Mushrooms are globally known for their nutritional value and medicinal characteristics and their cultivation plays an economically important role in the biotechnological industry that has markedly developed all over the world.
As the farming took its organized shape in India only in the recent past, mushroom cultivation has been a great source of income or livelihood for centuries. Under controlled conditions, the cultivation of this nutritious vegetarian fragility- rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, folic acid and iron – is of recent origin in India.
Their cultivation is an effective bioconversion technology of transforming wastes and woods into potentially valuable resources and could also be an important part of sustainable agriculture and forestry that will meet the nutritional needs of both present and future generations.
Kashmir valley has the advantage in many ways such as favourable agro climate, richness in agro wastes, comparatively low-cost labour, and abundance in fungal biodiversity. It has witnessed a steady response in growth of mushroom cultivation.
Improvement in its cultivation and consumption can improve the nutritional status of the people of Kashmir by providing a rich source of protein, valuable minerals and vitamins. Besides low fat and high protein and vitamin contents, mushrooms are rich sources of several minerals and trace elements, as well as dietary fibres.
By and large mushroom cultivation is profitable which is reflected through many empirical research studies finding that benefit-cost ratios, net present values and internal rates of return are high.
Mushrooms have many characteristics and the reported medicinal effects of mushrooms include anti-inflammatory effects, with anti-inflammatory compounds of mushrooms comprising a highly diversified group in terms of their chemical structure.
They include polysaccharides, terpenoids, phenolic compounds, and many other low molecular weight molecules. Of late, mushrooms have emerged as a brilliant source of nutraceuticals, antioxidants, anticancer, prebiotic, immunomodulating, anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular, antimicrobial, and antidiabetic. Owing to the synergistic action of contemporary bioactive molecules, the majority of mushroom products possess beneficial health effects and can be used on a regular basis without any harm.
Therefore, they are considered as perspective organisms to develop different healthcare biotech products. Mushrooms promote sustainability and are hence eco-friendly in nature. Mushroom production can transform lignocellulosic waste materials (large quantities) into an extensive diversity of products (medicinal or edible food and fertilizers), safeguarding and stimulating the environment. Moreover, mushroom production can cause unbiased and sustainable economic growth that affects both domestic and regional development.
This influence or mushroom wave is likely to expand in the near future for the reason that the majority of agricultural and forest resources are non-productive in nature and have been wasted in the consuming and agro-industrial processing time period. This mushroom transformation is labeled the “non-green revolution” (Chang 1999).
Nonetheless, the economics of mushroom cultivation is a somewhat new functional and pragmatic science. As compared to many plant crops, the mushroom industry is still in its infant stage with the limited investment in the research and development body of mushroom. As a result, there is a big research gap or dearth of scientific research on mushrooms.
In 2010, J&K agriculture mushroom department established the National Mushroom Development Project based in Srinagar because there are many advantages of mushroom cultivation. The most important goal of this project was to increase the production and productivity of mushrooms.
No doubt, the J & K Government had taken forward-looking steps for boosting mushroom production in the union territory by offering high quality seeds to farmers but in the long run it was not successful.
Laboratories were set up which were meant to make spawn – the mushroom propagating material, and offer framers at nominal prices. Apart from laboratories they provided the training centre to the entrepreneurs and farmers who aim to improve their livelihood through mushroom cultivation. But, the infrastructure could not be developed due to political reasons (instabilities in particular).
Mushroom cultivation as a focus area under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yogna (National Agriculture Development Programme) is an important scheme in which mushroom growers were given adequate quality seeds and new cultivation techniques to increase mushroom cultivation in a great manner.
The improved mushroom cultivation is a matter of dual efforts on the part of the J&K agriculture department and mushroom cultivators in the valley. We have witnessed the majority of production units in the valley so as to meet growing needs of white mushrooms which are popularly known as button mushrooms.
Given the fact that the mushroom industry is still small (demanding less investment) compared to many plant crops, it is very economical with good returns. Nonetheless, mushroom science is a relatively new applied science concerned by and large about the economics of mushroom cultivation. There is a need for more quality research in the economics of mushroom cultivation so as to reap higher benefits from its cultivation.
Binish Qadri Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, University of Kashmir.
Ruyida Mushtaq, Research Scholar, Department of Geography & Regional Development, University of Kashmir.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.