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The Most Easy and Economical Mushroom Cultivation Methodology
By M. Mithal Jiskani
Sindh Agriculture University Tandojam


The higher, fleshy fungi bloom into a visible umbrella like fruiting body, are called mushrooms. These are considered as the source of Proteins, Vitamins, Fats, Carbohydrates, Amino acids and Minerals. According to Rambelli and Menini (1985), on an average, the protein value of the mushrooms is twice as that of Asparagus and potatoes, four times as that of tomatoes and carrots, six times as that of oranges. The protein content determined on the dry weight basis approximately varies between 4 to 44%. The range of amino acids and other similar nitrogen compounds is very large, generally includes rare. The results show that 53 nitrogen compounds are found in single strain of Agaricus bisporus. The mushrooms contain thiamin; riboflavin, niacin, biotin and ascorbic acid, all are essential for human health. The most common fats, available in different mushrooms are palmitic, steric, oleic and linoleic acids. Many mushrooms have high sterol, especially ergo-sterol content. The carbohydrate content varies from 3 to 28 %, as xylose, ribose, rhamnose, glucose, sucrose and mannitol etc. the later sugar seems to be the most abundant. The mineral content is superior to that of meat and fish, nearly twice as that of the most commonly used vegetables. Minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and potassium are supplied abundantly and there is also a fair quantity of iron, potassium, sodium, magnesium, manganese, chlorine, silicon, sulfur and aluminum, which are also found in different mushrooms. The energy value of mushrooms also varies according to species, which is about equal to that of an apple. The local KHUMBHI, desert mushroom, Podaxis pistillaris is consumed by various ways, mostly as fresh in breakfast, contains 21.06% crude protein, 1.71% ether extract, 24.13% ash and 12.23% crude fibber (Khan, 1986).

The mixture of mushrooms has been used for healing purposes for thousands of years. The mushrooms are mainly recommended to diabetic and anemic persons, owing to their high folic acid content. Some are demonstrated as an antibiotic activity others are reputed to be anti-allergic and some are used for soft and comfortable surgical dressing while some are used for anesthesia. Some mushrooms are used as a powder or tincture for swollen glands, epilepsy and against various diseases. Mushroom extract also inhibits the growth of some viruses like influenza. Cardiotoxic proteins are present in different edible mushrooms, which lower the blood pressure, and are also active against tumor cells and are anti cancer (Cochran, 1978). The desert mushroom is used in different way, for treatment of different food deficiencies, illness and is used with butter for bandage of broken bones (Jiskani, 2004).

Some mushrooms are mycorrhizal, used for establishment of forests, to improve the soil fertility, for reclamation and for introduction of exotic plant species; others are predatory and are used as bio control agent and others as pesticide. Some mushrooms also known as condiment, cleaning detergent, tinder, tun bridge ware, snuff, dyeing, luminescent, painting and writing material (as ink), ornamental (as show piece) depending upon use. Mushrooms are objects of beauty for Artists. Architects have constructed minarets, temples and cupola columns in their shapes. Jewelers have made expensive pieces on mushroom designs (Jiskani, 2003).

The mushrooms are sometimes termed as fungus flowers, due to their lovely shapes and colors. These also commonly known as gilled mushrooms, pore fungi, tooth fungi, club fungi, smooth fungi, puff balls, stink horns, jelly fungi, cup fungi, earth stars, bird’s nest fungi, boletus (bolets), morels, truffles and toadstool. Every mushroom is consists of small root like structure (rhizoids) at the base of long stipe (stem), mostly bear pileus (cap) of different colors. The upper surface of cap is rough or smooth but its lower surface bears the gills (partitions) or pores, which produces microscopic spores that serve as a mean of reproduction and develop mycelium on germination, which convert in to the fruiting body called mushrooms, having a form of plant life, without green coloring matter.

Naturally, the mushrooms observed on the manure heaps and dump places like fields, woods, forests, water channels, manure heaps, bunds and on grassy grounds or in the plains, mountainous and coastal areas of Pakistan, mostly during the rainy season or round an year, when ever environment is favorable. The majority of mushrooms are unattractive for eating because of poor flavor, taste, texture or small size or sometimes due to unattractive color and shape (commonly called inedible). Many mushrooms are poisonous to some people and harmless to other, but some mushrooms are edible; and a few are not only edible, but delicious too, because people have eaten them regularly in quantity with no ill effect; are used by more than 200 different methods, may be cooked alone as well as with vegetables, meat, fish etc., and are used for making soups, pies and curries; mushroom ketchup, sandwiches and sauce (Khan and Khatoon, 1982). The poisonous mushrooms, commonly termed as toadstool are known to be poisonous because someone ate them and become ill or died. Hence, the wild mushrooms must not be eaten unless these are identified by experts completely.

