‘Mushroom’ popularly known as “ogiri agbe” in Yoruba and “Ero ”by the Igbos are reffered to as the’ food of the gods’ in Rome and ‘the elixir of life’ in China are the fruiting bodies of micro-fungi.
Mushroom resources have been exploited in most developed economies because of their huge agro-industrial, medicinal and commercial benefits. Nigerians utilized mushroom-forming fungi only for food and
folk medicine for many decades. Oyster and shiitake mushroomsn were some of the common edible mushrooms that were successfully cultivated in Nigeria on small-scale basis. The mushroom resources in Nigeria are grossly under-studied and their attractive potentials under-exploited for addressing economic and industrial development.
Resourceful biotechnological approach in the application of mushrooms in agriculture, medicine, industry and environment is inchoate and uncommon in the country.
Mushrooms are widespread in nature and they
remained the earliest form of fungi known to mankind. In Nigeria, many people in both urban and rural areas are familiar with mushroom-forming fungi growing around them some of which they exploit for food and medicine. This practice although reported all-over the country is more pronounce amongst the Yoruba speaking people .
Concomitant varieties of mushrooms that abound in Nigeria have continued to gain recognition and elicit different interests and questions as potentially resourceful tool in economic modulation pari passu prevailing reliance on leafy plants. It is saddening to see that people from all works of life associate mushrooms with negative events in Nigeria and most African countries . This image, in addition to the slow development of mushroom cultivation practices is changing due to reports elsewhere in the world that illuminate potentials of mushroom-forming fungi and mushroom products and their uses in different spheres of human welfare.
This is apart from their hitherto pivotal roles in sustaining eco-energy balance in nature. In Africa, mushroom resource exploration and exploitation is fraught with lack of infrastructure and technical supports from national and international agencies, scarcity of mushroom scientists, poor political and legislative support, poor knowledge of mushroom biodiversity due to dearth of mushroom taxonomists and bad press reports amongst others .
Reports on Nigerian mushrooms such as are old and currently an under-representation of Nigerian mushroom’s diversity, composition and uses. African nations are seldom listed among the largest producers and exporters ofedible mushrooms and mushroom products.
The objective of this article therefore, is to review the mushroom research-application divides in Nigeria against the flux of unprecedented global reports on mushroom potentials, explorations and exploitations for human benefits.
This illuminated the need to prospect mushrooms and shift focus from reliance on plant genetic resources to mycotas as better alternative in addressing Nigeria’s economic and technological development by reviewing existing mushroom articles on Nigeria.
A good number of mushrooms have been reported to be consumed by different tribal groups in Nigeria.People depending on their tribe slightly differ in the array of mushrooms consumed and reasons for their consumption .
The Yoruba tribes however recorded the highest number of edible and medicinal mushrooms compared to the Hausa tribes . The reason for this trend is not fully understood but it is believed to be connected to the relatively few
accounts of edible, medicinal and cultivable mushrooms in extant literature. Factors such as the arid nature of the North occasioned by desert encroachment; scarcity of mushroom biologists and mushroom interest; availability of alternative protein sources may have contributed to the scarcity of mushroom information on the Hausas .
Many people are ignorant of the nutritional values of edible mushrooms but consume them based on their organoleptic property such as aroma, taste, flavour, and texture .
In Nigeria, a great quantity and variety of edible and medicinal mushrooms are sourced from the wild due to inchoate mushroom farming culture. This practice (mushroom scouting/hunting) existed for decades spanning generations and mostly embarked upon by children and women .
About twenty-five edible mushroom species of good repute whose knowledge were handed down generational lines via oral communication have been identified in Nigeria .
Edible mushrooms collected from various farmlands, forests and plantations may be sold or cooked fresh, after treatment with warm salt water, with the addition of essential ingredients like pulped pepper, tomatoes, onions, salt and oil or smoked and/or sun-dried for later use. The reliance on naturally growing edible mushrooms has greatly
undermined the development of mushroom cultivation to a commercial scale despite available substrate materials in some African nations. Some of the substrate materials of diverse origin tested in the artificial cultivation of mushrooms in Nigeria includes sawdust,rice straw,wheat straw,corn straw,cassava peelings,plantain and banana wastes etc.
Despite the fact that about 20% of the world’s population was reported to be starving, African nations are still lacking amongst the mushroom exporting nations of the world. Tapping into the benefits of commercial mushroom production in Nigeria will reduce the country’s unemployment rate, increase her food security and revenue base while bridging her rural-urban migration gap.
The number of cultivable edible mushrooms worldwide amounts to over a hundred with an annual production of over 4.5 million tons and still increasing. The provision of safe sustainable access to edible and medicinal
mushrooms in Nigeria can be achieved in a number of ways which may include:
(i) by promoting opportunities for co-operation between all stake-holders such as the mushroom farmers, researchers/mycologists, politicians and other mushroom prospectors (marketer, NGOs and government agencies on agriculture, youths and women etc.) in the country;
(ii) through the creation of public enlightenment initiatives via talk
shows on the positive potentials of mushrooms and
mushroom products in radio and television
programs, monthly newsletter, seminars and
This will remove the negative publicity associated with mushrooms, increase market sources of edible mushrooms, limit the dangers associated with mushroom hunting from the wild and improve awareness on both the nutrient quality and benefits of mushroom consumption;
(iii) by developing a model that allows for spawn availability to farmers and steady flow and/or exchange of proprietary culture (mother cultures and pure-lines). This is in addition to the cross-fertilization of cultivation technologies between developing and industrial nations, and creation of recognized indigenous mushroom growers association. The establishment of sustainable regional mushroom germplasm banks and research centers to maintain mushroom genetic stability, quality control of mushroom culture collections and spawn, and preservation of cultures of extant and extinct myco-resources can also enhance the overall uses of mushrooms in the country.
One cannot but add that the elevation of mushrooms to a cash-crop status in Nigeria requires improved political will and solid infrastructural (steady electricity, flowing water, buildings etc.) setting.
These will have unprecedented impact on the development of the country’s mushroom industries in providing food, drugs and chemicals. It will equally offer opportunity for conservation strategies and preservation of mushrooms that will add value to medicine, pharmacy, industries and agriculture.