The mushrooms are rich source of proteins, vitamins, amino acids and minerals

Muhammad Mithal Jiskani, Assistant Professor, 
Department of Plant Pathology, 
Faculty of Crop Protection, 
Sindh Agriculture University, Tandojam

June 28 - July 04, 2004





The mushroom is a form of plant life but has no green coloring matter or chlorophyll. It is recognized as fleshy fungi, sometimes tough, produces umbrella like sporophore (fruiting body) that release microscopic spores, which serve as a mean of reproduction, but are not same as that of plant seed. The mushrooms are also called fungus flowers, spongy mushrooms are termed as morels and non-edible or poisonous are known as toadstools. The poisonous mushrooms are known to be poisonous, because someone might become ill or die on eating it. Edible mushrooms are known to be edible, because people eat them regularly in quantity with no ill effect. Still other species are poisonous to some people and harmless to others. It is also true that, there is no taste, other than eating, to determine weather an unknown mushroom is edible or not, therefore do not eat any unidentified mushroom, in case of emergency contact with doctor immediately.


The mushrooms are rich source of proteins, vitamins, amino acids and minerals but poor in fats and carbohydrates. Cardiotoxic proteins are present in different edible mushrooms, which lower the blood pressure, and are also active against tumor cells, whereas, anticancerous extract causes recession of some kinds of cancer and inhibits the growth of some viruses like influenza. Some mushrooms are used for soft and comfortable surgical dressing and others for anesthesia, while some as a powder or tincture for swollen glands, epilepsy and against various diseases. The mycorhizal mushrooms are used for establishment of forests, to improve the soil fertility, for reclamation and for introduction of exotic plant species. Some are predatory and are used as bio control agent and others as pesticide. Some mushrooms also known as condiment, cleaning detergent, tinder, tun bridge ware, snuff, dyeing, luminescent, painting and writing material (as ink), ornamental (also used as show piece) depending upon use. The mushrooms are objects of beauty for Artists. Architects have constructed minarets, temples and cupola columns in their shapes. Jewelers have made expensive pieces on mushroom designs.

The mushrooms are grown under natural conditions on living trees as parasite or dead woody branches of trees as saprophyte. Some of the mushrooms grow on the other mushrooms (fungicolous), typically produced on various types of soil (terrestrial), formed on dead leaves (foliicolous), grown on wood (lignicolous) and produced on dung (coprophilous). Therefore the mushrooms are also decomposers of biosphere. However, Pakistan is an agricultural country, therefore a huge quantity of plant residue (crop wastes), forestry and industrial waste, other refuses, rubbish or trash is easily available at low cost. All these things could be converted into most beneficial, nutritive and delicious food material and effective medicine through utilizing as substrate for artificial cultivation of mushrooms. Several experiments on various aspects of mushrooms were conducted on the artificial cultivation of mushrooms, at Sindh Agriculture University, Tandojam. The most easy, economical and commercial methodology has been evolved, which is simple but attentive, because direct sunrays discolor and kill the mushrooms, dry the substrate and make impossible for the growers to maintain the beds at the required temperature and humidity.


The mushrooms can be cultivated in green houses, growth chambers, ditches, caves, huts, hovels, cottages, cellars, garages, sheds or shelters, bee hive shaped huts, thatched or meted roofs, thick tree groves and gardens, kitchens, bathrooms or other extra rooms of a house or any other vacant building. The mushrooms can not be grown year after year with full commercial excess, unless proper growing conditions are provided and adequate facilities are available, for the control of diseases and insect pests. Such conditions can be fulfilled in shelf growing, by the construction of properly insulated and ventilated mushroom houses. Model mushroom house must have store room, pasteurization room, spawn preparation and spawning room, spawn running room, cropping room as well as packing and preservation room.




The spores (serve as a mean of seed) of the mushrooms are so small and could not be seen with necked eye, therefore, the mushroom grower cannot handle them. Laboratory person could inoculate sterile cereal grains with the spores or pure mycelial culture of the mushroom and incubate that until a viable product is developed. The grains become "spawn" and can be sown like seed. The entire operation (spawn preparation to spawning) begins in a laboratory under sterile conditions. The best spawn can be prepared on sorghum grain but other cereal grains as well as all agricultural and industrial wastes can also be used.


The desert mushroom, Podaxis pistillaris, commonly known as 'Khumbhi' grow well between 30-40C, oyster mushroom, Pleurotus spp. develop between 15-30 and straw mushrooms, Volvariella spp. needs 30-35C temperature.


Near about all types of mushrooms grow well with in range of 80-95% humidity, that could be arranged with the help of desert room cooler and or sprinkling water near the mushroom beds. The water could be sprayed over mushroom beds but it must be kept in mind that this exercise may inhibit (check) the growth and development of mushrooms.


Most of the mushrooms do not need regular light and grow well at normal natural light but in case of oyster mushroom cultivation, regular light is necessary, that could be arranged through tube lights, otherwise yield may become poor.


The people of Sindh, mostly of the desert and mountain (Thar and Kohistan) areas are much familiar with the business of desert mushroom. This mushroom contains 21.06% crude protein, 1.71% ether extract, 24.13% ash and 12.23% crude fibber. It is consumed by various ways, mostly as fresh in breakfast. The local Hukmah (Hakims) use it for treatment of different food deficiencies and illness in different ways. Some times it is used with butter for bandage of broken bones.

