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Beneficial food and efficient medicine through Cultivation of straw mushroom, volvariella volvacea
By  M. M.Jiskani

Mushroom cultivation is widely practiced in many countries of the world, to fulfil the requirements of proteineous food for human beings. These require less space, less care, less equipment and expenditure for cultivation, than most of the plants and animals. According to Jiskani (1999), different agricultural and or industrial straw wastes can be used for cultivation of mushrooms. Mostly, the wheat, paddy, barley, oat and gram straw, banana, sugarcane and maize leaves, empty millet heads and corn cobs, cotton waste, thin sticks and boll locules, sugarcane baggage, banana pseudostems, saw dust, logs, straw papers, manure etc. can be used as substrate (medium) for cultivation. As Pakistan is an agricultural country, therefore a huge quantity of the crop wastes is easily available at low cost, which could be converted in to edible mushrooms, by using separately or in combination.

There are thousands of mushroom varieties found throughout the world. About 2500 species are reported to be edible (hence are not termed as toadstools). So far only 20 species are very popular. The white button mushrooms or crimini or portabella or portobello mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus), have commercial value. The Oyster mushrooms (include different species of Pleurotus), straw mushrooms (includes different species of Volvariella), and Morels (Morchella esculentia) are also common in use, are cultivated artificially.

Straw mushroom, Volvariella volvacea (Bull. ex. Fr.) Singer, also known as paddy straw and Chinese mushroom, because artificial cultivation of this mushroom was started in China and grows best on paddy straw, therefore is also called paddy straw mushroom. It is also known as “Tributary mushroom” or “Nanhua mushroom” and can be consumed as fresh as well as dry. Only three species such as Volvariella volvacea, V. esculenta, and V. diplasia are under artificial cultivation. It contains 206.27 mg of vitamin C per 100 g of fresh fruiting bodies (Rambelli and Menini, 1985). Saeed et al. (1994) reported 35.25 to 42.84% proteins from strain PK-101. The protein extract contain cardio-toxic proteins, volvatoxin and flammutoxin, which inhibit respiration in certain tumour cells (Cochran, 1978). Zhang et al. (1994 a, b) also reported antitumor active protein-containing glycans and antitumor polysaccharides from straw mushroom.

Straw mushrooms can be cultivated in the tropics without special equipment. The extent of cultivation and conditions for growth, including the effects of climate, spawn production, substrate utilization, yields, postharvest technology and profitability are discussed by Rambelli and Menini (1985), Shieh (1988), Sharma (1995), Mani and Marimuthu (1992) and many other researchers. Saeed et al. (1994) cultivated straw mushroom on dried water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes); cotton waste. Salmones and Guzman (1994) and Abdul-Rahim et al. (1995) used barley straw, cotton waste and kallar grass. Brohi (1996), Iqbal and Amjad (2000) used paddy and wheat straw, cotton waste, sugarcane and banana leaves. Suman and Sharma (1999) cultivated on paddy straw. Jiskani, Pathan and Wagan (2004) conducted studies on the effect of different substrates on growth and yield of two strains of straw mushroom, Volvariella volvacea (strain PK-101 and strain PK-102) for getting early and high yielding crop by using paddy straw, wheat straw, banana leaves and cotton waste as substrates.

The mushrooms can be cultivated in green houses, growth chambers, ditches, caves, huts, hovels, cottages, cellars, garages, sheds or shelters, bee hive shaped huts, thatched or meted roofs, thick tree groves and gardens, kitchens, bathrooms or other extra rooms of a house or any other vacant building. The mushrooms can not be grown year after year with full commercial excess, unless proper growing conditions are provided and adequate facilities are available, for the control of diseases and insect pests. Such conditions can be fulfilled in shelf growing, by the construction of properly insulated and ventilated mushroom houses. Model mushroom house must have: store room, pasteurization room, spawn preparation and spawning room, spawn running room, cropping room as well as packing and preservation room.

The spores (serve as a mean of seed) of the mushrooms are so small and could not be seen with necked eye; therefore, the mushroom grower cannot handle them. Laboratory person could inoculate sterile cereal grains with the spores or pure mycelial culture of the mushroom and incubate that until a viable product is developed. The grains become "spawn" and can be sown like seed. The entire operation (spawn preparation to spawning) begins in a laboratory under sterile conditions. The culture of straw mushroom could be obtained from the fresh fruiting body of the mushroom by tissue culture method. The culture thus obtained can be maintained on potato dextrose agar (PDA) medium, applying standard equation and method for preparation, sterilization, multiplication and inoculation. The spawn (mushroom seedling or seed) can be developed by using chopped paddy straw after boiling for half an hour and sterilization at 15-lb psi for 20 minutes in conical flasks and inoculating with pure culture of mushroom on the following day. The pure culture and spawn needs 30oC constant temperature for 15 days. The straw mushroom needs 30-35OC temperature during cropping.

Near about all types of mushrooms grow well with in range of 80-95% humidity, which could be arranged with the help of desert room cooler and or sprinkling water near the mushroom beds. The water could be sprayed over mushroom beds but it must be kept in mind that this exercise may inhibit (check) the growth and development of mushrooms.

