First let me say that I am the Dummy, and I don't mean any disrespect to anyone else. But over the last 5 years off and on I tried and tried to grow pans with no success. Every single time I got contamination before I got fruit. The more I tried, the closer I got, but I still failed and that was actually much more frustrating. Finally I just decided growing cubes was a lot of hassle and I'm not a fan of the body load or the doses necessary. I don't trip often and my copilot has stomach issues on fungus so it made more sense to figure out how I could get stronger species fruiting, and while I have grown several other species, pans have 3 big advantages: they are compact, they are potent, and they are ridiculously fast compared to really any other species I am aware of, especially the stronger "exotics."
So what I am presenting isn't much of a TEK. Nothing here is original. It's more of a process than instructions meant to take advantage of the strengths of pan mycelium and avoid it's weaknesses so that some harvest is possible. I'm not growing canopies. I am finally consistently getting small harvests that are enough for me to keep myself in genetics and enough material to supply myself and the occasional copilot. A few things I'm going to assume: you have an automated fruiting set up or time to mist and fan pans. Also a working idea of what it takes to fruit pans, aka FAE and surface evaporation without drying out the sub, and experience with agar, etc.
WHAT YOU NEED:
A clean FAST culture
Horse manure. It's not required, but once you get your hands on field aged horse manure it is obvious why it is preferred; it has perfect texture and if you ask it is free. Some sort of manure or manure based compost will be needed.
Chopped Straw. I go to Tractor Supply and a bag of chopped straw is about $10 for a year or two worth of straw for me.
Casing: I use peat moss and vermiculite with pickling lime.
4 cup meal prep trays with lids. These are microwave safe and hold steam really well. This is key.
Grain, I use WBS
Half pint jars. I use plastic lids so they don't rust. I use one hole in the center of the lid. These are tiny jars and I only fill them half to 2/3 full. I shake everything. I do not baby cultures.
Cloth medical tape. Nothing fancy, whatever they sell at our pharmacy. Plastic will melt in the PC and microwave
WHAT YOU DO:
First you'll need a culture. I can't stress this part enough and I'm not an expert at selecting cultures. I will say this, I have had no luck buying a vendor spore syringe even though that's the only way I ever grew cubes for years. I've had better luck with their prints, but the best success has come from fresh prints from members of Mycotopia. Join the VIP. There are varieties out there that I believe are easier than cubes with this method. Start on agar. I advise using lots of cultures, making sure they are clean and not trying to isolate on agar to start. Clean and FAST. FAST is really the key to this whole method. There will be failed plates, jars, and trays. Let it go. We're assuming a tendency towards failure at this point. Give yourself better odds. I'm no expert at the perfect culture and I have one variety of Pan Cambo (Jambo) that is bright white and tomentose and fruits beautifully that doesn't look like any other successful pan myc. Here is jars of Pan Cambo Jambo and Pan Cyan TX, left to right. You'll notice the Jambo are white and fluffy, tomentose where the pan cyan are lighter, greyer, more "wispy".
To start actually cultivating I colonize grain. I use half pint jars filled about halfway of WBS. I simmer my grain then rinse it cold and drain it just a bit before loading jars and running them through the PC for 90 minutes at 15PSI. If you're doing math that gives you about 12 cups of spawn in 12 jars for one PC run in the Presto PC everyone buys at Walmart. This is a remarkably little amount of grain coming from cubes, especially for the monotub guys. That's fine and preferred. This is not a method to produce huge trays. This method will allow you to grow a dozen trays to try new cultures, varieties, clones, and limit failure. Besides pans seem to thrive on lower grain percentage of the final sub. I inoculate my half full jar of grain with several wedges, sometimes a whole plate. Then I shake. I shake a lot, I shake for several minutes, I want to get my wedges spread out if possible, not have them stick to the lid covering the GE hole (taped with medical tape), but I want to strip all the myc off it and get it spread out. This speeds up grain jars from wedges 2-5x compared to just dropping the wedge and waiting. If a jar doesn't recover, most do, that jar was going to fail sooner or later. In the immortal words of Johnny Cash "no time to stop and grieve." With 6-12 jars or trays running simultaneously it's actually a relief to toss something that just won't recover or grab sub.
