Training on shitake mushroom cultivation in Taplejung

Breifing participants on the objectives of shitake mushroom cultivation. 

There is immense potential for shitake mushroom cultivation in Nepal’s mountainous areas. And there is plenty of raw material available: branches and logs cut from the utis (Alnus nepalensis), katus (Castanopsis) and khasuro (Quercus) trees that are found abundantly in community forests and private lands. The shitake mushroom (Lentinus edodus) is valued for its nutritional and medicinal properties, and its cultivation in the hills and mountains of Nepal can help farmers generate cash income, and supplement nutritional value. 

A three-day shitake mushroom cultivation training was conducted in Phurumba, a village in Taplejung, from 28–30 December 2016. The training was organized by the Environmental Conservation and Development Forum (ECDF), Taplejung, and supported by the Support to Rural Livelihoods and Climate Change Adaptation in the Himalaya initiative. The main objective of the event was to provide hands-on training, and demonstrate how to best use locally available forest products such as branches, small logs, and pole-sized timber to cultivate shitake. 

Event participants were taught how to prepare logs for shitake cultivation. The ideal log length and size were discussed. Farmers were instructed on ways by which to maintain a wood moisture content of around 40 percent in the prepared logs to create a fertile environment for the mushrooms to grow. This is achieved by leaving the logs on the forest floor or a shade house for a number of days. A machine is then used to drill holes, from 1.5 to 2 cm deep. Shitake spawn are inserted into these holes, which are then covered with wax to prevent contamination by wild fungus.

Drilling holes on logs to prepare them for shitake cultivation.

The participants were also taught to stack the logs overlapping and intersecting each other. They were given instructions on how to water the logs, handle them, and turn them every month. Shitake-bearing logs need to be dipped in water for periods of 24–48 hours when the mushrooms begin to sprout. From October to November, they need to be lined out against strong wires tied between trees to ensure that they rest both against the wires and against each other, forming vertical rows of intersecting logs that make it much easier for farmers to pick the mushrooms growing on them. The same logs can be used for three to four years to grow shitake. Old logs can be burned as firewood once new ones replace them.

For the participants, the training was a good opportunity to learn about how to use the utis trees that are abundant in the region to generate income. They have prepared an action plan stating that by February 2017, all of them will have grown shitake mushroom on a minimum of 50, and a maximum of 200 logs. The cultivation is set to take place in pilot project sites. The first year will be a test run of sorts, and the lessons learnt from the experience will be used to multiply shitake cultivation in Taplejung.

The Environment Conservation and Development Forum will be responsible for monitoring the process, and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) Knowledge Park will provide technical support and information.

Inserting shitake spores into prepared utis logs.