Mushrooming into summer options
Traditionally, mushroom cultivation in Punjab has ended along with the winter. Two new varieties will now seek to break the myth that it is only a winter crop. These summer varieties, developed by Punjab Agriculture University (PAU) in Ludhiana, are said to be of quality richer than the winter ones.
The university, which has been growing the varieties on its demonstration plots for a few years now, has of late been briefing farmers, who have begun to warm up to the option. A large number of farmers have been asking questions this year about how they can start cultivating these summer varieties.
Their cultivation season is mid-April to September. Punjab’s traditional mushroom season is October to March. The milky mushroom (Calocybe indica) summer variety goes through four cropping cycles, and the paddy straw mushroom (Volvariella volvacea) through three. Both can withstand temperatures between 30 and 43°C.
“Around 400 farmers in Punjab grow mushrooms in winter, but the number in summer has been negligible so far. That is because neither farmers nor consumers were much aware about mushrooms as a summer crop,” says Dr S S Gosal, PAU’s director for research. “Now farmers have been demanding seeds for the coming summer, and making various enquiries during the university’s kisan melas in various districts.”
PAU has engaged in mushroom-related research and development for over 25 years. The summer varieties, however, were developed only a few years ago, he says.
Both are high-yield varieties that can be cultivated with low-cost methods. “Their cultivation involves locally available agri residues from wheat and paddy, and simple technology. The mushrooms are grown on beds made from substrate where their spawn are cultivated,” says Dr Shammi Kapoor, senior mycologist with PAU.
“The milky variety can be harvested after 30 days of cultivation and the paddy straw variety after 40 days,” Dr Kapoor adds. “From a 10-ft×10-ft room or shed, a farmer can harvest around 200 kg milky mushroom and 60 kg paddy straw mushroom in 40 and 45 days respectively.”