There are many farm products such as soya and yam but mushrooms are the first in the ranking that are of equal taste like non vegetarian food items.
There are many varieties of mushrooms like, oyster mushrooms, button and milk mushrooms (Lactarius indigo, also known as blue milk mushroom, belonging to a fungus family). But milk mushrooms are the ones that could remain long at the room temperature and at the same time providing taste equal to any meat items. Hence there is an exclusive market for them among other varieties of mushrooms. Therefore in recent times they are increasingly grown as a secondary agriculture business by many farmers. We met one among them, Mr Ramesh from Vilupuram district who has been gaining good returns from growing milk mushrooms.
Zero budget training that guided towards farming
“Valavanur in Vilupuram district is the native of my father. After completing my undergraduation in mathematics I worked at a photo studio for six months and then started my own studio. After marriage I moved my studio to Vilupuram. During that time I got a job as a district reporter with a private television. I got an opportunity to visit many villages to gather news. I got interested in agriculture when I started gathering agriculture related news.
At one point of time I left my reporter job and continued with my studio work. During that time I came to know about zero budget training from ‘Pasumai vikatan’. After attending the training held in Erode I got more interested in organic farming. So I bought a piece of land near Vilupuram but due to family situation I had to sell it. After that, with the ten acres of land bought by my father and younger brother I have been doing cultivation and also growing mushrooms”. He started with his preamble.
“A friend of mine in near Tindivanam was culturing milk mushroom. He was the one who involved me in mushroom culture. Four years ago at the beginning of mushroom cultivation there was severe infection due to which there were many problems. Then I underwent training conducted by KVK and Tamil Nadu Agriculture University.
With some of my friends I got into the business of mushroom culture in a proper way. The problems that I once faced disappeared and gradually I was able to gain profit out of it. Though my friends are partners to it I am the one who fully maintain the farm as they are busy with other businesses. It has been profitable for the past two and half a year”. He started describing about mushroom culture.
“We make 30 mushroom beds per day. In a month we could make 900 beds. From each bed we could harvest thrice. From three harvests per bed we could get 1300 gm of milk mushrooms. From the total number of beds we could get 30 kg of mushrooms per day on an average and in a month 900 kg. When sold on wholesale it will be taken for Rs 150 per kg and I could sell it for Rs 220 per kg on retail. However on an average we could sell it for Rs 160. Based on that calculation, from selling 900 kg in a month we could get a revenue of Rs 1,44,000. Deducting the expenses of Rs 54000, I could get a net profit of Rs 90000”. He concluded with content.
“While procuring rice straw from outside we would not be able to ensure that they were not treated with chemical fertilizers. Similarly, the straw will be disinfected by treating it with medicines. Straw is only a medium for the mushrooms to grow and therefore there will not be any chemical impact. However I don’t use medicines to disinfect the straw. I use the straw grown organically and I boil it to disinfect before using it as a medium. So the mushrooms I grow at my farm is 100% natural. There is no problem at all in growing milk mushrooms. We get orders beyond our production. We are now making effort to increase the production”. He happily bid farewell to us.
Oyster mushrooms can be grown thriftily
The farmers of last generation had a tendency to discourage their offspring to involve in agriculture. But there are many youngsters who are not related to agriculture gaining success in many agricultural enterprises. This is a healthy transformation. There is Mr Rajkumar, an engineer by qualitification, who is gaining considerable profit from mushroom culture. His farm is in Karaikudi, Sivagangai district.
“After completing my graduation in Engineering I was working for a private firm in Chennai. My salary was sufficient only for my expenses. While I was contemplating an alternative I decided to opt for self employment than working for somebody else. At that time my friends informed me about mushroom culture. I attended training on mushroom culture with my friends and got this place on rent and started the culture.
This land is of 15 cents. In 600 square feet we made a thatched shed, culturing oyster mushrooms in it. The thatched shed with a spread of sand on the floor will provide cool environment suitable for mushroom culture. I buy one packet of mushroom seeds (350 g) for Rs 40 to culture mushrooms. With that packet I can make two beds. The beds with straw and seeds are hung with a coir thread and are sprinkled water continuously and from 25th day till 45 days mushrooms can be harvested.
With 100 beds we can get a yield of 10 to 20 kg per day as a harvest.
I sell them for Rs 150. Considering the expenses out of it, I could get daily Rs 1000 as profit. There is no problem for selling them. Daily I used to send 15 kg of mushrooms to Trichy and Madurai. I sell them with value addition. I gained confidence through agriculture what I could not with my engineering graduation”. He felt proud about it.
Mushroom culture rooms
There should be a room, called ‘running shed’ to hang the mushroom beds, one more room for culturing mushrooms and the third one for other activities, three rooms in total. The running shed should be of 10 feet broad and 30 feet long with a ceiling of 15 feet. The beds should be hung with the help of coir threads below the ceiling.
In a 300 square feet room, four beds can be hung with one coir thread, totaling 900 beds in the room.
For making the mushroom culture room, dig two pits of 11 feet broad and 60 feet long with 3 ½ feet depth. Tamil Nadu Agriculture University recommends only 3 feet. On top of the pit make an arch of 6 feet height and make a green house like chamber using purple colored ‘silpolyene sheet’. If the place is hot coconut sheaths can be spread on the cover. The floor of the room can be spread with sand for half foot. At one end of the chamber keep an exhaust fan for ventilation.
Within 70 days
Cut good quality straws with a length of 2-3 inches and soak them in clean water for 5 hours, followed by boiling in a drum for 45 minutes. Pour them in a shady place and dry them in such a way that they don’t stick to our fingers when touched.
In a polythene bag with a dimension of 14x26 add some straw and mushroom seeds in layers and make nine holes using a thick sterilized needle on the bag. The seeds used for production should be white and it is better avoid seeds of yellow and black colors.
Hang those beds thus made in the bed making room. The room temperature should be 24-28 degrees Celsius. In order maintain the room temperature and humidity within the range the floor should be spread with sand and sprinkled upon with water. Within 18-24 days there will be mycelium fungal growth on the hanging beds.
The beds with well grown fungus should be cut across, making it into two bags. Spread the boiled and cooled barren soil on the cut surface of the bags and keep them in the mushroom culture room (green house chamber). Before keeping the beds the room should be sterilized. After staking the beds sprinkle water on the beds using hand sprayer. The room should be 30-32 degrees Celsius with relative humidity of 85%. The workers in the room should clean their foot before entering it.
Within 7 – 12 days, the beds in the culture room will give out sprouts. From 12- 18 days, mushrooms can be harvested continuously for six days. After 7 days of gap, second harvest for six days can be carried out. Similarly, after 10 days of gap, third harvest for six days can be carried out. From the day of bed preparation till the third harvest the total number of days will be 70. In between the harvests there will be weed mushrooms that should be periodically removed.
(This article written by Kasi Vembaiyan and Syed Abudahir in Tamil for Pasumai Vikatan in July 2015 has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)