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Mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) belongs to the fungi family. They belong to the class of Basidiomycetes and order Agaricales. Mushrooms are spore-producing organisms which they use in reproduction. This reproductive structure, known as sporocarp, produces spores- which under favorable conditions germinate to form a mass of branched hyphae. These hyphae form from the underground part of the mushroom, known as the mycelia. The other parts of the mushroom include the stem; which is the axis supporting the mushroom cap and the cap, which is the visible upper part of the plant and comes in different colors and shape. They do not possess chlorophyll like green plants for manufacturing their food but for their growth and development they depend on organic foods or decaying materials for nutrient. These nutrients are usually provided by a mushroom-growing medium called substrates of compost. In Nigeria, edible mushroom popularly known as “ogiri agbe” in Yoruba and “Ero”by the Igbos are sourced from the wild due to inchoate mushroom farming culture. They are gathered wild by women and children who through their expertise are able to distinguish the edible from the poisonous ones. There are over two thousand types of mushrooms, but only 2.5-5 % are edible. The rest are highly poisonous and can masquerade as the edible ones. About twenty-five edible mushroom species of good repute whose knowledge were handed down generational lines via oral communication have been identified in Nigeria.
Mycophagy, the act of consuming mushrooms, dates back to several hundred years BC in China. This is the first reliable evidence of mushroom consumption, although edible mushroom species have been discovered in archaeological sites which existed 13,000 years ago in Chile. Edible fungi were also collected from forests in ancient Greek and Roman times and highly valued. The Chinese have valued and used mushrooms for medicinal purposes as well as for food for centuries even till date making them the leading exporter of cultivated mushrooms.
There are many types of mushrooms and they can be categorized into four groups: Saprotrophic, Mycorrhizal, Parasitic and Endophytic. There exist about 25 genera under which different species of mushrooms can be classified. Below are the descriptions of a few of the edible and cultivable species:
Portobello (Agaricus brunnescens syn. A. bisporus): Agaricus bisporus is an edible mushroom native to grasslands in Europe and North America. It belongs to the Agaricaceae family. It has two colors i.e. white and brown, both of which have their individual names. It is a very popular variety of mushroom which is mostly seen in the supermarkets. The annual world production of this species is about one million ton. It is also called button mushroom, White button mushroom and supermarket mushroom.
Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus): this belongs to the Tricholomataceae family. The mushroom has a fan or oyster-shaped cap spanning 5–25 cm. Its color varies from light tan/gray to dark-brown. More than 20, 000 tons of this species are produced annually. It is grown on logs and very easy to cultivate.
Himematsutake (Agaricus blazei): it belongs to the Agaricaceae family. It has a slippery texture with a sweet almond taste. It is highly expensive and very popular in japan where it has spawned a $600 million industry since 1995. It is also called Almond Portobello.
The lingzhi mushroom/ Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum):
Reishi mushroom is a fungus that has been described as being “tough” and “woody” with a bitter taste. The fruiting body (above-ground part) and mycelium (filaments connecting a group of mushrooms) are used as medicine.
Termitomyces species is a well-known edible mushroom in Nigeria. These mushrooms make their appearance after heavy rains and grow in contact with termite nests in forest soil. They usually appear between the months of April through October.
Nameko (Pholiota nameko): this is also called the slimy mushroom. It belongs to the Strophariaceae family. It is a Japanese mushroom produced at 15,000 tons a year.
Enoki (Flammulina velutipes): this belongs to the Tricholomataceae family. It is Dainty and Q-Tip shaped. It has long been known and cultivated in Japan. World production is estimated to be 40, 000 tons per year. It is also called winter or velvet stem mushroom.
Morels (Morchella sp.): it belongs to the Morchellaceae family. It is spongy looking and hollow. It is not as common as the portobello, but similar in texture, flavor, and heartiness, the wine cap is a beautiful brownish mushroom with a bright white stalk. It is also called Land fish mushrooms.
Other edible species are: Lentinus squarrosulus, Auricularia auricula, Lepiota sp, Volvariella esculenta, Lycoperdon spp among others.
The land requirement for mushroom production could be as low as one plot of land. On a low investment level, mushroom houses are just built on arable land while on a high investment level; houses with smooth cemented floors are used. This cement floors are slightly slanted to allow easy cleaning and water draining. Also, if there are any existing structures such as chicken houses, slaughterhouse, and old milk factories, etc. they can be used to reduce cost of rebuilding. Some criteria to be considered before choosing a mushroom farm site include:
Climatic condition of the area;
The optimal temperature for growing mushroom is about 25°C.The ambient temperature has to fit the chosen mushroom strain. If the temperature in the mushroom house is too high opening the doors and windows at night will also help keep the temperature down, misting will also be necessary.
Required light (color and intensity) depends on the strains. When the small mushrooms emerge and you notice that the stems are long and the caps small, the aeration and light requirements were not met. Note that; Oyster mushrooms are very sensitive to insufficient aeration and light.
Good control of the humidity during cropping is very important for all types of mushroom. Keep the humidity high (80 - 90%) by spraying water several times per day.
2. Farm Hygiene
Since chemical control of pests and diseases is not possible in small-scale mushroom cultivation, the only preventive measure is hygiene. Hygiene is vital on a mushroom farm especially for those farmers who will produce their own substrate. Therefore checking a suitable site for a mushroom farm is very important. The surroundings of a farm should be clean and free from possible contamination from insects, moulds, infected soil, etc. building a new mushroom farm close to other mushroom farms should be avoided and used substrate should be disposed or used as manure as soon as possible.
