Mushrooms have long been appreciated due to their taste, delicacy as well as nutritional and medicinal properties. It’s among those crops that are not just appreciated for its nutritional value but also it’s economic and land viability. Its cultivation is highly profitable. The cultivation of edible fungi is a controlled bio-conservation of agro-industrial, lingo-cellulosic waste & residues. Mushroom cultivation fits in very well with sustainable farming & has several advantages for farmers. Firstly, It uses agricultural waste products. Secondly, a high production per surface area can be obtained, and lastly, after picking, the spent substrate works as a remarkably good soil conditioner, thus making mushrooms a sought-after cash crop.
Introduction to mushrooms
The development of Oyster mushroom production methodologies on agricultural waste like Paddy straw and wheat straw gives very high yield. In India, only 3 species, namely, Agaricus bisporus, Pleurotus sajorcaju and Volveriell are preferred for commercial cultivation.
Of the three cultivated species, the white button mushrooms have the highest consumer preference and account for about 90 percent of total mushroom production. Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus sp.), belonging to the Class Basidiomycetes and Family Agaricaceae is popularly known as ‘Dhingri’ in India and grows naturally in the temperate and tropical forests on dead and decaying wooden logs and sometimes on dying trunks of deciduous or coniferous woods. It can also grow on decaying organic matter. Oyster mushrooms are an extremely rich source of protein and are the third largest cultivated mushroom. The economic importance of the mushroom lies primarily in its use as food for human consumption. It is rich in Vitamin C and B complex and the protein content varies between 1.6 to 2.5 percent & mineral salts required for the human body. The niacin content is about ten times higher than any other vegetables.
Mushroom as a Cash crop
Due to the growing population, the requirement of agricultural produce is also increasing on the similar rate. Since the farmlands are limited so the main concern is now to get more production from the same amount of land. In addition to already existing supply chain issues, information asymmetry between producer & market, this problem is further creating an even wider gap in Demand Supply equation. In order to fulfill these inadequacies, farmers try to get more revenue from the same piece of land by using High-Density Crops and a lot more chemical fertilizers and pesticides then is suitable for the land. As a result, many people are getting sick or are compelled to live a very unhealthy life.
Given that most of the farmers in India are either small or marginal farmers or they don’t have their own land for farming. So their only option to have a better earning is to produce more harvest from their small size fields. According to MKUY, the subsidy will be given only to those farmers who are growing crops commercially i.e. a crop worth minimum INR 2 Lakhs commercially per annum.
Organic mushroom farming seems like the perfect solution to this challenge as the farmer can produce a large amount of produce from even a very small piece of land. As already mentioned before hands, the commercial viability of growing mushroom, even the operational cost of straw mushroom is less thus making it a perfect blend for a good return on low investment & small land. Not to forget, harvesting of mushroom is also less time-consuming.
There are two ways of cultivating mushroom. One is by buying spawn from the local market and the second is by producing spawn in the farm. Spawn production is a relatively sophisticated scientific process which requires a specially constructed laboratory housing some equipment, furniture, glassware, chemicals, and accessories. The required training on spawn production can be easily accessed using the internet. This information is also available with Agriculture universities such as asOUAT, Bhubaneswar. The spawn unit set up in a particular place can cater to the needs of the mushroom growers in a cluster of villages in the locality. The Spawn production unit should have a mushroom growing unit of its own to test the yield potential of its own spawn as well as to demonstrate the cultivation technology to the aspiring growers. If the farmer lacks the necessary knowledge on spawns then it is preferable not to produce spawns in the farm. Spawn bottles are easily available at 10Rs/bottle in a nearby market.
The project can be set up either from a personal loan or an institutional fund
Construction of the building can be completed within six months with electricity connection and water supply
Purchase of equipment and machinery with required accessories along with the raw materials and can be purchased within a month after completion of the civil work.
TheGrowercanbe trained on Mushroom Spawn Production at Institutions like Tropical Mushroom Research and Training, Department of Plant Pathology, College of Agriculture, OUAT, Bhubaneswar
Spawn production will start after setting up the Spawn unit and purchase of required materials.
Things to be considered during production
Mushroom production is not a very tedious process. For straw mushroom farming, first bundles of straws are tied with straw rope and put horizontally on the bed and then another layer of straw vertically. Next, the spawns mixed with gram powder are sown on the bed and covered with another layer of straw. The whole bed is then wrapped with plastic polythene sheets for next 10-15 days. After this, by uncovering the bed, small mycelial growth can be seen. The straw bed should be kept hydrated by sprinkling water on a regular basis. After 15 days the mushroom will be ready to harvest.
With a little bit of effort, anyone can sell the produce locally. A double-sided leaflet can be a good idea for sales promotion where one side will be on explaining the health benefits of organic mushrooms and the other side with some tasty mushroom recipes which families can home cook
A challenge related to Mushroom farming that is this product is highly perishable and only had a shelf life of a few days. So any mushroom that is not sold in the first day of being picked can be dried in a solar dryer and the dry mushrooms could then be sold when the main fresh mushroom harvest is over. However, these dried mushroom should be packed properly.
Final few words
Mushroom is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, folic acid and a good source of iron for an anemic patient. Some of the main consumer for mushroom are Chinese restaurants, hotels, clubs, and house-cooks. In addition, the growing domestic and export market also adds commercially to the value proposition that mushrooms can offer along with the long list of health benefits it brings to the cultures and agriculture.
Mushroom cultivation yields the best profits with minimal care and investments. So if you are a farmer with less space and money then organic mushroom farming could be a best profitable solution.