Originally Posted by Clackamas Coot
On the subject of fungai, in Jeff's book in the chapter about brewing ACTs is a short discussion on using grain meals to grow fungai to add to the tea brewer.
I picked up some organic grain meals at Bob's Red Mill and I chose rye because I know from my experience with artisan breads and cultivating wild yeast cultures (sourdoughs to most Americans) that rye flour is the most active so that's what I went with along with some pulverized organic rolled oats.
I weighed out 6 oz. of this mixture along with 2.4 oz. of water (40% hydration to use a baker's terminology) and placed in a bowl with a plastic cover and after several days there was definitely a lot of fungai growing on my grain meal culture.
What I was unsure of was the color of the fungai which included everything from grey to green to blue and every hue in between. Not much looked like the photos in Jeff's book.
I chose not to use it because I just didn't know and I certainly don't have $1,500.00 to invest in a microscope.
Any thoughts or suggestions?
To identify particular strains of fungi, you would need to send it to an expert. Apparently one of the foremost experts is located up in BC, Canada, not too far from us. The commonly used definition in regards to beneficial fungi has come from Dr. Ingham, with the understanding that fungal hyphae with a diameter greater than 3 micrometers are considered to be beneficial and helpful in the suppression of disease. This being said, I know that Tim and others have questions this belief, for lack of supporting data. Since I've seen nothing else to go off of in regards to looking at fungi, we still use this definition, but with a grain of salt I suppose. With the oat flour or baby oatmeal you do get the growth of wide-diameter fungal hyphae, however, I haven't seen any data on the specific species of fungi it supports (I think it's aspergillis?) and how it relates to the soil and soil food web. Dr. Ingham's statement is a generalization, therefore this whole idea of activating a specific species of fungi with oats, may or may not fall into the catagory of "beneficial." That being said, I don't think it's going to cause any damage, as many people have tried this method and no negative results have been reported.
I can tell you that you want to avoid any molds, which will grow on the top of the compost, similar to what you described. If you start to see this, just turn the compost over and mix it back into the pile.
Finally, Tim is working on developing some low cost microscopes specifically for looking at these organisms in tea and soil. Prices will range from 200-700 US dollars, depending on the features, but the quality should be at a minimum comparable to the Leica CME that Earth Fortifications sells for $1,695. That's actually the microscope we used to have before we upgraded significantly to a Meiji trinocular with phase contrast.
Anyway, long story short, I think a lot more research needs to be done into the specific types of fungi that are being cultivated using grains and their benefits within the soil food web. Selecting for a specific species or monocultures seems to go against the idea of diversity that we want in our teas and soils to a certain degree. However, some of this is just my opinion, as I think we still have a lot to learn!