Mushroom cultivation sprouts income of Shopian duo
Shopian: A 2-kms long stretch branching off from the Shopian-Kadir road near Habdipora village leads to the idyllic Nadigam hamlet. A few doors down the village street is situated the house of Jahangir Ahmad Malik.
Inside one of the dingy rooms of his house, Malik is busy with picking up the mushrooms from the small compost filled poly bags.
Malik, a science graduate from University of Kashmir has set up a mushroom unit along with his friend Umar Yaseen in April this year after they developed interest in progressive farming.
"We are basically farmers and own large swathes of cultivable land, but like most of the farmers we were doing the conventional style of farming", says Malik, adding that they began experimenting with this new kind of farming only this year.
The duo set up the unit with the help of the Department of Agriculture in a 20x18 room and have been cultivating the button mushrooms over the last six months.
"Apart from giving a 50 percent subsidy, the department also offered us the technical know-how", Malik said.
According to Malik, they were able to harvest around 110 kgs of button mushrooms so far.
" We sold one kg of our produce at Rs 225 to Rs 250, which has fetched us a profit of nearly Rs 2 lakh so far”, said Malik.
He said that commercial mushrooms could be grown all round the year, provided one could create conditions suitable for their growth.
An agriculture expert told Greater Kashmir "that the optimal temperature for the cultivation of mushrooms ranges between 23 to 25 degree Celsius.
"During the frosty winters, when the temperature tumbles down to even minus 10 in the Valley, it becomes difficult for a farmer to maintain the optimal temperature", he said. He, however, quickly averred that "it could be maintained".
Malik's partner Yasin said that the land - strapped residents particularly those living in urban areas could also go for this kind of farming to ramp up their income hands down.
Apart from cultivating the mushrooms, the duo grow a host of exotic vegetable varieties including broccoli, cherry tomato, melons and capsicum.
The vegetables had fetched them around Rs 40,000 since they began growing them in the month of April.
The Department of Agriculture, Malik said, provided them imported seeds against 100 percent subsidy.
Malik, who comes from a family of well-heeled apple orchardists, has also set up a modern high-density apple orchard, spread over 10 kanals.
He said that he tried his best to best to avoid chemical manures “and instead use bio-fertilizers”
In high -density plantation plantations the rows of apple trees are usually spaced 10 feet to 12 feet apart. Malik said that he also used this space to grow vegetables.
Malik believes that unemployed youth, particularly those living in the rural areas, could easily earn their livelihood by turning to progressive farming .
“Government is offering a plethora of schemes in the farming sector, which the unemployed youth could easily avail” said Malik.