Alternative Way of Reproducing Mushroom Spawns Developed
A contractual worker of the local government of Tarlac has developed an alternative way of reproducing mushroom spawns and other innovations in mushroom culture.
That’s Pablito Saiiniento of Dau, Mabalacat, Pampanga. He found that ipil-ipil or kakawate twigs can be used as a substrate in multiplying fungus mycelia or mushroom spawns. When made into wood chips, the twigs, said Sarmiento, are good alternative to potato-dextroseagar (PDA), which is the primary substrate in reproducing the fungus.
This 44-year-old worker who trained from the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology of UP Los Banos learned this as he observed that fungus growth in decaying twigs of trees is more luxuriant and robust. Then he conducted experiments at home and determined the ideal sizes of wood chips to be used.
This technique is simple as preparation of PDA, claims Sarmiento, is long and tedious, hence it is prone to contamination. Moreover, mycelium is reportedly more viable with this method.
The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), an independent governmental agency that helps in economic and social growth of developing countries, is pleased with this technique. Four years ago, JICA was looking for a supplier of mushroom spawns for its livelihood projects. Its staff contacted several sources including laboratories of state colleges and universities, and they also learned of the technique of Sarmiento.
They doubted it at first. But when they saw his 5-meter plot planted to mushroom volvariella volvaria produced through wood chips yielded four bucketfuls of mushroom, they were amazed. Harvested volvariella weighed about 30 kg, and this kind of mushroom is the most in demand nowadays.
Convinced with the technique, JICA awarded the supply contract to Sarmiento and exported some of his mushroom spawns to Japan. These will be used in Japan’s studies on the use of wood chips as a substrate.
Sarmiento also thought of a simpler way of preparing growing medium for mycelium. While established mycelium producers recommend to have rice straws shredded when utilizing these as medium, Sarmiento uses rice straws as they are. The length of rice straws doesn’t matter. Shredding is just an. additional task as a good result can be achieved without doing so.
To prepare growing medium, he mixes 14 sacks of rice straws with six sacks of sawdust. Then he adds water to the mixture and maintains 65 percent to 70 percent moisture content.
Sarmiento studied also the bedding materials in producing mushroom, particularly volvariella. He recommends dried banana leaves as for him this is the best medium. Second best for him is dried uprooted rice stalks. When using rice stalks however, make sure that the bedding materials have not been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides. Dried water lilies can be used also as well as mongo empty pods, dried tobacco midribs, and bagasses.
Another good thing is that dried banana leaves and dried rice stalks have become another sources of income for several households in Tarlac due to the growing awareness and interests of agribusiness people on mushroom culture. Residents gather banana leaves and uproot dried rice stalks and sell these to mushroom growers.
One more source of income for mushroom growers are the used plastic sheets utilized in packing sugar. Sarmiento uses these as tents to cover the mushroom beds. This practice is important as it maintains the ideal heat range of 35 to 38 degrees centigrade. That’s why he sells the plastic sheets at P5 apiece.
These are just some of the innovations in mushroom culture that Sarmiento has come up with. And these have been the reasons why many mushroom growers in Tarlac have wanted to be trained by Sarmiento.
Eighty-year-old Feliza Macaraig of Tibag, Tarlac City is one of those whom he trained. With a capital of P18,000 plus the training, she was able to harvest 100 kilos of volvariella and sold these at P140 per kilo. And now she expects to harvest 200 kilos, and she hopes these to gross more than P60,000. Considering her case, then the Department of Science and Technology has been right in saying that a 300 percent return on investment can be achieved in mushroom culture.
Another proof to this is the success of another trainee of Sarmiento. Ray Pascua of Poblacion regularly harvests some 1,500 kilos of mushroom, hence he made mushroom production his primary livelihood.
Pascua’s success as well as that of Sarmiento and other mushroom growers in Tarlac are all attributable to the fact that mushroom is becoming a popular crop in the province. That’s because it has the shortest gestation period among field crops. Under normal conditions, mushrooms can be harvested 12 days after seeding. It can be cultured throughout the year.
Add to these the fact that mushroom is very nutritious as it contains proteins with higher quality than those found in green plants. It is also rich in important minerals such as iron, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins Bl, B2, and D. It contains high amount of fibers, too and does not have cholesterol. Hence, it is an ideal food for persons with hypertension.
By Pete Samonte