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close this bookSPORE Bulletin of the CTA No. 38 (CTA Spore, 1992, 16 p.)
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View the documentCrop protection for resource-poor farmers
View the documentMaking more of mushrooms

Making more of mushrooms

Mushrooms, or edible fungi, are appreciated for their good taste and nutritional value by many cultures, but to a rather limited extent in most ACP countries. In many places they are collected from the wild, but it is possible to culture mushrooms, although to do so successfully their biology and growing requirements must be understood. It is to assist the wider understanding of the potential of mushrooms as a farm crop in ACP countries and their exploitation that CTA has co-published with the Transfer Technology for Development (TOOL) the practical Manual on mushroom cultivation.

Techniques of cultivation, species and opportunities for commercial exploitation in developing countries are described with case-histories, diagrams and illustrations. Some of the information has previously only been accessible to readers of Chinese and is available now for the first time in English.

Mushroom growing involves many steps, from selecting a suitable technique and strain to spawn manufacturing, growing the crop and marketing the final product. This manual on the cultivation of mushrooms in tropical situations covers general biological information about the nature of mushrooms, information on how to conduct a feasibility study, the commercial potential of mushrooms, and technical information on the cultivation of more than ten species of fungi.

In earlier times cultivation of mushrooms often failed because their biology was not understood. The first records indicate that the wood ear mushroom (Auricularia) was cultivated from 600 AD onwards. The cultivation of white mushrooms (Agaricus) started about 1650 in France. Cultivation spread rapidly after the second World War when reliable spawn (mushroom seed) became commonly available in a number of countries. However, most mushrooms are still currently produced in the western hemisphere and South-East Asia, especially mainland China and Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

Mushroom growing has many advantages. No arable land is needed and agriculturaI wastes, such as straw, are converted into fertilizers and soil conditioners. Income is generated, because mushrooms have a high added value in comparison to other crops. An extra source of protein and valuable vitamins and minerals is added to local diets. In most cases a fast return on any investment is possible.

The Chinese have developed many methods of growing mushrooms with limited inputs and it is some of these methods described in this book that are published for the first time in English. These techniques can easily be applied in ACP countries also and a start has been made. Examples are Malawi, where the government has sent technicians to Taiwan to study Agaricus production; and Burundi, where the Chinese have recently started a commercial spawn enterprise.

The potential for using waste products as a growing medium or substrate may be particularly appealing to many ACP countries. Shiitake mushrooms can be grown on wood logs in mountains with broadleaf tree forests, on pasteurized corn cobs and on sawdust. A technique for growing mushrooms on coffee pulp waste developed in Mexico can be adapted for coffee growing regions in Africa, Jamaica or Papua New Guinea. Culture can be in beds or where the substrate is held in plastic bags. Spawn production is still one of the limitations for mushroom cultivation in Africa, Latin America and some parts of Asia. Suitable strains are hard to obtain and there are still too few strains available that are suited to high temperature climates.

However, some commercial strains from the Far East for low-input cultivation car now be ordered. Technical skills and c theoretical background are necessary to produce the spawn and accurate guideline: on producing various types of spawn are described in Manual on mushroom cultivation.

In general, literature on mushroom culture is expensive and is not aimed at developing countries. By making the information in this book available to extension workers in ACI countries, CTA is encouraging the further dissemination of knowledge on a crop with considerable potential to farmers in their own country through local media and in the own language.

The publication is available from CTA, free of charge, for ACP nationals.