Choose a species that fruits at temperatures near your outdoor temperatures. This limits investments in climate control and reduces energy costs. The only mushrooms currently being cultivated at temperatures around or just below 30°C are: oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus), Volvariella volvacea, Agaricus bitorquis, and wood ear mushrooms (Auricularia polytricha).
The mushroom house needs openings that will provide light and ventilation.
Production of mushroom follows the steps written below, although processes may vary according to specie and climatic condition of the area.
1. Selection of an edible mushroom species.
2. Compost Bed making: Mushroom grow on compost heap whether naturally decomposed or artificially. The compost is spread onto long boxes called beds. The compost heap is laced with saw dust collected from saw mill, watered and mixed with food waste or agro waste. The agro wastes used as substrates; dry plantain leave, palm oil chaff, cassava peels, cotton waste, saw dust and vegetable leaves contain lignin and cellulose. The mixture is watered until the saw dust decomposes with the food/agro waste thereby producing a very unpleasant odour. After five to six days, when the odour reduces, the farmer can then plant the mushroom spores (seeds) as soon as possible.
3. Heat treatment: this is an important measure to control pests and diseases. The heat treatment kills competing microorganisms and to get rid of soluble nutrients. Most substrates are given a heat treatment before spawning. Three methods can be used:
· Pasteurization by immersion in hot water
· Pasteurization by steam
4. Spawning: Mushrooms are cultivated using spawns. Spawns are mycelia propagated vegetatively. This process involves inoculating the prepared compost with mushroom spawns. Spawn is distributed on the compost and then thoroughly mixed into the compost, broadcasting the spawn over the surface of the compost and ruffling it in with a small rake-like tool. Spawning is done when the compost cools, this is when it has a consistency similar to that of thick oatmeal and will provide an environment well suited for mycelial growth. Mycelial growth, at this point, is very rapid if maintained at the optimal temperature of 24 C. These spawns can be purchased in spawn-making companies, research institutes or in the market.
* Note that, spores should not be gotten from the wild since there are numerous poisonous species out there.
5. Casing: The casing layer is a layer of moist material that is put on top of the substrate with mycelium, before exposing this substrate to the fruiting conditions. This is done after the mycelium has grown throughout the substrate. The casing layer is normally compost rich, clay soil, which is nutritionally poor, relative to the compost on which the mycelium has been growing. Using the casing layer is recommended in the fruiting body formation and is necessary for the initiation of fruiting without this step fruiting will not occur.
6. Fruiting and harvesting: The period of fruiting may vary depending on the specie, type of substrate used and climatic condition of the growing room. Generally, mushrooms can be harvested about 3-4 weeks after spawning. It takes a week before new primordia are formed and about five to nine days for the second flush. Harvesting is performed by gently pulling or twisting the mushrooms from the substrate. Generally 3 or 4 flushes are taken over 4-6 weeks of picking and can be harvested over 2-3 months.
The growing domestic and export market for mushroom provides extensive and good potential for cultivation of mushroom. Mushrooms are now cultivated in at least seventy countries throughout the world. The world market for the mushroom industry in 2001 was valued at over US$40 billion. The mushroom industry can be divided into three main categories: edible mushrooms valued about US$30 billion; medicinal mushroom products were worth about US$9 - 10 billion; and wild mushrooms, US$4-5 billion. In Nigeria, mushrooms can be cultivated all year round as sources of the mushroom substrate are food and agric waste which are readily available. The main consumers of mushrooms are food restaurant, hotels, clubs and households. Mushrooms are sold through vegetable shops, local markets and superstores. There is also a high rate of return as a kilo of mushroom is sold for about N1, 700 unlike the regular meat and fish.
1. Source of food: Mushrooms can be eaten as substitute to meat and fish. They are very nutritious and are in rich in crude fibre and protein. In fact, mushrooms contain low fat, low calories and have good vitamins which make it an ideal food for diabetics and obese people.
2. A good cash crop: Mushrooms are a good cash crop. Mushrooms can be commercially grown both for local consumption and export market and can serve as a sustainable revenue stream.
3. Low cost of investment and High rate of returns: The production of edible mushrooms requires only a little amount of space, utilizing food and agro wastes such as dry plantain leave, palm oil chaff, cassava peels, cotton waste paddy straw, cotton wastes, palm fibre, tree saw dust, etc. and generally has low technology requirements therefore it doesn’t require huge amount of money for startup. Also, mushrooms have the potential to earn high returns since it can be cultivated all-year round as sources of the mushrooms are agricultural wastes, which are always available in abundance in Nigeria.
4. Employment opportunity: Many opportunities abound in the growth of mushrooms since it is labor-intensive.
5. Health benefits: Many mushrooms possess multi-functional medicinal properties. Edible mushrooms are considered as healthy food because their mineral content is higher than that of meat or fish and most vegetables. Scientists have also indicated that mushrooms are devoid of starch and low in calories and other carbohydrates. It is clear that apart from the nutritional value of mushrooms, they have potential medicinal benefits.
6. Reduction in environmental pollution: Mushroom cultivation technology is friendly to the environment. It helps in reducing environmental pollution since large quantities of organic solid waste are used in its production.