Often in Mycology things can seem confusing but are actually quite simple once you understand them. How can two seemingly identical products be so different?
Well, Mycologists have developed means to make the process of growing mushrooms easier and more productive and that is why we have both the Liquid Culture syringe and the Spore Syringe.
If you are wondering what the differences are between these two inoculation media I'm not surprised, I remember being a bit confused originally as well.
In Short, a liquid culture syringe contains living Mycelia cells that are ready to grow straight away from inoculation, often the Mycelia has been isolated and selected for its genetics. In contrast, spore syringes contain spores that are required to germinate before they can begin expanding. These can contain thousands or millions of different genetics in one syringe.
Below I will discuss why Mycologists do this in a little bit more detail.
What is a Liquid Culture Syringe?
A liquid culture syringe is a culture medium that contains small pieces of Mycelium which have already germinated (from spores) and began growing. Often a Liquid culture syringe contains a nutritious liquid (often sterilized) such as honey liquid culture which the Mycelium can feed on and expand.
So, Inside a Liquid Culture syringe, you have living microscopic Mycelium which are going about their lifecycle, trying to expand and reproduce (produce mushrooms and sporulate).
Pros of Liquid Culture.
- LC’s can be selected for genetics (Large yields, guaranteed fruits, single genetics, etc).
- Faster Colonization times.
- Widely available.
Cons of Liquid Culture.
- Limited Shelf life if not refrigerated.
What is a Spore Syringe?
A spore syringe contains spores suspended in a water solution (often sterilized and distilled). Spores can be viewed in a similar way seeds are viewed in a plant's life cycle. The difference with spores is that two spores that are a genetic match must meet (under the correct conditions) then germinate to begin their life cycle. A spore syringe will create a Mycelium network with many different genetic lineages inside.
Pros of a Spore Syringe
- Long shelf life (spore can be kept for long lengths of time outside a fridge).
- A diverse range of genetics (literally thousands of genetic lineages amongst them to isolate).
- Easily transportable.
Cons of a Spore Syringe
- Longer colonization times (they take a short time to germinate unlike LC).
- A diverse range of genetics (you may grow out mushrooms which are low yield).
So What Could Be The Different Uses For Both of These Techniques?
Liquid culture is useful for farmers wanting to retain similar yields, grow times and other genetic factors. It can be stored for a long period of time if a refrigerator or freezer is available. Liquid culture should be utilized when you want repeatable reliable results. Often people who have proven great Cultures can sell their Mycelium for premium prices.
Spore could be used to try to find a perfect genetic fit for your location or climate. For example, it might be possible to find a strain of King Oyster mushroom which fruits in warmer temperatures than the general species. Spores would be useful in an apocalyptic scenario when electricity is not available. For example, “preppers” may utilize spores as they can be kept outside of a fridge for a long period of time and remain useful.
Does Liquid Culture need Gas Exchange?
No, the Mycelium is already submerged within a nutrient brother so they don't need Gas Exchange. The mycelium will get everything it needs from the broth.
What Should Liquid Culture Look Like? / How Should Liquid Culture Look?
Liquid culture should generally stay clear while expanding. The Mycelia mass will grow but you should still be able to see directly through the culture in places. Often depending on the media it has been created in the liquid will be different colours (yellow if honey preparation was made).
Here are some examples of a good culture. I have examples of bad ones here.
What is a Multispore Syringe? (MSS)
Okay, this is where things may get confusing.
A multi spore syringe (MSS) refers to a Spore syringe OR Liquid culture which contains more than one genetic lineage within it. So it is not a different mushroom strain but a different line of genetic lineage of a specific strain.
Inside most Spore Syringes are thousands/millions of genetic lineages. If someone germinates this Spore syringe on agar it will create a Mycelium mass which contains many different genetic lineages which compete with each other. If you were to place this agar into a liquid culture medium without first isolating one strain of genetics, you would have an MSS Liquid Culture.
Cloning or Tissue selection (from agar) is normally performed to create a single strain of Mycelium. Mycologists will often select the fastest moving strand of Mycelium as it has vigour and speed which is beneficial. A high-quality Liquid Culture syringe will have undergone the process of isolation and selection before being sold to a consumer or used within a farming operation.
I have a detailed post on cloning mushrooms here if you want to preserve and reuse a genetic strain from a mushroom you are intent on keeping.