Why Blue Light is Best for Growing Mushrooms
For centuries, mushrooms have been a source of both sustenance and curiosity. Today, as the trend of cultivating mushrooms at home and commercially continues to grow, so too does the drive to decipher the variables influencing their elusive growth patterns. One intriguing aspect that affects mushroom cultivation is light. Contrary to popular belief, light does play a role in the development of many mushroom species. This post explores the influence of light on mushroom growth, the optimum lighting conditions and why blue light, in particular, can be the best choice for aspiring mycologists.
Unlike plants, mushrooms do not require light for photosynthesis, as they don't have chlorophyll and do not engage in this process. Instead, they obtain energy through the breakdown of organic matter. However, light does have an effect on different stages of mushroom development. For instance, light can be a key factor in triggering the formation of fruiting bodies, the part of the fungi that we commonly recognize as “mushrooms.” Light also influences the direction of growth, color and size of these fruiting bodies. Given the diversity of the fungi kingdom, it's important to note that the light requirements can vary widely among different mushroom species.
The best light for mushrooms depends on the species being cultivated. Generally, mushrooms prefer indirect light or low levels of artificial light, rather than direct sunlight which can dry out substrates and overheat the growing environment. Some cultivators use ambient light, while others employ LED or fluorescent lighting to provide a consistent light source that can be controlled for intensity and duration. When artificial lighting is used, certain wavelengths can have different effects on mushroom growth.
It's important to emphasize that while light can be beneficial for many mushroom species, it is not universally the best choice for all mushrooms. For example, some mushrooms, like the delicate enoki, can be grown in complete darkness. In the case of enoki mushrooms, absence of light encourages them to grow longer and thinner, which is a desirable trait for this particular variety. When exposed to light, enoki mushrooms may develop a larger size, which is not preferred in culinary applications.
Recent studies and firsthand accounts from mushroom cultivators suggest that blue light, in particular, has a profound effect on mushroom growth. Blue light, which has a wavelength between 400 and 500 nm, appears to promote faster colonization times and a higher yield of fruiting bodies in some species.
This image showcases the physical effects on oyster mushrooms resulting from three different lighting environments: dark, red light and blue light. The sample grown under blue light produced the highest fresh weight of the three.
Wang, H., Tong, X., Tian, F. et al. Transcriptomic profiling sheds light on the blue-light and red-light response of oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus). AMB Expr 10, 10 (2020).
One of the reasons blue light is effective for mushroom growth is that it mimics the natural conditions under which many mushrooms grow. In the wild, mushrooms are often exposed to the blue light present in daylight. This exposure can signal to the mushrooms that they have reached the outer limits of their growing medium or that they are near the surface, triggering them to begin fruiting.
Moreover, blue light has been found to influence the concentration of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds in mushrooms. This can enhance the nutritional profile of the harvested mushrooms and also increase flavor and extend their shelf life.
In the realm of mushroom cultivation, Paul Stamets' research has been instrumental in revealing how blue light can enhance the quality and size of psilocybin mushrooms. His latest technique involves exposing mycelium to specific wavelengths of blue light, which activates a series of biochemical reactions:
Shikimic Acid and Antioxidants: The production of shikimic acid and antioxidant polyphenols is increased, benefiting the mushroom's development and health-promoting attributes.
Melanization: Tyrosinase enzyme activity leads to melanization, impacting the pigmentation and potentially the robustness of the mushrooms.
Enzymatic Inhibition: The inhibition of certain enzymatic pathways plays a crucial role in the synthesis of psilocin, psilocybin and other tryptamines.
This research highlights the complex potential of manipulating light spectrums to enhance particular traits within mushroom species, extending the role of light from mere growth induction to intricate quality refinement. As a result, these exciting light-induced discoveries are forging the future of neuroscience.
Building on the understanding that blue light is influential in mushroom cultivation, Active Grow's Blue Sun Spectrum LED technology offers a sophisticated lighting solution. This technology is tailored for mushroom growth, focusing on the 450 nm blue wavelength, which is particularly beneficial for initiating the fruiting phase.
The Blue Sun Spectrum does not just stop at blue light; it also incorporates 6500K Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) white high Color Rendering Index (CRI) chips. These chips are instrumental in covering the entire spectral range, extending into the far-red wavelengths. This full spectrum ensures that mushrooms can develop as naturally as possible, receiving the full range of light waves they would encounter in a natural setting.
The integration of the 450 nm blue wavelengths with the broad-spectrum white light allows for a more balanced approach to mushroom cultivation. This can lead to healthier, more naturally developed fungi compared to those grown under a narrow spectrum or insufficient lighting conditions. Utilizing Active Grow's Blue Sun Spectrum lighting can also lead to increases in certain desirable qualities in mushrooms such as enhanced flavor profiles, improved nutritional content and a more natural appearance.
In summary, while mushrooms don't rely on light in the same way plants do, certain types of light can significantly influence their growth and development. Understanding the unique reactions of different types of mushrooms to various light spectrums and intensities is crucial when selecting grow lights. Blue light, and specifically the Blue Sun Spectrum offered by Active Grow, can be an invaluable element in the cultivation process, aiding a range of species, from oyster and shiitake to lion's mane and psilocybin, in producing bountiful and high-quality yields. Whether you seek to boost growth, enhance flavors or achieve a more natural development pattern, considering the light spectrum and intensity through mushroom lighting solutions from Active Grow can significantly impact the success of your mushroom cultivation endeavors.
Check out Active Grow's current selection of products for growing mushrooms.