Mushroom belonging to fungi species, is a nutritious vegetarian delicacy and a good source of high quality protein (20-35 per cent dry weight). Presently 3 varieties of mushroom are cultivated namely, white mushroom (Agaricus bisporus), the paddy-straw mushroom (Volvariella vovvacea) and oyster mushroom (Pleurotus sajor-caju). Agaricus species is mostly cultivated mushroom globally, contributing 35-40 per cent of the world production. Mushroom is consumed as delicacy and possesses several medicinal properties.

Mushroom contains many vitamins and minerals, like B- Complex and iron, and is good source of quality proteins like lysine. Mushroom is completely fat (cholesterol) free and also rich in anti–oxidants.

Global production

The global mushroom production in 2009 was 2.4 million tonnes, which is growing at a rate of around 7 per cent. China with 1.7 million tonnes production accounts for nearly 70 per cent of the world production.

Other major mushroom producing countries for are Poland, France, Italy, Indonesia and Germany. India with 1.5 per cent contribution ranks eighth in the global mushroom production.

The mushroom consumption is mainly concentrated in six countries known as G-6 (USA, Germany, UK, France, Italy and Canada) consuming 85 per cent of world consumption. The varieties of mushroom cultivated internationally are button (31%), shiitake (24%), oyster (14%), black ear mushroom (9%), paddy straw mushroom (8%) and milky/others.

Indian scenario

India's production of mushroom was 40,600 tonnes in the year 2009-10.

Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jammu & Kashmir are the major producing States. Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh account for nearly 90 per cent of country's production. Punjab is the leading mushroom growing State contributing to 50 per cent of the total production.

In India, mushroom has been a non-traditional cash crop grown indoors, both as a seasonal crop and under the controlled environmental conditions. Button mushroom is cultivated in temperate regions of India. Oyster, milky, paddy straw mushroom is cultivated in the tropical and sub-tropical regions. Two to three crops of button mushroom can be harvested per year under controlled conditions, while for seasonal button mushroom ,one crop is harvested per year.

Till early 1990's, Indian contribution to world trade was minimal. It gathered momentum as the industry became organised with establishment of large scale export oriented units. Total mushroom exports from India in 2009-10 were around 11000 tonnes valued at Rs 66 crore.

Major export destinations for Indian mushroom are US, Israel and Mexico. India exports mushroom in two forms-fresh and prepared/processed. Button mushroom accounts for approximately 95 per cent of total mushroom exports. Indian exports have been subjected to non-tariff barriers and thus the export trend is fluctuating. Although the current share of India in world exports is less than 1 per cent, India has a great export potential.

India's per capita consumption (20-25 g) is comparatively low as compared to Europe and USA (2 to 3 kg).

The domestic demand is growing at a rate of 25 per cent. Half of the mushroom cultivated in the world is consumed as fresh. The processed products for mushroom are in dried, canned and frozen form. Half of the processed mushroom is in canned form. Mushroom has short shelf-life due to high moisture content (85-90 %) and is needed to be processed within 24 hours. The post harvest damages are browning, veil-opening, weight-loss and microbial spoilage.

Untapped potential

Mushroom is efficient means for conversion of agricultural wastes into valuable protein and presents huge potential for generating additional income and employment. In India, the full potential of mushroom cultivation is yet to be unleashed. The cultivation practice has centered on white button mushroom, accounting for 85 per cent of the total production.

The domestic marketing channels lack adequate price support faced with erratic demand and supplies. Lack of trained manpower is among other drawback for the growth of the mushroom industry.

National Research Centre for Mushroom (NRCM) is the nodal institute for providing technical assistance for mushroom cultivation in India. The establishment of NRCM has led to both horizontal and vertical growth of mushroom industry. To make Indian mushroom industry globally competitive, NRCM has been mandated with Research & Development and dissemination of the technical expertise to various stakeholders.

Mushroom as a nutritious food, needs to be popularised. Mushroom cultivation will help in eliminating protein malnutrition among people, primarily dependent on cereals, and offer remunerative employment opportunities. As India's share in global mushroom trade is minimal, coordinated efforts among R&D establishments are needed to disseminate technology to grassroots.

Mushroom for pharmaceutical purposes also present immense opportunities in the global trade. India needs to adopt high yielding and genetically enhanced varieties, which needs to be complemented by sound post harvest operations. Innovative solutions are required to address the challenges in processing and packaging of mushroom.