Mushroom cultivation in tobacco barns
Asif Ameen, Qamar-uz-Zaman
Mushroom can be grown anywhere in Pakistan but it is more suitable to sow it in areas where tobacco is grown. Thousands of tobacco barns lie mostly unused from October to June every year which can be used for cultivation of mushroom. The timing for the use of tobacco barns is ideal for two reasons: first, they are vacant and can be used without any damage to the next crop. Second, the crop requires temperature between 22-27 degrees Celsius and humidity of around 80 per cent, which prevail during that period.
“Farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have lagged far behind their counterparts in Punjab. The latter are earning more money from their modernized and efficient farming practices and for utilizing their agriculture infrastructure to the maximum. For example tobacco farmers in Punjab grow cucumber and green chilies in winter and earn a lot of money. Unfortunately, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa farmers are either too ignorant or poor and not interested in doing that. They can earn a lot by opting to mushroom cultivation in their barns during the interval,” said a Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB) official.
Farmers are generally ignorant about mushroom seeds and know-how to grow oyster or button variety. Guidance on the crop and provision of its spawns (seeds) to farmers could attract multitude of farmers to the sector. The ingredients needed for the crop are easier to get. Mushroom spawn, two kg quality substrate (wheat straw) and two per cent lime, a plastic bag and clean water are all that is needed for growing mushroom. Mushroom requires little space, consumes little time, does not need hard work and can be grown even by women and children. It requires small investment. With little investment and short duration of crop (Three months), a farmer can earn much. An ordinary barn can provide around 30-50 bags.
Mushrooms have both nutritional and medicinal values. Being a good food for patients of heart disease, blood pressure and eyesight, mushroom can be used as a diet for common man and in soup. It can also be marketed to save foreign exchange spent on import of canned mushroom.
Mushroom has been found to have greatly augmented milking capacity of livestock in the province. Its residues are also a major organic fertilizer. The fungus apart from being a major organic food is a rich source of protein and can be used as a substitute for protein-providing foods such as meat which is increasingly becoming costlier and unaffordable for the middle-class.
While growing mushrooms, sufficient amount of water, oxygen and darkness is needed. Sterilization of the compost before spawning is another prerequisite which prevents it from poisoning. The spawning process completes within 40-45 days. After a week, production starts which continues for three months. In case of button variety, the compost is ready within a month while the oyster`s compost takes a week for germination. This spawning component can also be used as seeds and a spawn bag gives 25 bags of mushroom seeds.
Marketing of the commodity is another problem. The farmers have no access to and information about the buyers. There are many buyers in the market but irregularity in supplies spoils things. Coordination between growers and purchasers on the one hand and the farmers on the other should be ensured. . Purchase centers can be opened in the districts where information can be provided to the stakeholders on the demand and supply situation of the commodity in the market to facilitate business.
Introduction of Authors: !) Qamar-uz-Zaman M.Sc(hons) university of Agriculture, Faisalabad
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