Most of the people are of opinion that desert mushroom is gifted from almighty Allah, rain is a seed of it. Actually, the dark brown to black powdery mass, developed in mature mushrooms, is a huge quantity of spores, which are not seeds, but serve as a mean of seed. The results of preliminary experiments reveal that it can also be cultivated artificially, as easily as that of other cultivated mushrooms with a little difference. It does not need tissue culture or artificially prepared spawn, but only matured mushroom spores can directly be used for sowing purpose. Further, the results show that there is no need of agricultural or industrial waste, nor a process of soaking, boiling or sterilizing of such material is required. On the other hand, it can be simply cultivated on flat bed of soil. Only the need is that select sandy to sandy loam soil in the surrounding of thick grove of trees and or gardens, or ordinary shed be prepared, because direct sun rays are dangerous for this mushroom too. However, small 4x5 feet sized beds may be prepared with about 9 to 12 inches layer of soil and than one soaking dose of irrigation water may be applied. After a day, the mushroom powder (spores of matured mushroom), not old than one year, may be broadcasted on the prepared bed. The same may be mixed with the help of log stick, spade or so, on 2 to 3 inches upper surface of the bed. It must be kept in mind that the beds should be under shade (of trees or artificially prepared thatches etc.). The water must be sprinkled/sprayed just after mixing of the spores and twice a day on the following days, so that the beds remain moist. Normally the crop may appear within 30 days. Initially, the root like threads (or well-developed hypha) develop from the spores, in orders to search for food, which are actually microscopic, but some times are visible. These threads transmit into mushroom, which initially appears very small and milky in color, vary in shape and size but become normal in shape and size, within one or two-three days, depending upon the environmental conditions.


The mushrooms belong to genus Pleurotus resemble with the shape of oyster, therefore known as oyster mushroom in English, Sipi Khumbhi in Sindhi and Sadafnuma Khumbhi in Urdu. Most of the Pleurotus spp. are cultivated artificially. The straw mushrooms belong to genus Volvariella and only three species such as V. volvacea, V. esculenta, and V. diplasia are under artificial cultivation. Perhaps the cultivation of straw mushroom was started in China, because of that it is also known as Chinese mushroom and as this grow best on paddy straw, therefore is called straw or paddy straw mushroom. Mostly, the wheat, paddy, barley, oat and gram straw, banana, sugarcane and maize leaves, empty millet heads and corn cobs, cotton waste, thin sticks and boll locules, sugarcane baggage, banana pseudostems, saw dust, logs, straw papers, manure etc. are used separately or in combination as substrate (medium) for cultivation.

The paddy straw, leaves of different crops and empty corn cobs needs chopping in to small pieces of about 3-5 cm. Threshed wheat straw, cotton waste, saw dust, cotton boll locules and empty millet heads or so, may directly be used by soaking them in water for 24 hours. After chopping of straw or leaves as well as soaking of waste (what ever be selected to use), boil the same in water for about half an hour, so that insect pests and other microbes present in the substrate may be killed and substrate become moist. After this, take out the straw from water and spread it on the inclined cemented floor for cooling as well as removing of excess water from the substrate. When the temperature drops down to about normal and moisture content becomes about 80%, the spawn be mixed at 10-20% of the substrate dry weight (which will be 100-200 g /kg of dry substrate). The spawned substrate may be filled in polythene bags and be placed in spawn running room under controlled temperature, humidity and light. When pinheads (initial growth of fruiting bodies) of the mushrooms appears, open the mouth of the bags or cut at place, to facilitate the growth of fruiting bodies. Sort out the contaminated bags and destroy them away from the growing space, burning of such bags is safe for remaining crop.

The straw mushrooms may also be cultivated on beds, prepared of about squire meter size, by placing the moist straw in such a way that first layer be of about 4 inches. In this case, place the spawn 3-4 inches inside the margin of layer at 4-5 inch distance from each other and sprinkle small quantity of gram floor, over the spawn. The second and third layer should be prepared and spawned in the same way. The last layer should be covered with a thin layer of chopped, soaked and boiled straw. Finally, the beds should be covered with polythene sheet and the temperature as well as humidity should be controlled. In case of cultivation of straw mushrooms on beds of un-choped paddy straw, banana leaves etc, the bundles should be prepared of the size of available straw or leaves and be soaked in water for 24 hours. If the bundles are prepared from banana leaves, than the soaking may be done for 4 hours. The soaked bundles may be arranged on inclined cement, till the discharge of excess water that the bundles may be placed length wise, close to each other, on cemented floor, in a cross fashion, with the opposite but ends on one side. Each bed may not be more than five layers; all layers may be spawned and finally be covered as that of discussed above. When the pinheads or small buttons of the mushroom appear on the beds, the polythene sheets should be removed.




The matured mushrooms (but before production of spores) can be picked by twisting at the base of stem, and lifting from the bed, but the stalk should never be left on the bed. In case of oyster mushrooms, harvesting could be done with the help of sharp knife or blade. The solid portion of all mushrooms left on the bed may become a harbor for flies and other insects, hence, should be removed. If there are many pinheads (the young mushrooms, which are to be harvested) around the mushrooms, then only mature mushrooms be harvested very carefully, so that the near by pins do not be disturbed. Otherwise, these pinheads will not grow, but will turn yellow, finally, many saprophytes may attack these pinheads and diseases will spread. The mushroom yield the crop in flushes, therefore, care must be taken during harvesting (picking). The subsequent flushes depend on the proper watering, humidity, temperature and light. Sometimes, other saprophytic mushrooms as well as lower fungi and different microbes cause damage to the crop and bed as well. Therefore, all mature, harvested or diseased mushrooms, their stalks and refuse must be removed at every harvesting; from the house and destroyed, to minimize risk of the development of the diseases and pests. The cropping area must be kept cleaned and safe to public, domestic animals, birds etc.