Agriculture and human evolution are intertwined deeply. There has been a transition from nomadic hunters and gatherers to settled populations ever since plants and animals were domesticated. This ushered in the era of agriculture, which continues to be the foundation of the global economy. Many of the common crops that are grown now have their origins in prehistoric periods, and their production quality has improved as a result of research and development in diverse farming methods. One such blooming field is Mushroom cultivation.
Figure 1: Map of India show mushroom varieties cultivated in different states
India being a primary agricultural nation with more than 50% of its population is employed in this sector, it has a great scope in mushroom production. During off seasons, mushrooms are cultivated by farmers as income boosters. It is a dependable and efficient technique for resource-constrained growers to produce nutritious food in a short period of time and it offers the possibility of producing a highly marketable and value added products which accounts towards revenue generation. With the advancements in modern technologies, mushrooms can be grown in any part of the country year round. The major varieties grown commercially are button mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, paddy straw mushrooms and the medicinal varieties cultivated are Hericium (lion's mane), Reishi, Shiitake and Maitake mushrooms.
Where does India stand in the Global mushroom market?
Backed up with ancient knowledge and decade long R&D activities, medicinal mushrooms have been gaining momentum due to their proven nutraceutical potential. A delicacy which can fill your tummy and still be a medicine has got a wider audience across the globe. Hence the world mushroom market is expanding, from $57.18 billion in 2022 to $62.44 billion in 2023 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.2%. A surge in the mushroom market can be expected in 2027 due to the increasing demand for vegan diets. According to a 2022 report, the giants in the global mushroom market are China, Italy, the US, Netherlands and Poland. The medicinal mushroom market is expected to grow at 8.90% by 2030 and presently dominated by the countries in the Asian Pacific region, China, Japan, Thailand etc. Reishi, Maitake and Shiitake mushrooms are of interest in the global medicinal mushroom category.
Figure 2: Graphical Representation of Global mushroom production
The annual report published in 2022 by ICAR- Directorate of Mushroom Research (DMR), Solan states that in 2010 India produced 1.13 lakh tons of mushrooms which increased to 2.42 lakh tons in 2020 and it is estimated that by 2030 it will further rise up to 3.31 lakh tons. Yet India accounts for only 2% of the global mushroom market. Over the years Indian mushrooms are exported to countries like France, the US, Switzerland, Germany, and Nepal, but there is also a steady decline in the export value of Indian mushrooms.
Roots of Indian mushroom cultivation and research
Commercialization of mushroom cultivation began with the onset of the green revolution in the 1960s. The premier institute for the development of mushroom cultivation in India is ICAR- DMR Solan, Himachal Pradesh under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Govt. Of India, New Delhi. All India Coordinated Research Project on Mushrooms (AICRPM), established in 1984 (headquartered at ICAR-DMR, Solan) along with the central and state coordinating centers (Table 1), conduct multi-locational trials on the technologies developed on mushrooms by the DMR, Solan.
Year round training and practical exposure is provided at ICAR-DMR Solan, ICAR- Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Bangalore, National and State Horticulture Boards and mission etc. Many national and state educational institutions across the country are carrying out research works in mushroom, as well as familiarizing the local population, by conducting workshops and hands-on training on mushroom cultivation. The Department of Biotechnology, under the Ministry of Science and Technology, offers various grants and schemes that cover a wide range of biotechnology-related projects, including those involving mushrooms and mycology. One such project under DBT North East Region is ongoing in ICAR- Indian Agricultural Research Institute, (ICAR-IARI) Delhi in collaboration with Indian Council of Agricultural Research Complex for North Eastern (NE) Hill Region (ICAR-NEH) Manipur Centre, India on medicinal mushrooms namely Shiitake and Maitake mushrooms.
