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Wheat straw has generally been used as the main substrate for cultivating oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus); however, in South Africa it is becoming expensive for small-scale farmers to utilise. Therefore, the main objective of the study was to investigate the use of alternative, but suitable substrates for planting oyster mushrooms. Wheat straw (control), wood chips and thatch grass, selected on account of their year-round availability and low cost, were tested with two drainage treatments (drained or not drained) and replicated four times. Wheat straw showed no contamination, whereas there was contamination in thatch grass and wood chips from weeks 1 to 4. At harvest, a significantly higher cumulative number of flushes, caps and fresh mass of oyster mushrooms was observed in wheat straw and thatch grass compared with wood chips. The results demonstrated that thatch grass could be used as a viable alternative to the commonly used wheat straw.

Keywords: colonisation, contamination, thatch grass, wheat straw, wood chips