The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Mushroom Farmers

Mushroom growing is one of the most science‐based branches of agriculture and horticulture. It is a large, sophisticated, competitive and capital‐intensive industry. Together with these, lack of concept and skill on production technology, lack of research, extension, and adaptation works, lack of appreciation about the food and dietary importance of mushrooms, low infrastructural development, low level of information supply both on production and marketing aspects, and the monotonous traditional diets and the conservative eating habit of the people may be a few of the impairments that constrained the introduction of this industry into the country.

Though the current status of mushroom production and utilization seem deterring, it is a satisfying and rewarding opportunity for those with the commitment to get it right. However, the few successful mushroom farmers observed exhibited some traits and habits that enabled them garner 40% of market share. Below are 7 habits of highly effective mushroom cultivators in Nigeria.

1. They understand how mushrooms grow/Production process
In nature, mushrooms appear infrequently (Robin, 1997). Fungi which can produce mushrooms do so only when nutritional and environmental conditions are right. Mushroom cultivation requires firstly the manufacture of composts and secondly management of growing environments. The cultivation of the fungus in compost and the way in which nutrition and growing environments are manipulated to force mushrooms to emerge for harvesting is the key to success.
Inoculated compost is incubated in insulated buildings equipped with environment control techniques to maximize the rate at which the fungus colonizes the compost. Once the compost has been fully colonized an extra layer, usually of peat, is added to the surface. This so called ‘casing’ layer,this layer transforms the fungus to reproductive growth and finally to reproductive generation of mushrooms.

2. They know why they grow mushrooms
Robin (1997), advises that you have to be sure you are entering the industry with a clear
objective.
Typical reasons include the following:
• To provide full‐time occupation and primary source of income.
• As a part‐time occupation and secondary income.
• To utilize existing facilities such as buildings or cold stores not currently in use.
• To maximize labor efficiency in a complementary business.
• To utilize more fully existing marketing and distribution system.
• For life‐style change, perhaps to ‘get back to nature’ growing a crop with strong natural
rhythms.
If you are seeking a primary income, or to integrate your growing or marketing business, there are good precedents for you to follow. If, however, you only wish to utilize existing buildings or provide a ‘life‐style’ change, good advice would certainly be to look at more enjoyable ways of losing money!

3. They Work on economic feasibility and its capital requirement
Mushroom production requires considerable capital outlay. This is usually site‐specific and so generalizations concerning investment costs are not likely to be helpful. There is then the question of the production system to be adopted. The choice may be of three or four systems but with a multiplicity of ways of approaching each. Some involve very high capital sums indeed, especially where there is a desire to produce compost in‐house. The entry level of investment to produce compost is expensive. Most advisers will discourage this for small and medium‐sized farms. Only where a major farm development is envisaged should compost production be contemplated.
Buying ready‐spawned (Phase II) compost bypasses expensive capital investment in machinery and buildings necessary for the skilled Phase I and Phase II composting processes. Bought‐in compost can then be grown on in bags, on shelves or as compressed blocks. Some growers buy in fully prepared compost which is ready for casing. So called ‘Phase III’ compost is more expensive but can yield particularly well, increasing cash flow and retained income. However, it will also require a higher level of working capital. The choice of system will ultimately reflect
availability of capital, facilities and site restrictions and can be decided only in the course of a detailed financial analysis.
In all cases some working capital will be needed to grow the mushrooms.

4. They Have knowledge and training on mushroom production
Even if an economic appraisal of a proposed mushroom enterprise looks good, there are other issues about which you will need to satisfy yourself. You must plan to gain knowledge and skill to grow high quality, disease‐free and pest‐free mushrooms in quantities large enough to be economically viable. Your business plan must take into account the relatively low output, and therefore income, you will achieve as you learn.

5. They anticipate problems that they might face
Which production system will you choose? Some require high investment, others less, but you must exceed a breakeven yield to be profitable.
Pests and diseases can be devastating and their control in mushrooms is a constant cost which is involved and complicated. Growers cannot depend on chemical pesticides as the crop is extremely sensitive. A start‐up program and training is essential before any new production unit will achieve economic yields.

6. They know the post-harvest behavior and handling of fresh mushrooms and its processing
According to Bhupinder and Ibitwar (2007), freshly harvested mushrooms are highly perishable because of high moisture content, metabolism and susceptibility to enzymatic browning. Its quality starts declining soon after harvesting, rendering the produce unsalable. Hence, the development of appropriate storage and processing technology in order to extend their marketability and availability to the consumers in fresh or processed form is of great significance. Drying, canning and freezing are initially accepted methods of mushroom preservation. Drying being cheaper can be employed on commercial scale.
Hence, freshly harvested mushrooms should be immediately processed if the objective is to preserve mushrooms for long term bases.

7. They know their target market before producing
Market outlets must be assured before beginning. These require a continuous supply which involves accurate crop programming. Having grown a crop, it needs to be harvested ‘seven days a week’ ‐ and harvesting is one of the highest costs.
There is room only for top‐quality mushrooms. A new producer may firstly rely on wholesale markets. Initially, due to lack of continuity, variable quality and low volume, marketing to supermarkets and high quality direct outlets cannot be contemplated. Slowly, as reputations are established, some product may go to some of the higher‐value, local outlets or be bulked with other growers’ produce to meet the stringent demands of supermarkets. Never underestimate the time that must be devoted to developing and servicing market outlets.

8. They know where to go for help?
There are few governmental institutions like the Universities of agriculture, and federal research centres with people having theoretical and practical skill in the production of mushrooms. Moreover, the federal research centers offers training on “Low Cost Production of Mushrooms” with the aim to promote the cultivation of mushrooms at marginal and small scale level.

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