Shiitake mushroom: Overview
Figure 3: Nutritional value of Shiitake
Shiitake mushrooms originated from Japan, and have a long history of medicinal uses. The nutritional value of dried Shiitake contains approximately 59.2% carbohydrates, which is the major component, followed by 22.7% protein (digestibility of 80-87%), 10.0% fiber, 3.2% lipids and the dominant vitamin in Shiitake is provitamin D2 (ergosterol), 325 mg% (Mizuno, 1995). It is naturally and artificially cultivated in different parts of the Asia Pacific region. The NE states of India has witnessed a natural growth of Shiitake mushrooms as the climatic condition for its growth remains favorable. It grows on decaying wood of deciduous trees and requires a warm, moist climate with a moderate shade, 80-85% humidity, temperature ranging from 22-28°C and good aeration.
It is naturally cultivated in NE regions like Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh as well as in a controlled environmental conditions it can also be grown in the southern hilly regions like, Kodagu, Chickmangalur, Kodaikanal, Ooty, Connoor.
Shiitake mushroom cultivation
Profitable cultivation methodologies are developed by DMR Solan for different mushroom species. The cultivation protocol for Shiitake mushroom is represented in the figure 4.
Figure 4. Shiitake mushroom cultivation protocol developed by DMR Solan.
Addressing the challenges for Shiitake mushroom cultivation in NE region
The fact that they grow naturally in the NE region of the country is a boon to the indigenous people. But still the cultivation in such regions is falling behind due to their geographical isolation, poor awareness among the locals, specially in the remote poverty stricken areas and the prevalent traditional farming practices. Their commerce and development are further hampered by insufficient market connections, poor connectivity and transportation, etc.
Efforts are being taken for improving connectivity and there are many government initiatives aimed at providing entrepreneurship, skill development, and job creation in the region. Shiitake mushroom cultivation in this region will require minimal investment in setting up the cultivation as the region is a natural habitat of the mushroom. It provides job opportunities and income generation to the unemployed youth and homemakers in the region which can improve their socioeconomic circumstances, as Shiitake mushrooms have lucrative global market value.
There is an increasing focus on converting to sustainable and commercial farming methods in these areas to increase output and profitability. Crop production can become more diverse thanks to mushroom farming.
Strategies for mushroom marketing
Mushroom marketing networks in India are disorganized. Addressing the current
issues in the mushroom distribution market is essential; otherwise, increasing
production will not yield the desired profits. Here are some approaches for successful
marketing described by Sharma et al. (2017).
>Exploring numerous fresh mushroom marketing strategies, such as selling to locals directly, local merchants, marketplaces, middlemen, regional wholesalers, local restaurants, stores, or farmer cooperatives, depending on the availability of existing transportation infrastructure.
>Selling mushrooms as value added products like dried or pickled mushrooms, sauces, teas, extracts, etc will extend the shelf life of the mushrooms in the market.
>Collaborating with other growers to increase the quantity and diversity of mushrooms, and regularly luring traders to permit reliable sales of the perishable supply.
>Identifying the existing market trends like products cultivated through organic farming, animal friendly production etc.
A variety of edible and medicinal mushrooms can be cultivated in the country owing to its diverse climatic conditions. India with a domestic population of more than 1.4 billion people which itself holds a large market for mushrooms. It is also necessary to increase public awareness of the advantages of both grown and wild-collected edible mushrooms in order to increase local consumption. The gap between demand and supply in the world trade of mushrooms and decreasing production in the western countries due to high labour costs can favour the better pricing of Indian grown mushrooms. To be established successfully in both domestic and global markets, India should increase its mushroom production while maintaining quality standards, improving the distribution of fresh mushrooms, and offering value-added products at competitive prices. By achieving these goals, India will have a promising future in the
international mushroom market.
Sharma V.P and Satish Kumar. Published By Director Directorate of Mushroom Research Chambaghat, Solan.
Mizuno T. (1995). Shiitake, Lentinus edodes: functional properties for medicinal and food purposes. Food Reviews International, 11(1), 109-128.
Sharma V. P., Annepu S. K., Gautam Y., Singh M. and Kamal S. (2017). Status of mushroom production in India. Mushroom Research, 26(2), 111-120.