GIS - October 25, 2012: The use of alternative substrates in the production of mushrooms was the theme of a lecture given by Mrs P. Huzar Futty-Beejan, Research scientist at the Agricultural Research Extension Unit (AREU) at Wooton Farmers’ Training School today.
Since the inception of commercial mushroom production in Mauritius, sugar cane bagasse has been the raw material used as substrate. Bagasse was readily available in abundant quantity and free of charge. However, with the use of bagasse for energy generation, its availability has gone down drastically and the amount available to mushroom producers, anthurium growers and livestock farmers is limited. In 2010, the price of bagasse had reached Rs 800/tonne excluding transport cost of an additional Rs 300/tonne. In 2012, at the start of the year, the cost of bagasse inclusive of transport was Rs 2,000.
In the wake of the limited availability and increased cost linked with bagasse usage, AREU took the initiative to conduct research and identify alternative raw materials for use as substrate. Several alternatives that can be broadly classified as grasses and agro wastes, both in partial and complete substitution to bagasse, were evaluated and research is currently ongoing. This type of use of alternative substrates for mushroom production can also be termed as ‘juncao technology’. Grasses such as Elephant, Guatemala grasses and wild growing ones like Fatak grass were evaluated and found to be suitable as alternative substrate.
According to AREU the four types of grasses evaluated as substrate singly and with standard supplementation yielded greater than 150g of fresh mushrooms per fruiting bags of 0.75kg with the highest yield of 174.95g obtained from Stargrass with standard supplementation.The grasses mixed with bagasse also gave promising results.Agro wastes such as coconut coir, rice straw, tea wastes, wheat straw, maize stover, pineapple leaves, banana leaves and pseudo-stems, cane-tops were evaluated with varied results.
Preliminary results of waste coconut coir from hydroponic cultivation were promising with highest average weight of fruiting bodies obtained from a 3:1 mix of bagasse and waste coconut coir substrate supplemented with 10% lime and crushed maize. Tests were also carried out on other wastes such as cotton yarn, waste carton, newspaper, chipped wood and sawdust, palm trunk substrate and ravenal leaves.
Due to high biomass generation in relatively short cultivation periods, grasses have a potential to substitute bagasse in mushroom production. The grasses can be cultivated and processed for use by the mushroom growers or else a potential exists for entrepreneurs to take up the production and supply of substrate to growers.