Science fair project ideas using mushrooms and fungi

Elm Oyster Kit.

Mushroom growing offers endless possibilities for science projects and experiments. Below I offer a few ideas, and there are links at the bottom to my pages offering the peroxide-in-mushroom-growing manual, Growing Mushrooms the Easy Way, Home Mushroom Cultivation with Hydrogen Peroxide.

Basics of Mushroom growing: Read this for an overview of the process.
Winners: Take a look at actual winning science projects sent by students.

Project using mushroom kits
Here are some projects you can do, starting with a mushroom kit (or a pair of kits, one for a control). A mushroom kit is ready to start forming mushrooms when you receive it. But remember to plan ahead and give yourself enough time for the mushrooms to grow--this usually takes two to three weeks. (Sorry, I am no longer selling kits--see my Links page for other suppliers). With a kit, you can test things like:

  • What happens to mushrooms grown with no light, or too much light? No moisture, or too much moisture? No fresh air?

  • What color of light has the most positive effect on mushroom formation?

  • Will cutting more slits in the side of the mushroom kit bag yield more mushrooms total, or the same number but smaller? Or fewer?

  • How small a piece of the kit block will still produce mushrooms?

  • Will lightly fertilizing mushrooms by mist spray as they grow result in larger mushrooms?

  • Do plant hormones available at garden stores affect fungi?

  • Can mushrooms be grafted, like green plants? Can one species be grafted onto another related species? Would such a graft, if it worked, produce a new kind of mushroom, with cells from each species, or would the graft retain its original identity?

  • Young mushrooms can be removed from their sawdust block and then replaced, regenerating a mycelial connection. How long can a mushroom be removed from its block before it can't go back again? How old can a mushroom be, and still go back?

  • Can a mushroom block continue to produce new flushes of mushrooms over a longer total life span if the block is lightly fertilized? Does an organic fertilizer (e.g. something like milk, gelatin, etc.) work better, or an inorganic one (something like Miracle Grow™)?

  • How about growing a giant mushroom? When two mushroom blocks are pushed together, their mycelium fuses, and the double block produces mushrooms larger than a single block could. Triple and quadruple blocks can produce even larger mushrooms, particularly if fruiting is limited to a single cluster, and if the cluster is "pruned" down to a couple of developing mushrooms. How large a mushroom can you grow?
  • Longer projects
    Growing your own mushrooms from a tissue culture by the peroxide method, without using air filtration or pressure sterilization, would make an excellent science project in itself. Here are some additional questions that would also make substantial projects, most starting with mushroom spawn or test tube cultures purchased from suppliers on the Links page, and following instructions in the peroxide manual for the growing process. Plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time.

  • Can mushrooms be grown hydroponically?
  • Can white button mushrooms be grown on sawdust rather than on compost?
  • Pick a fungus from the wild (especially oyster mushrooms) and clone it to start your own tissue culture (this is easier than it sounds).
  • Germinate spores of two or three kinds of mushrooms. Which species germinate the fastest? What are the minimum conditions needed for germination? Will spores germinate in the presence of hydrogen peroxide?
  • Finally, the peroxide method itself, as described in Growing Mushrooms the Easy Way, also offers various directions for experimentation, not necessarily involving fungi. For instance, you could see whether the same general idea could be applied to tissue culture of green plants (which also normally requires sterile handling), or to the cultivation of other useful fungi. Or you could experiment with the peroxide-decomposing enzymes found in living material (these cause peroxide solution to decompose, making it bubble and froth), to see how these can be inactivated.

  • Some Mushroom Growing Basics
  • Some Winning Science Fair Projects Using Mushrooms
  • Mushroom Growing FAQs
  • Growing Mushrooms the Easy Way, home page
  • About the Peroxide Manual, Growing Mushrooms the Easy Way
  • Links for supplies, books, and other sites

  • You may freely copy and distribute the information on this webpage to friends or colleagues, as long as you include the following notice:

    This document is Copyright: ©1999 by Randall R. Wayne, Ph.D. All commercial rights are reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or used for sale in any form or by any means without permission of the author.