Punjab known for its sprawling agricultural fields is equally famous for burning of paddy and wheat straw by farmers after the harvesting season. The smoke released from bur ning of paddy straw is extremely bad for our health. Providing a solution to this problem, Harpreet Singh Sodhi, senior mycologist, department of microbiology, Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), says far mers should use the wheat and paddy straw for mushroom cultivation post the harvest rather than burning it.
Harpreet Singh Sodhi, senior mycologist, department of microbiology, PAU, showing the mushrooms produced by utilising straw at the university in Ludhiana on Wednesday.
“Each year PAU spreads the same message, but farmers rarely pay heed to these suggestions. Post the harvest, they can collect the leftover straw and make small bundles that can be used for cultivation of mushrooms which is in high demand these days,” stresses 53-year-old Sodhi, who has been researching on mushroom varieties from the last 30 years. “Burning of the straw causes severe harm to soil fertility and create lots of air pollution, inviting health problems,” he adds, lamenting that farmers should not ignore the fact that mushrooms are in great demand and are nutritiously better than many vegetables.
Sodhi says the university had recommended five mushroom varieties for farmers in Punjab. Out of them, three are winter varieties- Agaricus Bisporus, Pleurotus and Lentinula Edodes- while two are summer varieties—Calocybe Indica’ and Volvariella. While showcasing the samples of mushroom cultivation on paddy and wheat straw in his laboratory, he admitted that not many far mers were aware that about the method which was very efficient and easy to follow. “It requires putting seeds on the straw bundles and rest is a natural process,” he said. In case of Calocybe Indica, 1kg of dry straw, paddy or wheat, gives 500 to 700 grams of mushrooms in 30 days while about 22 bundles of paddy can give around 3 to 4kg of mushrooms in 14 days in case of volvariella.
Parampal Kaur Sahota, head, microbiology department, PAU, she says, “We kee p on encouraging farmers to diversify far ming through various proProduction of mushroom at PAU started in 1972 and as per the data from PAU, currently there are only 400 mushroom farmers and per annum, the production amounts to 42,000 tons out of 1.2 lakh ton of the country’s total production. grammes.
As mushrooms have high market value, farmers must engage themselves in mushroom cultivation through the recommended method.”Sodhi is also doing research on increasing the shelf life of varieties of mushrooms. Hoping to achieve his objective, he wished that farmers would pay heed to his advice.