Saturday, February 23, 2019
facebook


AGRICULTURE: MUSHROOM FARMING

FUNGAL WONDER

The mushroom industry is poised for a phenomenal rise in production and consumption in the coming years. Farmers of Punjab and other states can make the most of the opportunity by utilising agricultural residue, says Shammi Kapoor18 Feb 2019 | 8:41 AM

AGRICULTURE continues to be the mainstay of India’s economy. However, the ever-increasing population, depleting agricultural land, climate change, water shortage and the need for quality food products at competitive rates are the key challenges.

[ + read story ]

AGRICULTURE continues to be the mainstay of India’s economy. However, the ever-increasing population, depleting agricultural land, climate change, water shortage and the need for quality food products at competitive rates are the key challenges. It is important to diversify agricultural activities to provide food and nutritional security to the people. Mushroom farming is not only a means of crop diversification, but also helpful in addressing issues pertaining to food quality, health and environment. Commercial production of edible mushrooms bioconverts agricultural, industrial, forestry and household waste into nutritious food.

Thousands of varieties have been found growing in forests, fallow lands, canal banks etc., of which a few have been domesticated for human consumption. These mushrooms represent a high-value crop rich in nutrition. Today, about 20 varieties are artificially cultivated in around 100 countries for their food and medicinal value. Being rich in protein, the fungal growth can help alleviate malnutrition and improve the economic lot of people in developing nations.

At present, mushroom production in the country is about 1.5 lakh tonnes, of which Punjab contributes around 10 per cent — mainly through 400-odd seasonal growers as well as a few industrial units growing the crop under controlled temperature and relative humidity. Punjab has about 83.5 per cent of its total land area under crop production. Wheat and paddy are the major crops and their straw constitutes the bulk of about 300 lakh tonnes of crop residue annually. The principal seasons, winter and summer, with the average temperature in the range of 10°C to 42°C, make the state suitable for mushroom cultivation as a profitable subsidiary occupation for supplementing the income from agricultural activity.

Cultivation of mushrooms in Punjab has primarily been a seasonal activity. Four varieties — white button (Agaricus bisporus), oyster (Pleurotus spp.), milky (Calocybe indica) and paddy straw (Volvariella spp.) —are grown under natural climatic conditions. The first two varieties are cultivated during the winter months from October to March, while the latter two are summer varieties (April to August). Thus, growers can cultivate mushrooms round the year by selecting suitable varieties recommended by Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) for winter and summer. Now, a few industrial units with temperature-controlled facility are growing the white button variety throughout the year, but most of the 400-odd satellite growers cultivate primarily button mushroom during the winter months and milky or paddy straw varieties during summer.

There is no organised marketing of mushrooms in the state. The majority of the growers sell their produce fresh in the wholesale vegetable market. Most of the fresh mushrooms are sold as a washed product packed in polybags (200 gm per packet) in almost all towns and cities of Punjab, except Chandigarh, Ludhiana and Jalandhar, where unwashed ones are available too. On an average, the rate varies between Rs 80 and Rs 100 per kg of fresh mushrooms. However, the market rate fluctuations are directly linked to the demand and availability.

Mushrooms are also processed by growers or processors to produce various value-added products, including pickle. These are also used for preparations such as soup, pizzas, pulao, snacks etc.

Punjab Agricultural University arranges specialised mushroom training courses for growers in September every year. The recommended technology for cultivation has been included in PAU publications Mushroom cultivation (English) and Khumban di Kasht (Punjabi). Month-wise farm operations for mushroom cultivation are published in every monthly issue of Progressive Farming and Changi Kheti. As a back-up service, quality seed of the recommended varieties is available from the Department of Microbiology during the respective growing seasons. Analytical services for compost and casing soil samples is provided free of cost to the growers. Scientists also conduct visits to the growers’ farms. Radio/TV talks by mushroom experts from the university add to the extension services for the growers.

The university has started supplying ‘ready to fruit’ bags of button mushroom to hobbyists, small and landless growers, peri-urban families and weaker sections. The compost prepared by the short method of composting is spawned with recommended high-yielding button mushroom spawn and supplied in bags of 5 kg each along with the disinfected casing mixture. These bags just need to be sprayed with water daily, as mushrooms are harvested for 50-60 days.

