MUSHROOMS

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL IMPACTS

The following statements summarise the significance of mushrooms in our drive towards alleviating poverty, enhancing human health, and arresting environmental degradation:

(1). Mushrooms can convert lignocellulosic waste materials into a wide diversity of products, which have multi-beneficial effects to human beings, e.g., as food, health tonic, and medicine, as feed, as fertilisers, and for protecting and regenerating the environment. In addition, mushroom cultivation can positively generate equitable economic growth. The tropical regions, particularly, have a wet and warm climate and have an abundant supply of agricultural wastes. These materials are resistant to natural biological degradation because they contain mainly cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Mycelia of mushrooms can  excrete enzyme complexes which can directly attack/degrade these components of lignocellulosic materials. Therefore, mushrooms can use these wastes as nutrients for their growth and in the process become food and medicine for human consumption.

(2). Mushrooms are relatively fast growing organisms. Some tropical mushrooms can be harvested and consumed within 10 days after spawning. By the use of different varieties, mushrooms can be cultivated year round. They can be cultivated by using primitive farming techniques in rural areas or by using highly industrialised technologies in the urban and periurban communities.

(3). Mushroom cultivation can be labour intensive.  Thus the activity can generate new jobs, especially in tropical or less developed countries.

(4). While land availability is usually a limiting  factor in most types of primary production, mushroom cultivation requires relatively little space. Actually they can be stacked using shelflike culture systems.

(5). Mushrooms have been accepted as human food from times immemorial, and can immediately supply additional protein to human food. Other sophisticated and unconventional sources of food protein, such as yeast, uni-algal cultures and single-cell proteins have relatively more complicated requirements, and need to be processed before they can be consumed.

(6). Edible mushrooms should be treated as healthy vegetables. After improving the cultivation techniques, they should be cultivated as widely and as cheaply as other common vegetables, which will thus be beneficial to the general public.

(7).  In view of their pleasing flavour, their high protein, and  tonic and medicinal values, mushrooms no doubt represent one of the world’s greatest untapped resources of nutritious and palatable food for the future.

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