Do Mushrooms Need Light to Grow?
Mushrooms don’t actually need light to grow. They’re not plants and they don’t enter a state of photosynthesis, meaning they can grow in complete darkness.
Many commercial-level mushroom farms that produce culinary-grade fungus for grocery stores actually do so in complete blackness. Some of these farms are located in abandoned mineshafts and other similar places, which provide for a comfortable growing environment for fungi.
Most species of mushrooms are more than 9/10 water, so they thrive best in humid conditions. Light tends to scatter humidity, which is why so many growers have a preference for dark conditions.
That being said, light does make mushrooms somewhat darker. In some cases, that can translate them into being tastier as long as you make sure to not eliminate any humidity in the process.
What Does Light Do for Mushrooms?
Light can encourage the growth of certain types of colonies and it may lead to larger flushes during the fruiting process. Most notably, it can cause the exterior growth of many mushrooms to darken to some degree, which might positively contribute to their flavor.
Unfortunately, excessive amounts of light can dry some mushrooms out, which is why beginners may want to limit the length of time that they use a growth light for. This is especially true of anybody who is growing more fragile types of fungus that would quickly die without a healthy amount of moisture.
Since mushrooms don’t actually photosynthesize, some of them remain largely unaffected by light.
Does it Help Some Mushrooms More than Others?
Sturdy mushrooms, like pink and blue oysters, are generally the ones that light can help most. While light has been known to produce brilliant flourishes when used with fragile fungi like morels, it also tends to be the most destructive when given to them.
Certain types of fragile fungi, like pine mushrooms, can quickly become dried out when exposed to even small amounts of light. Their preference for darker living conditions is precisely why they’re normally found right underneath the branches of trees, growing around their bases.
Other types of mushrooms, especially those that grow naturally in lawns, wouldn’t really be impacted much either way. These usually aren’t of much culinary interest, of course, but it does explain how they can grow so reliably in full sunlight.
Does Light Speed Up Colonization of Substrate?
Assuming that your substrate is extremely moist, introducing light into the equation can help speed up the colonization of it. That’s why so many enthusiasts who grow mushrooms on coffee grounds will do so in clear plastic bags.
The problem is that when you expose this kind of environment to light, it could heat up really quickly and vaporize the moisture. Those who want to use an artificial light source to speed up the colonization of a substrate will want to make sure that they don’t start to get bubbles of water on the sides of the bag they have their material in.
When this happens, move it to a cooler area and turn off the lights to preserve the growth that you currently have.
Does Light Lead to Bigger Flushes During Fruiting?
Light can indeed lead to bigger flushes, but it only does so if the light is applied in a way that doesn’t burn off extra humidity. Some edible fungi, like morels, can get very big when exposed to light at the right time.
The problem is that natural sunlight has a tendency to burn off the moisture that lets them grow, which is why large fruiting morels are so rare in the natural environment. Those that are exposed to light and don’t suffer from these problems can quickly become extremely valuable to collectors of culinary-grade mushrooms.
Enthusiasts who want to use light to try and create bigger flushes would do well to ensure that they don’t turn the lights on for too long. This could zap away the moisture that more delicate mushrooms need.
What Light is Best for Colonization?
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Spider Farmer’s SF-4000 is a massive 5×5 foot full spectrum growth light that was designed to work with authentic Samsung LM301B diodes. Since you can dim it down without causing the light to flicker, it’s become an attractive option for those who are working with sensitive mushroom colonies.
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- 3000-5000K color temperature light source
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- Needs to be assembled
- Semiconductors sold separately
What Light is Best for Fruiting?
Mars Hydro TSW coverage lamps are dimmable and were originally designed for hydroponic installations, which make them very customizable. They can support just under 700 LEDs, so they’ll work with almost any sized mushroom growth layout.
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- Full spectrum growth lights
- Reliable dimmer switch
- Efficiently uses electricity
- Includes semiconductors in kit
- Generous size
- Users can’t look at lights
- Electronics are difficult to configure
Can I Use the Same Light for Both?
You can use the same light for both colonization and fruiting if your light is dimmable and is designed to change colors somewhat. Most of the higher-end growth lights include the ability to swap out semiconductor chips, which allow you to get a different color spectrum.
Fruiting usually requires light that’s shifted more toward the infrared end of the spectrum, so you may want to put in chips that put out more light in this area before switching to ones that offer more visible light over time. It’s usually much less expensive to buy multiple LEDs than to actually purchase multiple mushroom growth light kits.
On the other hand, you might find that you can use the same light for both chores merely by setting the dimmer switch a bit differently. Lower-end models might start to flicker if you do this, so it’s important to work with a high-quality system that can hold up to this kind of usage.