Shitake Mushroom as cash crop

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Shitake mushroom (Lentinus edodes), known as ‘migra’ in Nepal, is found in hill region forests growing on hardwood logs near streams. When young, it is umbrella-shaped; at maturity it has white spots on its surface. A mature mushroom weighs about 80-100 gm. Delicious and nutritious, it is a popular food in China, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Taiwan. There is a great potential for cultivating shitake in mountain areas of Nepal and other parts of the Himalayan region. The technology is demonstrated at Godavari as it can be a good income-generating crop for forest user groups, private entrepreneurs, and ordinary farmers. Usually, oak billets (logs) are used, but many other hardwood billets can also produce shitake (except pine species). Essentially logs are felled in autumn or winter and inoculated with Lentinus edodes mycelium by injection into small holes drilled at intervals along the log that are then sealed. The inoculated logs are stacked in criss-cross piles in the shade and left covered with straw or sacking for about 2 months. After rainfall, the pile is uncovered briefly to allow the bark to dry and prevent growth of other unwelcome fungi. After two months, the billets are restacked in a loose crib stack or a lean-to stack. The spawn run is nearly complete when fuzzy white blotches appear at the ends of the billet or mushrooms sprout after rainfall, about 10 months after inoculation. The mushrooms are harvested after the veil breaks while the caps still have curled edges and are less than 10 cm in diameter. During cool weather, the mushrooms can be left on the billets for many days. When it is warm, growers harvest early and often to minimize bug damage and discoloration from spore discharge. Shitake mushrooms flourish in 60% or higher shade outdoors (not darkness) where ventilation is good. Water is needed several times a year but not continuously (the bark should dry out between watering to avoid destructive surface moulds). Shitake yards should be in places that can be visited daily, not too remote from other activities. Fresh Shiitake will keep for 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator, but should be marketed within 4 to 5 days of picking. The mushroom contains a good blend of vitamins (A, C and D) and minerals. As little as five grams of shitake taken daily can dramatically reduce serum cholesterol and blood pressure; it also produces interleukin compounds which strengthen the immune response against cancer and virus infections.

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Samden Sherpa