Sugar Cane Mulch Log

Nan's Nook : Archives : Misc Tek : Straw Tek
Posted by: Dawgboy May 08 03, 01:52 AM GMT
Sugar Cane Mulch Log

My mate Sam who lives a few hours away from me rang me a couple of days ago to tell me that he’d started a straw log stylee project, but using sugarcane mulch since he can get it hella cheap where he works. He's a reclusive type who is one of the worst (best?) internet lurkers I've ever met (as far as I know, he's never posted anywhere about anything), but he gave me lots of detail and okayed me relating the story to the nook.

As I mentioned in an earlier thread, sugarcane mulch is the tops and leaves of sugarcane, removed from the cane before it's processed to extract the juice. The old fashioned way was to set fire to the cane fields, which would burn off all the leafy stuff, whilst leaving the cane more or less intact. However, this isn’t very environmentally friendly and I believe moves have been made to stop this happening. The result of this is that there are tons of the top leaves and stalks of sugarcane that need to be disposed of, and one way of doing this is drying it and shredding it for use as mulch.

Sam started it last Sunday, prepared to spend a couple of hours and some skin shredding some of this stuff, but was pleasantly surprised to find it pre-shredded when he opened the bail. Very few bits were longer than about 2”. There were occasional thick, stalky bits, which he removed when convenient, without getting too pedantic about it since the cane is very porous and quite soft (much more so than straw, from what he knows of straw). It smells very pleasant and very slightly sweet.

So, he soaked it in hot tap water for about 45 mins. This is less than the time suggested in the straw log tek, but the mulch is quite fine, on average, and seems quite porous, so he didn't think it needed a full hour or whatever the tek says.

The soaked mulch was rinsed, and then added to 25L (about 6 gallons?) of water at about 180*F into which about a quarter cup of garden lime had been stirred.

The mulch was left to steep, as Sam struggled to keep the temp at around 150*F for 90 mins. It was hard because the rubbermaid was uninsulated, but it always stayed above 140*F and frequently got towards 160*F. Contrary to the tek, he added an occasional dash of lime as he went, since the uninsulated rubbermaid he was using meant he had to add a lot of water to keep the temperature up.

One thing for next time (if there is a next time) – this stuff was pretty dirty, and really should have been washed better before pasteurising. Sam said that by the end of the soak time, the water was very dark and dirty, and there was a layer of dark grey sludge at the bottom of the rubbermaid that he had to avoid when unloading. Live and learn.

About 85 minutes after starting the soak, he unloaded the mulch into a wire basket and allowed it to cool and drain. Contrary to the tek, he gave the briefest of hot rinses to try clean it up a bit. Due to time constraints, he was forced to turn it a few times to allow it to cool faster. This probably mixed in a few extra contams, but the theory is that they shouldn’t be able to sprout in the short term due to the high pH of the log. Guess we’ll see…

About 4 quarts of PES Haw. colonised corn were used, which seemed about right for the job. With hindsight, he wished he’d had less time pressure, because he isn’t convinced the spawn is as well distributed in the log as he thought.

The log was formed using a sturdy clear plastic bag about 20 inches wide, and maybe 25-30 inches tall (he didn’t look at it that closely – it came wrapped around some kind of electrical appliance he bought). The mulch and spawn was mixed a layer at a time, as suggested in the tek, then stuffed into the bottom of the bag. Once it was all used up, the mulch/spawn was compressed into the bottom of the bag, then the bag was rolled back and forth like a dooby to flatten out the sides and further compress the contents (picture a small bottle on its side in the bottom of a breadbag – that’s the geometry we’re talking). The resultant log is about 8-9” in diameter and maybe 20” long

The top end of the bag was rolled onto a long half-inch square stick, which was then rotated about its axis to roll on the rest of the empty bag (a few holes were punched to allow air to escape). When it reached the mulch/spawn, the stick was rotated hard to achieve the desired compression, then a few bits of wide clear tape were used to hold it in place (with hindsight, he said he wished he'd done it a bit tighter, but he thought the softness of the mulch compared to straw meant that it might have closed up too much if over-compressed). My mate reckons this stick can be used to move the log around without interfering with the log, since the stick acts like a spine. Also, when birthing, you can cut the tape, unroll the bag off the stick without moving the log, then cut down each side of the bag all the way past the ends of the log. You end up with the log lying on a piece of plastic that has two flaps that are easily long enough to keep the log covered to retain humidity. Saves using an additional piece of plastic to cover, in any case.

