Mushroom: The future crop

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Mushroom growers from Himachal Pradesh may be looking at a very bright future as mushroom may become one of the few food products which is a viable alternative in the future environment. In view of environmental degradation and shrinking arable land tomorrow’s agriculture will require complete recycling of nutrients, water and agro-wastes. In this kind of scenario one of the best product for the farmers to grow will be mushrooms.

The annual world production of button mushroom has reached 6.5 million tonnes and that of all types of mushrooms is estimated to be over 27 million tonnes. India has registered twenty-fold increase in production of mushrooms in the last four decades and still our production is only 1.2 lakh tonnes. Button mushroom continues to occupy a prominent place and contributes about 80% of the total mushroom production of our country. Himachal Pradesh farmers are already producing 90% of country’s mushroom along with Punjab and Harayna.

Mushrooms are popular for their mushroom delicacy , flavour as well as food value. The agro climate conditions prevailing in many part of the state provide ample scope for the cultivation of mushroom as well as for export purpose. Mainly two types of Mushroom – White button mushroom and Dhingri are being cultivated in the state.

The modern technology in commercial cultivation of mushroom was introduced in the state early with bulk pasteurization units for compost and spawn production units which gave boost to mushroom production in the state.

The Directorate of Mushroom Research, Solan, under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research in its Vision 2050 document has prepared a road map for the promoting mushroom cultivation as an agro-industry in the country. Directorate is the only institute exclusively dedicated to mushroom research and development in the country. It has developed array of technologies for cultivation of different mushrooms suited to various agro-climatic regions of the country.

The Vision document says that with growing need for quality and functional foods novel crops like mushrooms will be in great in demand. Mushrooms which require little space for growth are considered to be the highest producer of protein per unit area and time. Water requirement for mushroom cultivation is far less (25 litres per kg fresh mushrooms) than field crops as they are cultivated indoors. Thus mushroom cultivation addresses issues like nutritional security, environmental sustainability, total recycling of agri residues.

Mushroom cultivation recycles agro-residues, much of which is otherwise burnt in the field. In changing agricultural scenario, secondary agriculture is going to play a pivotal role and mushroom fits very well in this category. Our country can emerge as a major player in mushroom production utilising available abundant agricultural residues. Mushroom being an indoor crop, utilises only vertical space.

India produces around 700 million tonnes crop residues, a good proportion of that can profitably be utilised for mushroom cultivation. Currently, we are using only 0.03% of these residues for producing around 1.2 lakh tonnes of mushrooms resulting in less than 1% of the total world mushroom production.
Even if by 2050 we use 2% of the total agro-residues for mushroom production coupled with enhanced productivity, we can produce around 15.0 million tonnes of fresh mushroom, which will be more than double of the current global button mushroom production, adds the Vision document.

To enable this commodity to become globally competitive, a long-term strategy has to be evolved to lower the production cost and cultivation following globally accepted good agricultural practices, together with higher productivity and processing facility for marketing.

The Vision documents wants greater emphasis in coming decades to be put on market intelligence and information, genetic resource conservation and strain development, post harvest management and value addition, mushroom quality and safety standards, capacity building, gender equity and environment safety.