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Jharkhand to kickstart cultivation

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 A government agency and an independent foundation have launched a campaign to expand the cultivation and harvesting of mushrooms in Jharkhand state in the organised sector.

 Backing this effort was a group of agricultural scientists in the state, many of whom recently met in the state capital Ranchi at a workshop and strongly recommended cultivation of mushroom in Jharkhand as a product ideally suited to its climatic condition.

 There were more than 10,000 varieties of mushrooms in the world almost all of which were found in India. A few varieties are edible and rest were poisonous.

 Scientists said they had identified three types to be most suitable. They said the climate of Jharkhand was ideal for cultivation of edible mushrooms of the types called agaricus (popularly known as button mushroom), pleurotus (or oyster) and volvariella (or paddy straw mushroom).

 The paddy straw mushroom could be cultivated in summer as it could withstand temperature between 26 and 42 degree celsius. The crop cycle was from March to September.

 Oyster mushroom could be cultivated in two seasons, between July and November, and February and April.

 Button mushroom was cultivated under cold conditions and was suitable for the hilly terrain in the state which sits over the Chhota Nagpur plateau. It needed temperature below 20 degree celsius.

 Mushrooms could be cultivated on beds of paddy straw, wheat bran, waste of maize and dried leaves. Mushroom seeds (spawn) were available in 200gm packs and cost about Rs 15. Each pack would yield about 3-5 kg of mushroom. However, the supply of mushroom seeds in Jharkhand was far short of demand.

 Interestingly, the drive marked a return to tribal food habits. Jharkhand tribals have traditionally depended on the large quantities of wild mushrooms available in the extensive forests in the state for food. The volume of this market had never been assessed but was likely to run into thousands of tonnes.

 Scientists suggested the development of a master plan by the state agriculture department for commercial cultivation of mushroom throughout the year in order to improve the economic condition of tribals and farmers.

 At the workshop, an exhibition of mushroom and its various products was organised where about 500 women farmers from various districts of the state participated.

 At two harvests annually, the crop size in the state would be around 15 tonnes in the first year, experts indicated. Hemant Kumar, regional director Shristi Foundation, spoke at the meeting on the market for dried mushroom which could fetch in excess of at Rs 300 per kg.

 R P Tiwary, director, and R N Verma, former director of National Mushroom Research Centre (NMRC), Solan, confirmed the strong demand in the market for the types of mushroom identified.

 It was highlighted in the workshop that mushroom was today consumed as a food item in metros and had become popular as a suitable substitute for protein from animal flesh.

 It was pointed out by the scientists that mushroom was a suitable dietary supplement for patients suffering from diabetes, heart diseases, high blood pressure, cancer and malnutrition.

 

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