Once the jars are colonized I make sub and pasteurize it. I feel like this is the most important step of this method aside from having a FAST culture that will fruit. I am not a precise guy and don't have to be. I take roughly one volume of horse manure, and hydrate it thoroughly after shredding it. I have a cheap blender I like for this. I also do it by hand. I wear gloves and a mask. I then add somewhere between an equal volume of chopped straw to 2x the volume of chopped straw. I sometimes chop the straw pretty fine around 1" or I often leave it as it came chopped picking out the biggest pieces. Bigger straw makes a lighter sub that doesn't go anaerobic as easy. Finer straw allows more sub in the same space and will lay flatter in the tray. I will add some vermiculite if I really blow the hydrating part, but I try to avoid it. I just don't like vermiculite and try to minimize it. Here is my sub all mixed
By this point I should have a bucket of semi wet straw and soaked manure thoroughly mixed. I load the meal prep containers roughly half or 2/3 full. I pack it down a bit. This sub is wet. It is beyond field capacity, but the straw is yet to fully hydrate. The next step helps balance all that. I put the lid on the meal prep tray, make sure the rim is clean so that it can seal well, and I microwave it for 4 minutes. At the same time I preheat my oven to the lowest temperature which is 170F in my case. It preheats in the time it takes to microwave the first tray. Sometimes I do 2 trays at a time for 6-8 minutes. I'm aiming for 175-190f when I take a temperature reading. My experience says 4 minutes is fine, but you can see it start to really steam at the end, sometimes blowing the lid off a bit. That's fine. We will have a very wet sub and it goes lid and all into the preheated oven. I repeat the process for the other trays and then leave them in the oven for an hour or two (depending on how wet things seemed maybe longer, maybe shorter). The microwave does an amazing job of rapidly heating everything including the center, steaming the straw, and giving a real good initial knock back of microbes. The Straw will be completely hydrated by this point from the steam penetrating. The oven is just to let it hold the temperature long enough for an effective pasteurization. I let it cool in the oven then transfer to my hood. The pasteurizing in the final fruiting tray has almost eliminated contamination for me. I don't have to use a bunch of chemicals. To clean a tray I wash with water, maybe soap, and a paper towel and then heat it half full of water for 4 minutes before loading. Here is the sub loaded in the tray Here is the temperature of the sub right out of the microwave
Once the sub is cooled or sometimes a few days later depending on life, i spawn. One cup of spawn to about 2-3 cups of sub works quite well. I get decent flushes and they colonize fast. How fast? about 7 days to colonize. Sometimes less. Remember the whole point of this method is SPEED. I want to take a clean culture and get it colonized and cased and into fruiting in the shortest period possible while minimizing exposure to open air. When I spawn, i use a gloved hand to both loosen the sub and work in the grain. I then put the lid back on, and use a torch and tweezers to put 3-4 1/4" holes in the corners. I put cloth medical tape on them and label the culture and the date. Here is the sub to spawn. Here is a tray with breathing holes. Maybe not necessary.
When I have a colonized tray, roughly 5-7 days, I case it. I do use a heavy dash of vermiculite here. It helps to make a thinner casing that doesn't get compressed with misting. Roughly 50/50 volume of peat to vermiculite, coir can be used or supplemented on the peat and (THIS IS IMPORTANT) I mix in roughly one tsp of hydrated lime for every cup of coir or peat. I mix it all up dry then hydrate so it's a bit wet. I microwave for 4 minutes in a meal prep container and pasteurize just like the sub. The lime shoots the Ph to about 11-12 which helps to bring down any microbes, it also leaves a residual of calcium carbonate for metabolite production and dealing with any stress later on. I consider this more than buffering the Ph and contribute it to a direct decline in trich/green mold. Add in the rapid heating in the microwave, the brief steaming followed by the oven for an hour or two and I get a well hydrated, but crumbly casing. I spread this as thin as possible with gloved hands. I want a smooth surface but I'll leave some high spots a bit exposed and some low spots more filled in, but THIN is still what I'm aiming for. I put the lid back on and usually the casing is run through in a day or two, then I mist heavy. It knocks back the myc that might be thinking of overlay. IDK. It does knock it back. Here is a tray that colonized in 7 days, it got two more because of life. Here is a sub freshly cased
So all of this incubating for the most part is taking place in my FC. The FC allows me a little grace regarding perfect hydration of casing or sub because the FC with the lid on the tray will trap moisture. So much so that adding the casing a bit dry helps to soak up surface condensation while making a thinner sub easier to spread.
From here I incubate the casing for a day or two and then I open them up. Pins usually appear in 5-7 days and take 3-4 days to mature at 75-79F. To induce pinning I like to do heavy misting with my FC rising and falling between 80% and as high as 99%RH. Usually a little dryer the first few days and then wetter when the pins start to show up.
Here is a pretty decent Pan Jambo tray
and a Pan Cyan TX that has partially been harvested.
WHY THIS WORKS (I THINK):
Pans are not the most contamination resistant species out there. In fact they like things wetter and warmer and that can mean bacteria and faster germination of trich and other molds. Their primary survival mechanism seems to be speed. So my goal is to use small enough units with minimum outside exposure and reduce all cross contamination opportunities. I have started moving plates from an incubator to a relatively cool room. Slow is fine when I have this many species and cultures going and it promotes fungus over bacteria. The tray gets cooked just like the sub and casing when I pasteurize. No chemicals needed to keep things clean. The proportions are all geared towards speed. The sub is geared towards speed. All the cultures are grown separately in small trays so one mistake can quickly be removed from the others. Pans want to outrun the competition, so I just try to give them the opportunity to run fast (no deep grain jars for instance) and I am pasteurizing the whole thing, tray and all, in place with minimum disturbance. What I know is I now grow pans regularly. I'm not awesome. I'm constantly improving. But this took me from pins with trich to 3 cups worth of grain and sub giving me a couple of solid experiences in roughly 21 days.
Feel free to critique me, call me a liar, or try it for yourself. If you already have a consistent or fast way to grow pans, this isn't for you probably. If you are getting contamination faster than you can get these fruits, give it a try.