduce mushrooms to grow on a substrate. This is also known as inoculation, spawning or adding spawn. Its main advantages are to reduce chances of contamination while giving mushrooms a firm beginning. Spores are another inoculation option, but are less developed than established mycelium. Since they are also contaminated easily, they are only manipulated in laboratory conditions with laminar flow cabinet.
Indoor tray growing is the most common commercial technique, followed by containerized growing. The tray technique provides the advantages of scalability and easier harvesting. Unlike wild harvests, indoor techniques provide tight control over growing substrate composition and growing conditions. Indoor harvests are much more predictable.