The mushrooms absorb oxygen and exhales carbon dioxide, do not need direct sun light and open field; but this does not mean that these grow only in dark. Different artificially cultivated mushrooms need different range of temperature, humidity, light and ventilation. The nature has gifted most suitable environmental conditions from sea level to high mountains, where various kinds of mushrooms grow naturally; but can not be grown year after year with full commercial excess, unless proper growing conditions are provided and adequate facilities are available. Simple, economical and commercial methodology for cultivation of some known edible mushrooms has been evolved (Jiskani, 1999 and 2001). The mushrooms can be cultivated in green houses, growth chambers, ditches, caves, huts, hovels, cottages, cellars, garages, sheds or shelters, bee hive shaped huts, thatched or meted roofs, thick tree groves and gardens, kitchens, bathrooms or other extra rooms of a house or any other vacant building.

Model mushroom house must have: store room, pasteurization room, spawn preparation and spawning room, spawn running room, cropping room as well as packing and preservation room. The size of house/growth room is dependent on the purpose, i.e. commercial or domestic. The room can be a small plastic tent, even on tables or on floor/roof or a large independent building with its own environmental control system.

BASIC REQUIREMENTS FOR A MUSHROOM GROWTH

Temperature: The heating and cooling system can regulate the temperature as per requirement.

Humidity: Near about all types of mushrooms grow well with in range of 80-95% humidity that could be arranged with the help of desert room cooler and or sprinkling water near the mushroom beds.

Light: Most of the mushrooms grow well at normal natural light but oyster mushroom needs regular light that could be arranged through tube lights.

Walls, ceiling, benches and flooring: Concrete flooring with good drainage would be the best, otherwise, must be made with such type of a material that can be washed and withstand high humidity.

MUSHROOM CULTURE AND SPAWN

The propagating material used for mushroom cultivation is called spawn. It is equivalent to the seedlings developed from seeds of higher plants as in case of vegetables. Actually, the spores (serve as a mean of seed) of the mushrooms are so small and could not be seen with necked eye; therefore, the mushroom grower cannot handle them. Technical laboratory person could inoculate sterile cereal grains with the spores or pure mycelial culture of the mushroom and incubate that until a viable product is developed. The grains become "spawn" and can be sown like seed. The entire operation (preparation of pure culture and spawn to spawning) begins in a laboratory under sterile/ aseptic conditions. The best spawn can be prepared on sorghum grain but other cereal grains as well as all agricultural and industrial wastes can also be used (Jiskani, 1999 and 2001).

SUBSTRATE/GROWING MEDIUM

Different agricultural and or industrial straw wastes can be used for cultivation of mushrooms. Mostly, the wheat, paddy, barley, oat and gram straw, banana, sugarcane and maize leaves, empty millet heads and corn cobs, cotton waste, thin sticks and boll locules, sugarcane baggage, banana pseudostems, saw dust, logs, straw papers, manure etc. can be used as substrate (medium) for cultivation. The Pakistan is an agricultural country; therefore a huge quantity of the crop wastes is easily available at low cost, which could be converted in to edible mushrooms, by using separately or in combination.

CULTIVATION OF OYSTER MUSHROOM

The oyster mushroom (Pleurotus spp.) is amongst most important commercially grown mushrooms, now a day in competition with button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus (Rao, 1991). This mushroom resembles the shape of shellfish, therefore mostly known as oyster mushroom in English, Sipi Khumbhi in Sindhi and Sadafnuma Khumbhi in Urdu; also called as wood mushroom, dhingri, henda, kharari, shooto, meat of the forest etc, It is consumed as a fresh as well as dried.

Most of the Pleurotus spp. are easy to cultivate, need less expenses and care than all other artificially cultivated mushrooms. Best spawn can be prepared on sorghum (jowar) and other cereal grains. Mostly the wheat, paddy, barley, oat and gram straw, banana, sugarcane and maize leaves, empty millet heads and corn cobs, cotton waste, small and thin sticks and boll locules, sugarcane baggage, banana pseudostems, saw dust, logs, waste news papers, manure etc. are used separately or in combination as substrate (medium) for cultivation.