Mostly, the wheat, paddy, barley, oat and gram straw, banana, sugarcane and maize leaves, empty millet heads and corn cobs, cotton waste, thin sticks and boll locules, sugarcane baggage, banana pseudo stems, saw dust, logs, straw papers, manure etc. are used separately or in combination as substrate (medium) for cultivation. The paddy straw, leaves of different crops and empty corn cobs needs chopping in to small pieces of about 3-5 cm. Threshed wheat straw, cotton waste, saw dust, cotton boll locules and empty millet heads or so, may directly be used by soaking them in water for 24 hours. After chopping of straw or leaves as well as soaking of waste (what ever be selected to use), boil the same in water for about half an hour, so that insect pests and other microbes present in the substrate may be killed and substrate become moist. After this, take out the straw from water and spread it on the inclined cemented floor for cooling as well as removing of excess water from the substrate. When the temperature drops down to about normal and moisture content becomes about 80%, the spawn be mixed at 10-20% of the substrate dry weight (which will be 100-200 g /kg of dry substrate). The spawned substrate may be filled in polythene bags and be placed in spawn running room under controlled temperature, humidity and light. When pinheads (initial growth of fruiting bodies) of the mushrooms appear, open the mouth of the bags or cut at place, to facilitate the growth of fruiting bodies. Sort out the contaminated bags and destroy them away from the growing space, burning of such bags is safe for remaining crop.

The straw mushrooms may also be cultivated on beds, prepared of about squire meter size, by placing the moist straw in such a way that first layer be of about 4 inches. In this case, place the spawn 3-4 inches inside the margin of layer at 4-5 inch distance from each other and sprinkle small quantity of gram floor, over the spawn. The second and third layer should be prepared and spawned in the same way. The last layer should be covered with a thin layer of chopped, soaked and boiled straw. Finally, the beds should be covered with polythene sheet and the temperature as well as humidity should be controlled.

In case of cultivation of straw mushrooms on beds of un-chopped paddy straw, banana leaves etc; the bundles should be prepared of the size of available straw or leaves and be soaked in water for 24 hours. If the bundles are prepared from banana leaves then the soaking may be done for 4 hours. The soaked bundles may be arranged on inclined cement, till the discharge of excess water that the bundles may be placed length wise, close to each other, on cemented floor, in a cross fashion, with the opposite but ends on one side. Each bed may not be more than five layers; all layers may be spawned and finally be covered as that of discussed above. When the pinheads or small buttons of the mushroom appear on the beds, the polythene sheets should be removed.

The matured mushrooms (but before production of spores) can be picked by twisting at the base of stem, and lifting from the bed, but the stalk should never be left on the bed. The solid portion of mushrooms left on the bed may become a harbor for flies and other insects, hence, should be removed. If there are many pinheads (the young mushrooms, which are to be harvested) around the mushrooms, then only mature mushrooms be harvested very carefully, so that the near by pins do not be disturbed. Otherwise, these pinheads will not grow, but will turn yellow, finally, many saprophytes may attack these pinheads and diseases will spread. The mushroom yield the crop in flushes, therefore, care must be taken during harvesting (picking). The subsequent flushes depend on the proper watering, humidity, temperature and light. Sometimes, other saprophytic mushrooms as well as lower fungi and different microbes cause damage to the crop and bed as well. Therefore, all mature, harvested or diseased mushrooms, their stalks and refuse must be removed at every harvesting; from the house and destroyed, to minimize risk of the development of the diseases and pests. The cropping area must be kept cleaned and safe to public, domestic animals, birds etc.

Jiskani, Pathan and Wagan (2004) reported that pinheads appear after 16.50 to 23.16 days after spawning, paddy straw and cotton waste were the best as compared to banana leaves and wheat straw. Zubairy and Khan (1996) recorded 15 days, Brohi (1996) observed 20-25 days and Iqbal and Amjad (2000) reported 15 to 21 days for appearance of pinheads after spawning.

The development of eggs/ maturation of fruiting bodies took 20.16 to 23.83 days after spawning and paddy straw and cotton waste were the best followed by banana leaves and wheat straw (Jiskani, Pathan and Wagan, 2004). Rambelli and Menini (1985) and Khan (1986) also reported similar results. Jiskani, Pathan and Wagan (2004) also observed that paddy straw and cotton waste were the best for minimum period between flushes (6.16 and 6.33 days) followed by banana leaves and wheat straw. Khan (1986) and Suman and Sharma (1999) reported 5-10 days interval between flushes.

The paddy straw and cotton waste are also reported as the best for maximum number of flushes (3.83 and 3.16) as compared to banana leaves and wheat straw (2.83 and 2.66 flushes) by Jiskani, Pathan and Wagan (2004). Khan (1986) harvested 3-4 flushes, Salmones and Guzman (1994) reported 2-4 harvests, Abdul-Rahim et al. (1995) obtained 3 flushes, and Zubairy and Khan (1996) recorded 2 flushes, whereas Suman and Sharma (1999) harvested 4 flushes per bed in a month.

The results reported by Jiskani, Pathan and Wagan (2004), regarding yield performance revealed that paddy straw were best for maximum yield (67.33%) as compared to cotton waste (39.50%), banana leaves (34.46) and wheat straw (26.98%). Saeed et al. (1994) got highest yield (3806 g/5 kg substrate) using equal parts of dried water hyacinth + cotton waste. Abdul-Rahim et al. (1995) obtained the highest total yield of fruiting bodies (2518 g/4000 g DW substrate from 3 flushes) from the 1:1 mixture of cotton waste and kallar grass. Brohi (1996) found paddy straw best for highest yield followed by wheat straw, cotton waste, sugarcane and banana leaves, respectively. Suman and Sharma (1999) harvested approximately 3.5-4.0 kg mushrooms from one bed in a month.

In Pakistan, mushroom cultivation has not been given due importance, because of many reasons; whereas, the nature has gifted favorable environmental conditions with a huge quantity of waste material required for obtaining beneficial food and efficient medicine through artificial cultivation of straw mushroom. No doubt, the most easy and economical mushroom cultivation technology is also developed by the scientists but still the nation is consuming/ depending only up on the mushroom grown naturally.;

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