Seeds of weather friendly strains are ready for commercial cultivation

Shiitake, the premium variety of mushrooms being grown only in a few countries such as Japan, China and South Korea, is now ready for cultivation in Indian cities, including Bangalore.

The Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR) has developed new strains of this mushroom suitable for cultivation in the country.

Known for their medicinal properties, especially anti-cancer use and cholesterol-reduction ability, these varieties are now available at Rs. 1,200 a kg in Bangalore as they are being imported. “It may cost only about Rs. 50 a kg if we grow them here,” says Dr. Meera Pandey, principal scientist, Mushroom Research Laboratory, IIHR.

Dr. Pandey, who spearheaded the efforts to develop the weather-friendly strains of Shiitake, told The Hindu: “We have not only developed protocols for cultivating this variety in the Indian environment, but also produced the seeds for their cultivation. Those interested can buy these seeds from us if they book in advance.”

These varieties are normally grown in a situation where the temperature is below 25 degrees Celsius. Dr. Pandey said they could be cultivated in areas in and around Bangalore without any artificial temperature control from July to January/February when the temperature is normally cool.

She feels that north-eastern states, barring Assam, are highly suitable for cultivating Shiitake in the natural environment. Similarly, the IIHR is also planning to popularise them in Oooty, Coonoor, Chickmagalur, Kodagu and Kodaikanal.

The IIHR mushroom laboratory has also developed a technology to grow these premium mushroom varieties at homes through ‘ready-to-fruit’ bags.

These bags will have mushrooms which are about to sprout and all that you need to do is keep them at a place away from direct sun light and sprinkle water for about a week to 10 days. This will yield about 250 to 400 grams of mushrooms in two batches, Dr. Pandey says.

This can only be done from July to January/February if they are being grown in natural environment in and around Bangalore. While the prices of the ready-to-fruit bags for Shiitake varieties are yet to be fixed, she says it is expected to be in the range of Rs. 20 to 40. Those interested in buying Shiitake ready-to-fruit bags can contact Dr. Pandey on 080-28466420-Extension-347 during office hours (email: meera@IIHR.ernet.in).

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