The paddy straw, leaves of different crops and empty corn cobs needs chopping in to small pieces of about 3-5 cm. Threshed wheat straw, cotton waste, saw dust, cotton boll locules and empty millet heads or so, may directly be used. All substrates needs soaking in water for 24 hours. After soaking, boil the same in water for about half an hour, so that substrate become moist and insect pests and other microbes present in the substrate may be killed. After this, take out the straw from water and spread on the inclined cemented floor, for cooling as well as removing of excess water from the substrate. When the temperature drops down to about normal and moisture content becomes about 80%, the spawn be mixed at 10-20% of the substrate dry weight (which will be 100-200 g /kg of dry substrate). The spawned substrate may be filled in polythene bags and be placed in spawn running room under controlled temperature, humidity and light. This mushroom requires 80 to 95% humidity, 15 to 30OC temperature and white florescent light for growth and development. When pinheads (initial growth of fruiting bodies) of the mushrooms appear, open the mouth of the bags or cut at place, to facilitate the growth of fruiting bodies. Sort out the contaminated bags and destroy them away from the growing space, burning of such bags is safe for remaining crop.

CULTIVATION OF STRAW MUSHROOM

The straw mushrooms belong to genus Volvariella, grow best on paddy straw, therefore are called straw or paddy straw mushrooms. Perhaps it was first time identified as edible, greatly consumed by Chinese and its cultivation was started in China, therefore is also known as Chinese mushroom, tributary mushroom or nanhua mushroom. This mushroom stood third popular mushroom, can be consumed as fresh as well as dried. Different agricultural and industrial straw waste, recommended for the cultivation of oyster mushroom, can be used for spawn preparation and cultivation, but remember that the paddy straw proved the best.

The straw mushrooms are mostly cultivated on beds, prepared by two ways. The beds from chopped, soaked and boiled straw are prepared of about squire meter size, by placing the moist straw in such a way that first layer be of about 4 inches. In this case, place the spawn 3-4 inches inside the margin of layer at 4-5 inch distance from each other. Sprinkle small quantity (1/2 teaspoon) of gram floor, over the spawn. The second and third layer should be prepared and spawned in the same way. The last layer should be covered with a thin layer and polythene sheet.

In case of cultivation on beds of un-chopped paddy straw, banana leaves etc; the bundles should be prepared of the size of available straw or leaves. If the bundles are prepared from banana leaves than the soaking may be done for 4 hours otherwise for 24 hours. The soaked bundles may be arranged on inclined cement, till the discharge of excess water, before preparation of beds. The bundles are placed length wise, close to each other, on cemented floor, in a cross fashion, with the opposite but ends on one side. Each bed may not be more than five layers. All layers spawned and finally be covered as that of discussed above. In case of cultivation in bags, the same procedure is adopted as described for cultivation of oyster mushroom; only temperature, water and light requirements need change. When the pinheads or small buttons of the mushroom appear, the polythene bags be chalked with blade and sheets should be removed, to facilitate the pinheads for further growth. The straw mushroom requires 80 to 95% humidity, 30 to 35OC temperature and at least two times watering.

CULTIVATION OF BUTTON MUSHROOM

The white mushrooms, resembling with the shape of button are mostly known as button mushroom, but as these are naturally grown in meadow, therefore are called meadow mushrooms, also known as European mushroom, town or street mushroom in Europe. These are largely grown and greatly consumed throughout the world with almost 80 percent share among growing mushrooms (Raven and Johnson, 1992).

The button mushroom is difficult to cultivate, need many more expenses and long time than other artificially cultivated mushrooms. Rice husks or wheat grains found to be the best for spawn preparation, but needs different types of composts with different compositions for cultivation. The process of compost making is termed as composting. The biochemical activity of a number of microorganisms for making the substrate selective for growth of mushroom is called compost. The term composting is also defined as indefinite microbial degradation of organic wastes. The wastes includes vegetable and animal material, forest litter, remains of stubbles and roots in the soil, sludge, animal manure etc. However, this mushroom can be grown successfully in cellars, garages and in any abandoned room. The cultivation in mushroom growing houses by mean of tray system proved to be best. Casing is another exercise, which is also compulsory during cultivation process. Casing means the covering of compost with a thin layer of soil or soil like composted material after the spawn has spread in the compost (till the completion of spawn running). 4-6 air changes or introducing 10 cubic foot fresh air (ventilation) per squire foot bed area per hour is also necessary for good crop, but this is the very risky due to opening entries of growth rooms and helping insect pests and pathogen to attack on crop. Meanwhile, 80 to 95% humidity, 15 to 25OC temperature and time to time watering is also its basic requirement for normal growth and development.

CULTIVATION OF DESERT MUSHROOM

Most of the illiterate people are of opinion that desert mushroom is gifted from almighty Allah; rain is a seed of it. Actually, the dark brown to black powdery mass, developed in mature mushrooms, is a huge quantity of spores, which are not seeds, but serve as a mean of seed. Only Arora (1986), claimed that “I have personally worked with this mushroom and have had no problem” (?!).

