Small Scale Mushroom Production in the Developing World for Home Use, or as a New Business Opportunity
By Ahmet Korkmaz – Creator of The Agricultural Guide, a Website filled with information related to agriculture in Turkey, and across the world including Mushroom Production.
Ahmet can be reached by email at: contact /at\ agricultureguide /dot\ org
(Beginningfarmers.org would like to thank Ahmet for contributing this article and providing more global content to the site. Please visit Beginning Farmers’ Mushroom Page for more detailed information and resources on mushroom production.)
There are many different types of edible mushrooms. The most prevalent are button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) which have a stem like stalk, covered with an umbrella shaped cap. The cap is thick and gives more flesh to the mushroom. Mushroom production requires an ability to distinguish between edible and poisonous types. Generally, a distinction exists between those involved in spore (or spawn) production and those involved in producing mushrooms for sale.
A single mushroom produces millions of spores which can be used to germinate new mycelium capable of producing more mushrooms. Growing mushrooms from spores requires getting a specimen which is mature enough to produce viable spores, and working in clean, sterile conditions in order to maintain their purity and health. Mature mushrooms will have a bloomed cap and are less desirable for eating to some, though the portabella, which is the mature (bloomed) form of Agaricus bisporus is becoming more popular in some cultures.
Mushroom production is a relatively simple process which requires a dark space, cool environment, spores (or spawn), and a sterile mixture of things as simple as cow dung, soil, jute, grain, and straw. For the small home mushroom producer in many parts of the world, finding a sufficient space for production can be a problem. Many small producers now grow their mushrooms in bags. Once a colony is properly established, the only requirement is providing enough moisture by watering when necessary. Jute is capable of absorbing a good amount of moisture, which makes it ideal for production from spore (or spawn). The bag method can be incredibly productive when enough nutrients are used.
Continuous exchange of energy is a natural process, and the basis for growth. Mushrooms do not photosynthesize, but instead get their food (energy) from the soil and other elements of the growing medium, and can reserve it in the form of b – glucans which is a fibrous sugar (or starch) with many health benefits. The other important reserves found in mushrooms are fat and oil, though in much lower concentrations, and with much less cholesterol than meat. Mushrooms are also a good source of protein and fiber. In addition, spent growing medium from mushrooms makes excellent compost for plant production. Mushrooms are an important source of food in many parts of the world. Their availability is limited in hot climates, to which their export can bring very good prices.
Mushrooms as Food
Mushrooms give a fleshy texture and rich flavor, and are therefore an excellent substitute for meat in vegetarian dishes. Mushrooms can work well in a wide variety of different dishes and have a unique place in the culture of food. They provide a richness and taste which makes them desirable for dishes prepared in restaurants and hotels, providing a potential market for small mushroom producers in many parts of the world. Mushrooms can also provide a viable addition to small-scale sustenance gardens in many places.
In these cases mushroom production provides home gardeners with a valuable food source which can be produced simply, neatly, and within a limited space, without requiring preservation. Mushrooms provide a versatile and nutritious food source which can add flavor to staple dishes such as noodles, rice, and other vegetables.
Mushroom production in cool regions is an easy way to earn extra income for small farmers through for local sales or through export. Each can be an excellent business strategy for growers of different sizes. With the proper care and attention, producing mushrooms within the home can be enjoyable, and can add a versatile food to home meals as well.
Because many mushrooms can be produced easily in a small space, and can bring significantly higher prices than vegetable crops for the investment and effort expended, they can be an effective way for small farmers to increase their household income in many places. Mushroom production is a growing trend in many parts of the developing world. Once the techniques to grow them are mastered, and markets developed, mushroom production has the potential to add significantly to the economic development of subsistence farmers in traditional agricultural practice.
To learn more about small-scale home mushroom production techniques, please visit the mushroom production page on the Agriculture Guide Website (Turkey); or visit the Beginning Farmers’ Mushroom Page for more information and resources.