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Small, marginal farmers, midday meals on mind, Punjab starts free training in mushroom growing

The aim is also to gradually include mushrooms in midday meals as it would add more nutritional value.

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar |
March 22, 2021 9:59:20 am
The Department of Horticulture has been providing training for mushroom cultivation

In a unique step to combat malnutrition, Punjab’s horticulture department has come up with a project called ‘Apni bagichi te ghar ghar khumba’ (Own kitchen garden and mushrooms at every home), which offers free training in growing mushrooms for self consumption as well as commercial purposes.

Under the project, the department is training small and marginal farmers, school teachers, school and college students as well as unemployed youth. The aim is also to gradually include mushrooms in midday meals as it would add more nutritional value.

India ranks high in the list of countries with highest rates of malnutrition among children. The National Family Health Survey report states that in several parts of India, children born between 2014-19 are more malnourished than the previous generation. Mushrooms are not only a rich source of vitamins but also strengthen the immune system and are very beneficial to those suffering from anaemia. It can also manage the stubble menace to some extent, as it needs straw to grow. To grow mushrooms, small and marginal farmers can start with a 20×60 feet plot (just 4 per cent of one acre land) and can earn Rs 40,000 to 50,000 in 3-4 four months.

The department has organised 650 camps across the state since last November to provide training in growing mushrooms. Till date over one lakh people — 5,000 in each of Punjab’s 22 districts — have been trained,” said Shailender Kaur, director, horticulture department, adding that mushrooms are a source of vitamins B2, B3, B5, B6, and copper, selenium, phosphorus, potassium and iron. It also helps prevent cancer, decreases cholesterol levels, strengthens the immune system, regularises the blood insulin level and contains the most digestible vitamin D, she added.

The programme is training people to grow button mushrooms as well as oyster mushrooms (dhingeri in common parlance). The training programme is very simple and one requires just 1-3 days to learn the process. “We have supplied 30,000 spawns from the department’s laboratories at Patiala and Jalandhar for those who wanted to grow it after training,” said nodal officer.

In the coming fiscal year, the department is aiming to train about 6 lakh people in the state. The main purpose of it is to have nutritious food as its regular consumption can address the malnutrition problem to a large extent.

Nodal Officer Mushroom Punjab cum Assistant Director Horticulture at Citrus Estate, Badal, Dr Narinder Kalsi, said that Punjab grows only 5,911 metric tonnes of mushrooms while it has a huge potential and marketing is no problem. “One can start with a small investment and earn a living and for commercial units, the government is providing subsidy too. It is a profitable agri-business and has huge scope for small and marginal farmers to enhance their income manifold,” he added.

Dr Kalsi also said that China’s per capita mushroom consumption is highest with 14 kg per annum, while Europe has 2-3 kg per capita per annum consumption and India’s consumption is one of the lowest at 20-25 gm per head per annum. As per recommendation, one can consume 100 gm mushrooms per capita per day as it is a source of quality protein.

The mushrooms are also being cultivated by students and served in the midday meals at a government school in Mansa.

Midday meal programmes

“We have involved a large number of school teachers, especially those who are involved in the midday meal programme because by growing it at school level, this vegetable can be served to students on a regular basis, which can help prevent malnutrition among children,” said Vipesh Garg, horticulture development officer in Mansa district, adding that several schools are having open spaces available and even space lying unused can be utilised for growing mushrooms in schools.

Jagdeep Kaur, a teacher of Government Middle School in Chak Bhai Ke village in Budhlada Tehsil of Mansa district, said: “After getting training from the horticulture department official, we are now growing this vegetable in a 6×6 feet room available in the school and serving it in the midday meal on regular basis. Now even poor children know how to grow it in a small space.”

How to start

Nodal officer Dr Kalsi said that one can start with an investment of Rs 4,500 by using three quintal wheat straw or wheat and paddy straw can be used as 1:1 ratio. After mixing the straw with various fertilisers, proper compost is prepared. This compost is placed on the shelves of a room with a dimension of 10x10x10. Three-four shelves can be created in all sides of this room to place this compost where the seed of the mushrooms will be sown. The first flesh will appear in 35 days and then it will continue to grow for three months. “One can earn double of whatever one is investing,” said he, adding that one can get 70 to 80 kg mushrooms from this small room in three months’ time.

The horticulture department is providing a 40 per cent subsidy on a Rs 2 lakh unit.

Around 34 million tonnes of mushroom are grown worldwide while in India, the production of mushroom is very small — 1,18 metric lakh tonnes — while Punjab’s share is just 5 per cent. Odisha is the country’s top producer of mushroom with 15,000 tonnes production followed by Haryana and Gujarat with 10,500 tonnes each. There are around 2,000 types of fungus, out of which only some are consumable.

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