Varsity to focus on medicinal values of native varieties
Scientists at the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) have launched a project to promote new varieties of mushrooms for food and medicine. The project seeks to domesticate lesser-known edible varieties of mushroom and popularise those with potent medicinal properties.
The university is also preparing to initiate research on the use of biological additives to develop new varieties of mushroom with different types of aroma and flavour.
“Mushrooms have an established history of use in traditional oriental medicine. Studies have established that they are unlimited sources of therapeutically useful biological agents. Yet, there has been very little effort in India in general and Kerala in particular, to identify and popularise beneficial mushrooms,” KAU Vice-Chancellor P. Rajendran said.
Several mushroom varieties in South India were found to possess nutraceutical and anti-oxidant properties, he said. “KAU is keen on furthering the studies on the medicinal value of native mushrooms. We are trying to identify a collaborating institution for this research project,” Dr. Rajendran said.
While there are over 20,000 species of mushrooms, only about 3,000 are edible and a few are poisonous.
About 700 varieties are known to possess medicinal properties. Research on mushrooms has revealed that they have antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antiviral, antibacterial, hepatoprotective, anti-diabetic, and hypotensive properties.
The Oyster mushroom has been found to be ideal for people suffering from anaemia, hyperacidity, and constipation. It is a beneficial dietary supplement for people with obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
In China and Japan, Ganoderma has been widely used for treating gastric ulcer, chronic hepatitis, arthritis, insomnia, bronchitis, asthma, and hypertension.
Dr. Rajendran said the future line of research would involve using assimilable biological additives to the substrates (cultivation medium) to produce mushrooms with different types of aroma and flavour.
He said it would also be possible to develop varieties with extended shelf life and insect repellent properties.
The Department of Plant Pathology under KAU had been conducting studies on edible mushroom since 1976.
The department had released several mushroom varieties including ‘Ananthan,’ the mutant of Oyster mushroom for cultivation. Scientists at the university had also standardised the use of low-cost substrates such as banana pseudo stem, sugarcane bagasse, coir pith, saw dust of various soft and hard wood trees, tea waste, tapioca starch waste, and water hyacinth for cultivation of Oyster mushrooms.
The All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) on Mushrooms started in 2001 was instrumental in bringing out superior strains of Oyster mushroom, paddy straw mushroom, and milky mushroom and standardising technology for cultivating specialty mushrooms such as Tricholoma, Auricularia, and Lentinus.
Lulu Das, Professor and Head, AICRP, said mushroom cultivation was an important element of women empowerment.
“Women prepared to utilise their leisure time in raising a few mushroom beds will reap an additional average monthly income of Rs.5000. Mushrooms can easily be cultivated on cheap, locally available substrates such as coconut waste and coconut sawdust, apart from paddy straw that is traditionally used for its cultivation,” she said.
The AICRP Centre at the College of Agriculture, Vellayani offered training in mushroom cultivation for youth, housewives, senior citizens, and students.
It had also developed mushroom-based products such as wine, soup powder, cutlets, and honey-coated doughnuts.