New local isolate promises better harvest and taste

Rising temperature, poor rainfall and increasing pest attacks are worries that confront mushroom farmers in Kerala even as a new local isolate of milky mushroom (Calocye indica) promises rich rewards with its potential for round-the-year yields.

The Kumarakom isolate of the milky mushroom is sweeter and tastier, says A.V. Mathew, veteran mushroom researcher, attached to Regional Agricultural Research Station, Kumarokom. The isolate answers the need for a Kerala variety of mushroom, suited to our climatic conditions, he told The Hindu over phone on Wednesday.

Dr. Mathew says the isolate has not been formally released to farmers though some have already tried it out and found it attractive.

He says every vegetable is seasonal. There are mushroom species suited to rainy and summer seasons. White oyster mushroom (pleurotus) is more suited to the rainy season marked by high humidity and low temperature while milky mushroom thrives on slightly higher temperature and lower humidity level.

The new development comes as good news for farmers, who are eyeing a growing market for mushrooms. On Wednesday 40 farmers from around Aroor gathered for a day’s workshop on mushroom farming at the house of Shiaji Thankachan, a home-maker and successful mushroom farmer.

Rookie farmers like Gigi Sudhakaran from Kodamthuruthu panchayat, are enthusiastic. Ms. Thankachan, a veteran of sorts, speaks to them on the intricacies of the project. Appearances can be deceptive, she tells them. Mushroom farming takes some patience and a lot of perseverance. But it is not impossible.

“I am a keen learner because we already have a small farm where vegetable cultivation is flourishing,” says Ms. Sudhakaran, who is a member of the Kudumbasree and a well-known vegetable farmer in her panchayat.

The other farmers are equally keen to take up mushroom farming, touted as a richly-rewarding hobby.

May their tribe increase, says Dr. Mathew. He feels that despite its immense potential mushroom cultivation is confined to about a 1,000 farmers across Kerala. Hundreds of trainings sessions are conducted in the State in a month. However, there is a paucity of farmers to exploit the potential of mushroom both as a food item and a nutraceutical produce, he says.

One of the reasons for the high mortality rate among mushroom enterprises is the details that are involved, says a senior official of the Department of Agriculture.

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