The spawn is apparently doing its thing and has colonised most of the outside of the log after about 4 days at about 70-78*F (tek mentions 72*F due to heat generated in the log). Apparently it isn’t clear how well the myc is colonising the mulch itself, but it certainly isn’t impeding tons of rhizo growth. We'll see I suppose...

Sorry, no photos because Sam is too cheap to buy a digital camera mad.gif . If I go see him this weekend, I'll leave him mine so he can take a few pics to send to me.

More later… cool.gif


Posted by: Peroxide May 08 03, 07:34 AM GMT
I'm sure ya meant 72-78F.

Can't wait to see photo's, not that sugar cane is grown within a thousand miles of me, but totally interested in whether this is gonna work well.

any idea how sweet the tops and leafy bits are? cause if they are half as sweet as cane, there might be contam issues. A PH check would be good, since its probably got a different PH than straw.

Posted by: DirtyWOP May 08 03, 08:29 AM GMT
Yes yes.....maybe leaching before pasteurization would have been a good idea. How well is this stuff composted? It isn't still green is it? I know nothing about sugar cane......

I'll bet that thing looks like a big corn dog laugh.gif

Posted by: Dawgboy May 08 03, 07:24 PM GMT
Yeah, I meant 72-78, thanks (wow, you read all the way to there? Thanks!). I'm a metric boy and these weirdo F numbers don't make a great deal of semantic sense to me. I think I was still in pasteurising temp mode. I've edited the post accordingly.

I did discuss sugar content with Sam after he mentioned that the stuff was "sweet" smelling. He said that he wasn't really willing to taste it, but acknowledged this was a risk. He has loads of it left, so if he decides to do it again, he might do a few comparative experiments with leaching and rinsing to see if that helps, especially if he has any contam trouble with this one.

As for what the stuff looks like, it basically just looks like a combination of shredded bamboo and straw of varying thicknesses. It looks like it would be quite hard and scratchy, but it's actually fairly soft and compressible. Thicker bits are quite porous and soft. From the bale, it's completely dry and the colour of straw (no green) - it's been dried completely, but I don't think it's composted. It has a lovely straw-like smell, too. You probably don't see it in the US since you get most of your sugar from sugarbeet, I think huh.gif

He mentioned on the phone last night (Thursday evening here) that the outside of the log was 90% colonised. He did the log on Sunday, so that's 4 full days (I mentioned 4 days before - it was actually 3). There still seems to be plenty of moisture even though he thinks he may have gone a bit mad with the air holes. I think the red mist descends on him when he picks up a sharp pointed object devil.gif The room he's incubating it in is now apparently sitting around a pretty stable 73-75*F, which is probably about right.

Hopefully Sam won't die from that mysterious lung disease from fungal spores in bagasse that affects many long-term caneworkers (or at least that he survives long enough to give me a report. biggrin.gif

"I'll bet that thing looks like a big corn dog"

Oh yeah! When he was telling me how he did it, he mentioned he thought he might have overdone the spawn based on the amount of corn he could see trapped against the plastic. Oh well, better too much than too little...

Will keep you posted.


Posted by: Nanook May 08 03, 08:50 PM GMT
Indeed wink.gif

Posted by: mycofile May 09 03, 06:04 PM GMT
QUOTE (Dawgboy @ May 09 03, 12:24 AM GMT)
Yeah, I meant 72-28....

Not to rag on you again, but I think you meant 72-78, again wink.gif
Just pointin it out so you know people are reading your posts...

Posted by: ggreatone May 11 03, 03:25 PM GMT
check out this link pertaining to mulch and sugarcane mulch;

also, the mushroom Psilocybe mammilata grows in the wild, off of sugarcane mulch..

does it say on the bag where the mulch was made or came from?