The desert mushroom can also be cultivated artificially, as easily as that of other cultivated mushrooms with a little difference. It does not need tissue culture or artificially prepared spawn, but only matured mushroom spores can directly be used for sowing purpose. The results show that there is no need of agricultural or industrial waste, nor a process of soaking, boiling or sterilizing of such material is required. On the other hand, it can be simply cultivated on flat bed of soil. Only the need is that select sandy to sandy loam soil in the surrounding of thick grove of trees and or gardens, or ordinary shed be prepared, because direct sun rays are dangerous for this mushroom too. However, small 4x5 feet sized beds may be prepared with about 9 to 12 inches layer of soil and than one soaking dose of irrigation water may be applied. After a day, the mushroom powder (spores of matured mushroom), not old than one year, may be broadcasted on the prepared bed.

The spores may be mixed with the help of log stick, spade or so, on 2 to 3 inches upper surface of the bed. It must be kept in mind that the beds should be under shade (of trees or artificially prepared thatches etc.). The water must be sprinkled/ sprayed just after mixing of the spores and twice a day on the following days, so that the beds remain moist. Normally the crop may appear within 30 days. Initially, the root like threads (or well-developed hypha) develop from the spores, in orders to search for food, which are actually microscopic, but some times are visible. These threads transmit into mushroom, which initially appears very small and milky in color, vary in shape and size but become normal in shape and size, within one or two-three days, depending upon the environmental conditions.

HARVESTING, YIELD AND MARKETING OF MUSHROOMS

Most of the mushrooms are harvested through picking by hand. The harvesting of oyster mushroom could be done with the help of sharp knife or blade, at the base of the stipe. If there are many pinheads around the mushrooms, cut that mushroom very carefully, so that the near by pins do not be disturbed. Any mature mushroom (harvested or diseased), their stalks and refuse or solid portions left in the bed should be removed and destroyed, to minimize risk of diseases and pests.

The mushrooms yield the crop in cycle and subsequent flushes can be harvested till the conversion of waste in to mushroom or up to contamination or till attack of insect pests or diseases. Approximately, the mushrooms yield equal to 100% of substrate dry weight.

Only some types of wild edible mushrooms e.g. black morels, desert mushroom and button mushroom are being collected, gifted, marketed and eaten by the rural population. These, as well as other artificially cultivated mushrooms could be marketed in local and foreign markets. The marketing or import and export value of mushrooms could be realized from the reports of Export Promotion Bureau.

REFERENCES

• Arora, D. 1986. Mushrooms demystified. 2nd Ed., Berkeley: Ten Speed Press: 725-26. http://amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0898151694/002-5088736-8940217. In: The pages maintained for the Arizona Mushroom Club by Scott Bates. This page was last modified on December 10, 1998.

• Cochran, K. W. 1978. Medical effects. In: ‘The biology and cultivation of Edible Mushrooms’ by Chang, S. T. and Hayes, W. A. Academic press Ed.

• Jiskani, M. M. 1999. A brief outline “The fungi” Cultivation of mushrooms. Izhar Pub. Tandojam. p.94.

• Jiskani, M. M. 2001. Growing mushrooms (step ahead to boost up the economy of Pakistan). Pak. J. Economic & Management, July-Sept., 2001 p. 15-17.

• Jiskani, M. M. 2003. Uses of Mushrooms. International J. Sci. Technol. Development, Islamabad. 22(2): 57-58 and Sarang Student Magazine, SAU Tandojam, 1999-2001, Vol. XIII.

• Jiskani, M. M. 2004. Different to all others: Cultivation of Desert Mushroom, Podaxis pistillaris (L.) Morse. http://www.apnahyderabad.com/articles/Cultivation-of-Desert-Mushroom.asp

• Khan, S. M. and A. Khatoon. 1982. Dishes of mushrooms (Book in Urdu). Department of Plant Pathology, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.

• Khan, S. M. 1986. Mushrooms, in ‘Plant disease’ by A. Hafiz. PARC, Islamabad. 552pp.

• Rambelli, A. and U.G. Menini, 1985. Manual on mushroom cultivation. FAO Plant Production and Protection paper. 43 pp. 65.

• Rao, K. M. 1991. Text Book of Horticulture. Macmillan India Ltd. 2/10, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Dehli, 11 002

The wild mushroom must not be eaten unless it is identified by experts because some mushrooms are edible while others are poisonous.

 
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