Mushroom farming is poised for a phenomenal rise in production and consumption in the coming years. The farmers of Punjab and other states, therefore, have the opportunity to develop mushroom production as a remunerative subsidiary occupation by utilising agricultural residue.

KEY ADVANTAGES

  • A good source of protein, mushrooms are rich in minerals and vitamins. Some varieties have medicinal properties
  • Potential of utilising agro-waste without causing pollution
  • Indoor crop; growth independent of fertility status of land, vagaries of weather
  • Demand increasing at a rapid rate
  • Cultivation is labour-intensive, provides employment
  • Cost-benefit ratio is appreciable, hence a potentially profit-earning crop
  • Good scope of export, so a source of foreign exchange

— The author is Head of Microbiology Department, Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana

FUNGAL WONDER.
Zero-waste industry cashes in on crop residue

Zero-waste industry cashes in on crop residue

18 Feb 2019 | 8:41 AM

THE manifold increase in grain production has helped India fight poverty and hunger over the decades. However, 4.5 crore children below the age of five years are still malnourished, which underlines the urgency for meeting the nation’s nutritional needs.

Northern states among the laggards

Northern states among the laggards

04 Feb 2019 | 6:51 AM

In December last year, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) released the first-ever state start-up rankings on the basis of the start-up policy framework formulated by the Central Government.

Evolve or perish

Evolve or perish

04 Feb 2019 | 6:51 AM

Eight Indian start-ups attaining unicorn status, funding in excess of $10 billion after a lull in the preceding years, the acquisition of Flipkart by US-giant Walmart for a whopping $16 billion, the number of businesses operating in the start-up ecosystem breaching the 40,000 mark, and the conclusion of over 700 funding deals — these are some of the key developments that described the start-up journey in 2018.

Crop diversification yet to gain ground

Crop diversification yet to gain ground

11 Feb 2019 | 7:02 AM

India is the largest producer, consumer and importer of pulses. Procurement at the minimum support price (MSP) was the catalyst that transformed India from a food-importing to a food-exporting country.

Staple fare, stable rates
agriculture: Pulses

Staple fare, stable rates

11 Feb 2019 | 7:01 AM

It won’t be an understatement to say that the prevailing prices of pulses are at a reasonably stable level. The prices of the five major pulses (tur, urad, chana, moong and masur) have been in the comfortable range of Rs 60-75 per kg for quite some time now, as compared to previous high levels of Rs 100-150 on account of lower production due to drought.

No room for complacency in dairy sector

No room for complacency in dairy sector

28 Jan 2019 | 8:50 AM

With 6.3 per cent annual growth and over 175 million tonnes of milk production, India is on top in the world in the dairy sector.

Cash in on the buffalo

Cash in on the buffalo

28 Jan 2019 | 7:06 AM

Barely in my early teens, I set out along with a farm worker about 45 years ago to sell a muscled male buffalo calf.

  • SpectrumFollowing them into the digital world

    Following them into the digital world

    Electronic devices, especially cell phones, have a Pied Piper-like hold over today’s know-it-all children whose first port of call is ‘Google’ when it comes to looking for information.

  • The udda, aidda of kids’ magazines

    For 11 days, starting on May 17, 1990, Bal Preet Milni Kafila was taken out across Punjab, which was still enmeshed in the morass of militancy.

  • For the ‘Company Bahadur’

    I write here, briefly, about ‘Company Painting’, and the idea comes to mind after having seen, just a couple of weeks back, a fine new catalogue of a part of the collection of Praful and Shilpa Shah, both avid collectors of painting, even if more widely known as collectors and connoisseurs of Indian textiles.

    more Spectrum...
    Off-beat is not off the radar

    Off-beat is not off the radar

    20 Feb 2019 | 8:18 AM
    Foreign degree on a budget!

    Foreign degree on a budget!

    20 Feb 2019 | 8:18 AM
    What are the job prospects in urban planning?Career Hotline

    What are the job prospects in urban planning?

    20 Feb 2019 | 8:18 AM
    Scholarship Roundup

    Fellowships for Biomedical Scientists

    20 Feb 2019 | 8:18 AM
    more Jobs & Careers...