Posted by: Dawgboy May 11 03, 06:23 PM GMT
By way of background, I'd read about actives growing on bagasse, and mentioned it to Sam, knowing he's in sugarcane country and interested in entheogens. The bag he got had the explanation I gave above about coming from the top and leaves of unburnt sugar cane. Coincidentally, I just saw a bail of what seems to be exactly the same stuff in a local hardware shop. About 1.5' x 2' x 3' for A$16, which is roughly US$10. More expensive than straw would be from a wholesalers, but certainly more available than straw for city-folk where I live. A smaller bail of what looked like bleah.gif quality pea-straw was selling for about $4 more at the same place, so I'm sure sugarcane mulch would be available more cheaply elsewhere. I know Sam paid a lot less, although I forget how much he mentioned.

The stuff would have come from the sugarcane fields in northeast Australia, which is not that far from where Sam lives.

Thanks ggreatone, that link was useful - good thing Sam used a fair bit of lime (apparently it's of quite low pH and the link indicates that lime should be used). Perhaps there's a case for using a bit more if he ever does it again.

Here's another link that specifically mentions cubes and bagasse, which I missed previously:

It seems there's also a mention of bagasse in The Mushroom Cultivator, p160. Neither Sam nor I have the book though. Anyone else in a position to fill me in on what it says? Purlease? wub.gif

And an update - by Saturday morning it was practically all colonised, except for a couple of corners that weren't under much compression, and a couple of small patches where the air holes are a little big and the mulch dried out too fast to colonise. Apparently it's looking good, although the proof of the pudding is in the fruiting I suppose. If the timescale is the same as for straw, I suppose Sam should be seeing something early next week (hopefully pins rather than contams biggrin.gif ).

I'll let you know any further info as it comes to hand. If this fruits, it could be good news for any aussies listening. cool.gif

Thanks for all your comments.


PS - thanks mycofile, I'll fix those temps. Honestly, why can't you people just use *C like the rest of the civilised (sorry, civilized) world? wink.gif

Posted by: mycofile May 12 03, 11:34 AM GMT
QUOTE (Dawgboy @ May 11 03, 11:23 PM GMT)
Honestly, why can't you people just use *C like the rest of the civilised (sorry, civilized) world? wink.gif

Actually, I wish we would just use *C, then we wouldn't have to keep correcting the rest of the world, and asking them to convert their degrees into "normal" ones. wink.gif Interesting log, I'll dig up the info on bagasse from TMC for you. I assumed you had read it and it inspired the log. I think he mentions it in a couple of places, maybe in GG&MM as well.

Posted by: Dawgboy May 12 03, 07:10 PM GMT
Actually, yesterday was the first time I heard that bagasse is mentioned in TMC. It was really just a fluke and taking a gamble that it might work based on availability and price. It's still a gamble I suppose - whilst colonisation was lightning fast (on the 6th day it was all but finished - a bit like god really), it hasn't fruited yet.

If you could find that info for me Mycofile, I'd really appreciate it thanks mate.

I'm putting pressure on Sam to buy a digital camera so he can flesh out the commentary with some pics. Will let you know how I get on.

thanks again

Posted by: Dawgboy May 17 03, 08:18 PM GMT
Pants pissing time ohmy.gif

Sam just called me to tell me that he got up this morning and realised it was exactly two weeks since he did the sugar cane mulch log, and recalled that 14 days was what Rodger Rabbit over at hippietopia said was a consistent time to pinning for his straw log tek.

Well, Sam checked the log thinking "Wouldn't it be funny if...", and what do you know, a couple of pins and a load of knots that weren't there last night. He's going to leave it until the end of the day, then cut off the plastic and rewrap loosly a la the tek.

Weird, the time was right to the day...

Now, if only he'd agree to buying a digital camera so I could see the damn things cry.gif He's such a mush-tease!

PS - Mycofie (or anyone else with access to TMC), any word from Stamets on the use of bagasse? Thanks!

Posted by: trinity May 17 03, 08:33 PM GMT
don't shower for a couple days, then keep a bag over your ass for 12 hours. take it off, put your colonized sugarcane mulch in there, and fruit from the bag. the use of bag ass wink.gif

Posted by: Dawgboy May 17 03, 10:00 PM GMT
Ah yes, cubes are dunglovers and there'll be plenty of beneficial bacteria eh?

