National Mushroom Center (NMC) is pleased with its second try at growing the white button mushroom. The first trial failed as the mushroom needed extra effort and care to cultivate.
However, with directives from the Chukha Dzongda, the Dzongkhag Agriculture Sector in Chukha with support from NMC, has turned the venture into a successful one. The program was inaugurated on 15 April in Darla, Chukha.
Chukha Dzongda, Minjur Dorji, said that the need to diversify and capitalize the agricultural activities to the advantage of the farmers and youth is of utmost importance, and any such new initiatives are most welcome. “4 staff from the Dzongkhag Agriculture Sector were sent to Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana, India with fund support under GoI PTA (Dzongkhag HR Capacity Development Fund) for availing training on white button mushroom farming,” the Chukha Dzongda said.
He said the dzongkhag is open to new ideas that bring in positive changes. He said the button mushroom cultivation has succeeded thanks to the effort put in by all persons involved.
According to the Deputy Chief Dzongkhag Agriculture Officer, Saha Bir Rai, “Darla was chosen, owing to the optimum temperature (18-25 degree Celsius) required for button mushroom cultivation. However, we prepared all compost at Darla and incubated the spawned compost at different locations and elevations for fruiting. All places resulted in fruiting.”
He said more about Nu 300,000 was spent during the time of cultivation. The farm technology is successfully introduced, he said, adding that they replicated on their own without the physical presence of expertise from Punjab Agriculture University, where the staff were trained. However, technical advice from the concerned professor is sought.
He said among the various methodologies for growing the mushroom, the method used in Darla is the long method used by Punjab Agriculture University that requires 1 month for compost preparation using 50 percent wheat straw and 50 percent paddy straw.
At the end of one month, the spawn (mushroom seed) are mixed with readied compost. “After spawning, in about 16 days, the mushroom mycelium fully colonizes the compost and a 1.5 inch layer of sterilized casing soil (nutrient-less and sandy soil) are added,” he added.
After the addition of the casing soil, he said that daily watering, in the form of fine mist, was provided. After 12 days from the day of casing, first pin head formations of mushroom was observed and within 4-6 days, from the pin head formation date, the button mushrooms are ready for harvest.
“The preliminary data shows that all the locations are viable for white mushroom cultivation and we are confident that we can do it more to upscale it,” he added.
He said that the Youth in Agriculture Program (YiAP) under Bjabcho gewog is involved in the venture from the beginning, and are willing to take up the cultivation of the mushroom, with dzongkhag and NMC’s support. A few other applicants have also approached for the same.
They have reported that the outcome of the program has been communicated to the Department of Agriculture, and accordingly the department has instructed to upscale the cultivation.
“One of the major challenges faced during the trial program was the need of constant monitoring on the farm. We are hoping that more farmers and the youth come forward to take up the farming, in addition to a few who have already shown interest,” he said.
According to the Program Director of NMC, Dawa Penjor, “We are investing a lot by importing button mushroom from outside. If we can produce ourselves in the country, with interest and with extra effort, then I think we can be self-sufficient, and can even export which can adding to country’s economy.”
He said, “A successful program like this in the dzongkhag means a big boost for many farmers who have been thinking to take up the white button mushroom farming. Now that the trial has been successful, we are working towards up scaling the farming; not only in Chhukha but also in other parts of the country.”
According to NMC, those people or farmers interested to farm button mushrooms will be given technical and seed support. The Agriculture Extension Officer of Darla and Dungna collectively shared, “The first harvest was observed to be ready in 75 days from the day the composting was initiated. All staff of the sector are happy to see the successful program and that the hard works really got paid in the end.”