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Mushrooming in the Valley

With demand increasing and new schemes available for farmers,mushroom farming is picking up fast in Kashmir

Written by Rifat Mohidin | Srinagar |
July 20, 2012 3:52:45 am

With increasing demand in the local market,mushroom cultivation is picking up fast in Kashmir. Thousands of quintals of high quality mushroom are now being grown across the Valley.

Officials of the agriculture department attribute this to the introduction of low-cost technology and government-sponsored schemes. Good dividends have drawn more farmers towards mushroom farming. The state produced 5,051quintals of mushroom last year. A separate Department of Mushroom Development has been established to increase the production.

“We have seen an increasing interest among farmers in mushroom cultivation since 2008 because they are becoming aware about its benefits and the easy schemes available for them. There is also an increase in the local demand,” says Abid Khan,a mushroom cultivator in the agriculture department. “Earlier,people in the Valley were not interested in mushroom cultivation due to lack of subsidies and government schemes. But with new schemes being introduced,people are coming forward,” says Khan,adding mushroom needs low investment and less labour due to which it becomes a source of additional income for the farmers.

Among the schemes introduced by the government is the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (National Agriculture Development Programme),under which local growers are being provided Rs 30,000 per 100 trays of mushroom. Each tray grows 4-5 kg.

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Mushrooms are not grown in open fields like other crops but they require open fields for preparing the compost. The compost is then spread on wooden trays,which are installed in a closed room where a particular temperature is maintained. Hundreds of trays could be deposited in a single room.

The maximum temperature needed for growing mushrooms should ranges between 22 and 24 degrees Celsius. According to the growers,Valley’s temperature is usually suitable for the crop,but precautions should be taken because the temperature may go up or down sometimes.

In Kashmir,mushrooms are grown under natural conditions twice a year — spring crop (mid-January to end of June) and autumn crop (mid-July to end of November). But experts now suggest that it can be grown thrice. Officials say they have reaped three yields on experimental basis in south Kashmir ‘s Pulwama district.

“The total time for cultivation is three months — one month for making compost and two months for growth,’’ says a local grower,Gulzar Ahmad.

To encourage mushroom cultivation on a large scale,besides giving Rs 30,000 for 100 trays,the agriculture department also provides the growers with spawns on subsidised rates and imparts training in cultivation.

For the past few years,mushroom has earned a place for itself in the Kashmiri wedding feasts and is called “vegetarian meat”.

“There is a sufficient local market available in the Valley and neighboring states. We have separate units that help pack and export canned mushrooms. Some people make small packs and sell them in the local market for Rs 150 per kg. The produce fetches Rs 250 a kg outside Kashmir,” says Joint Director,Mushroom Development,Maqsood Ahmed Wani.

In India,Kashmir has gained distinction in the production of white button mushrooms due to conducive agro-climatic conditions and easy availability of resources. “Due to suitable climate in all districts of Kashmir,it is grown everywhere but the main areas are Srinagar,Ganderbal and Pulwama,” says Ahmed.

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