I'll let you know how it goes... wink.gif


Posted by: trinity May 17 03, 10:22 PM GMT
lol. naw, if i had the book i'd help you out. i should get it soon. 30 bucks, looks well worth it tho

Posted by: Dawgboy May 18 03, 09:00 PM GMT
Plastic sliced off, log aired with a bit of plastic-waggling for a minute, then the whole thing covered loosely with the same plastic. Having the excess plastic from the top part of the bag is great - no need to manhandle the log to get plastic around it, because it's already wrapped underneath the log. If you did want to move it at this stage, it would be pretty easy to gently do so.

That was yesterday (Sunday) morning. Sam checked this morning and found three more pins (five in total now), and more knots. Temp is about 75*F, and he's think of opening a window to bring it down a little to encourage pinning. Apparently it's a lot warmer inside the plastic than ambient temp.

More info to come. Sorry there won't be photos, but Sam is a little paranoid. sad.gif

Is anyone able to check out p160 of TMC where Stamets talks about bagasse and provide an executive sumary?


Posted by: DirtyWOP May 18 03, 09:09 PM GMT
You shouldn't really lower the temp below 75, that is the perfect pinning temp for cubes, your in good shape smile.gif

and pg. 160 of TMC is the introduction to the growth parameters section, and doesn't say anything at all about bagasse

Posted by: Dawgboy May 18 03, 09:42 PM GMT
Sorry DW, I fecked up. blush.gif

I just did a quick search and discovered that it's actually page 106 (there's a copy of the index to TMC at the shroomery).

Any chance of you taking another quick peek for me? biggrin.gif

edited to add - That's true about the temp, but the room he's fruiting in is subject to the whims of the weather and he was concerned that the next couple of days will be sunny and hot. His thought was that it'd be better to have ambient temps a few degrees cooler than hotter (ie, low 70s better than high 70s). I should have made that clearer. Any thoughts?

thanks mate

Posted by: mycofile May 19 03, 12:01 AM GMT
Glad to hear you got pins. Sorry about getting the info to you. I did read it, but don't remember it all. I post from work, so It's a little hard to bring the book in wink.gif
Mostly talks about alternative composts using bagase. Studies that showed better fruits off of it than the control (horse manure compost). Also, poor fruitings when supplementing it with a commercially available comopost activator. That's all I remember, don't think he talked about straight bagasse.

I promise I'll look it up for you when I can post with it in front of me.

*cough, cough*unless somebody*cough*else looks it*cough*up first*cough,cough*

Posted by: Dawgboy May 19 03, 01:22 AM GMT
Thanks mycofile, that sounds about right since it's right near the end of the "Compost Preparation" section:

Phase I Composting 78
Basic Raw Materials 78
Supplements 79
Formulas 81
Ammonia 82
Carbon:Nitrogen Ratio 83
WaterAir 83
Pre-Wetting 84
Building the Pile 85
Turning 87
Temperature 88
Long Composting 89
Short Composting 90
Synthetic Compost Procedure 91
Composting Tools 92
Characteristics of the Compost at Filling 93
Supplementation at Filling 95
Phase II Composting 96
Basic Air Requirements 97
Phase II Room Design 98
Filling Procedures 98
Depth of Fill 99
Phase II Procedures: Trays or Shelves 100
Phase II in Bulk 101
Bulk Room Design Features 102
Bulk Room Filling Procedures 104
Bulk Room Phase II Program 104
Testing for Ammonia 104
Aspect of the Finished Compost 105
Alternative Composts and Composting Procedures 106
Sugar Cane Bagasse Compost 106
The Five Day Express Composting Method 106

If there's anything worth adding to what you already said, I'd be happy to hear it, but no problems other wise. I'll keep you informed about how Sam's experiment goes.


Posted by: mycofile Jun 04 03, 12:42 PM GMT
How's this going?

There were a few other comments that I found on bagasse other than mentioned. Sorry I took so long.

1. Re: bagasse compost studies, the highest yield was achieved off the compost with the lowest moisture content within the range tested (I think it was about 5-7% less than the optimums recomended for horse manure composts)
2. GG&MM later mentions that any of a list of agricultural waste products (including bagasse in the list) can be used according to the methods described for growing on straw.

So, that's all the core of everything stamets ever said about bagasse that I could find.

How did the project turn out?

Posted by: Dawgboy Jun 04 03, 07:14 PM GMT
Hi mycofile, thanks for getting back to me.

Actually, I spoke to Sam last Tuesday but forgot to post.

He got a reasonable first flush, but nothing at all like what's shown in any of the straw log tek pics. The fruit was quite thick compared to cased grain, and seemed denser. To be honest, given the mount of spawn used he thinks he may have done almost as well simply casing the grain (although he did like the low maintenance aspect compared to casing).

After two weeks (from removing plastic), he decided that it was probably drying out too much to fruit, so he dunked it for 6 hours in cold water in a large rubbermaid (with a couple of splashes of bleach for good luck). It was removed, drained, then recovered in plastic with holes. It looked a sorry sight - most of the whiteness was gone and the mulch looked fairly bare on the outside with blue staining all along its sides where it had been bumped against the rubbermaid walls. He didn't hold out much hope for a recovery.

The morning after (last Monday), there was one sizeable pin and a quite a few knots up one end and it was looking quit a bit healthier. By Tuesday (when I last spoke to him), there were lots of knots. Not sure what's happened since.

One thing he found from the first flush was that many of the knots don't seem to develop into primordia. Within two days of originally cutting off the plastic, there were literally hundreds of knots peppering the entire surface of the log. However, only a relatively small proportion (less than 10%) of them managed to turn into fruit. Any thoughts why this might be the case? He was thinking that he might leave the plastic on for a day or two longer next time (if there is a next time).

Another interesting point - when he made up the log, he had a large handful (perhaps 2 inches square by 5 inches long) of pasteurised mulch left over that was mostly the straggly scrawny stuff from the bottom of the rubbermaid he used for pasteurisation. He chucked it into a freezer bag with literally 8-10 grains of spawn, tied a knot in the bag, and poked a few holes into it(and accidentally ripped one far to big at one end). He forgot about it until last week, when he found it under his work area. It had three or four nice-looking pins. He checked again a couple of days later and one of the pins was well over an inch long and turning into one of the prettiest looking fruits he's seen. The other pin was developing a little more slowly but doing okay. He injected some water because it was looking a little dry, but otherwise is just leaving it to progress without further interference. Your (well, Stamets!) comment about moisture is interesting given that this little bundle was very dry - drier than Sam thought could ever have generated fruit.

Sam and I have been discussing whether the mulch we're using could do with a little aging before pasteurisation to allow it to break down a little. Maybe not full composting, but at least damping it down and letting it stew for a week or so before pasteurising. Sam's spawn free ( free as the grass grows - get it? laugh.gif ) for the time being, but if he gets around to doing some more he might give this a go.

Thanks again for that info myco, it was very interesting.


Posted by: mycofile Jun 05 03, 07:48 AM GMT
Good. At least he got some fruits from it and showed that it can be used for those without access to straw. I'd say you probably removed the plastic a little early, I think skypilot says to wait until you have a good many pins before removing the plastic.

The moisture comment is interesting, but remember he was talking about bagasse compost, not just straight bagasse...regardless, this proves that you can use it in a manner similar to the more traditional straw methods. Good to know.

I guess let us know if you use it again.

Posted by: Dawgboy Jun 09 03, 08:00 PM GMT
Thanks Mycofile, comments well taken. Not sure if I mentioned it earlier, but the log was originally birthed when there were a handful of fairly well-established pins. Perhaps a day or two would have helped, indeed...

An update - there are large numbers of pins (about 100) all over the surface of the log now - not bad for a second flush log (don't you hate it when your log doesn't flush properly first time?! laugh.gif ) This seems to support the theory that maybe the mulch needs to break down somewhat to be available to feed the mycellium.

The pins that first came after dunking have become relatively plump fruits that are still nothing like as tall as most of the others seen on straw logs. There is also some contortion of the stems of about 10% of them, and they're all hollow to some extent. Perhaps there's bacteria involved. Apparently they seem to smell stronger than fruit grown on cased-grain, but this flush doesn't seem to blue anywhere near as easily as the first flush. We'll see - Sam hopes to bioassay in the coming weeks.


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