Raise mushroom, DOST urges farmers

July 6, 2010 9:59 pm 

LEGAZPI CITY, July 5 -–Growing mushroom that is considered “an almost perfect food” could be remarkably profitable yet it remains one of the not-too-much-famous farm-based ventures in the Philippines, according to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

Nutritionally speaking, mushrooms contain higher quality proteins than green plants, important minerals such as iron, phosphorus, potassium and calcium and nearly all vitamins, including vitamin D, a DOST statement released by its regional office here on Monday said.

Edible mushrooms are rich in vitamins B1 and B2. They also contain fibers, which stimulate digestion in humans, as well as other elements favorable for health. Another advantage is that they can be grown at home without any great effort, it said.

It is however regrettable that until now, cultivating mushrooms has been almost ignored in many developing countries including the Philippines even as it is delicious and nutritionally valuable and could contribute significantly to solutions addressing malnutrition and food shortage problems, the statement said.

Economic analysts have seen mushrooms as another major crop of the country and its local market is reportedly growing. In several Makati supermarkets, for instance, mushrooms are among the fast-selling items in their vegetables section.

Mushroom growers in Pampanga and Tarlac, according to Tomas Briñas, the regional DOST director for Bicol is exporting his mushroom spawns to Japan under contract with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) that is using it in studies on the use of wood chips as a substitute.

They use the kabuteng dayami (Volvariella volvacea) variety that commands a price of P140 per kilo and given that a capital of only P18,000 is needed to produce 100 kilos, a 300 percent return of investment is easily achievable in their mushroom culture, he said.

The success of mushroom growers in these two provinces, Briñas added are all attributable to the fact that the crop is becoming popular. One reason is because it has the shortest gestation period among field crops as under normal conditions, mushrooms can be harvested 12 days after seeding, thus it can be cultured year-round.

Briñas said that based on researches, there are about 700 varieties of mushrooms that are edible and could be cultivated in Bicol and elsewhere around the country.

The most widely cultivated mushroom species are kabuting saging, tainga ng daga, shiitake, abalone and champignon.

Kabuting saging, Briñas said sprouts in the wild after prolonged rainy days and is usually cultivated in straw beds in open fields or in portable wooden frames. Tainga ng daga is usually found growing luxuriantly on decaying trees in the forest.

Shiitake is also known as the Japanese forest mushroom since it grows profusely in the forests of Japan logs of shii, a tree closely related to the oak while abalone is commonly known as oyster mushroom because its fleshy gills look like ears growing sideways and overlapping one another, resembling oysters.

Champignon is one of the few mushroom species with international commercial importance.

There are a number of species of mushroom that are poisonous, and although some resemble certain edible species, eating them could be fatal. “Eating mushrooms gathered in the wild is risky,” the DOST regional head warns.

Historical accounts say that Claudius II and Pope Clement VII were both killed by enemies who poisoned them with deadly mushrooms. Buddha died, according to legend, from a mushroom that grew underground. Buddha was given the mushroom by a peasant who believed it to be a delicacy.

Edible mushroom species on the other hand have been found in association with 13,000 year old ruins in Chile, but the first reliable evidence of mushroom consumption dates to several hundred years BC in China. In Asia, mushrooms are favored for their earthy flavor and their therapeutic properties.

In fact, recent studies have confirmed that the health benefits associated with mushrooms are numerous and wide-ranging.

Mushrooms are high in antioxidants, selenium, riboflavin and other healthful substances that may fight cancer, some experts claim.

Research conducted at California’s Beckman Research Institute shows that mushroom cells contain mechanisms that suppress breast and prostate cancer cells.

Other research suggests that some mushroom extracts can help reduce cancer treatment side effects. When people took the mushrooms a week before they started treatment, they did appear to help with side effects of both chemotherapy and radiotherapy, including sickness and hair loss.

In Japan, a study found shiitake mushroom to be a formidable cancer fighter. In 1969, scientists at Tokyo’s National Center Research Institute isolated a polysaccharide compound from shiitake they called lentinan.

In laboratory trials, lentinan caused tumors in mice to regress or vanish in 80 percent to 100 percent of the subjects.

Lentinan appears “to stimulate immune-system cells to clear the body of tumor cells.” It has also shown some effect on bowel cancer, liver cancer, stomach cancer, ovarian cancer, and lung cancer.

Eating shiitake mushroom can also lower cholesterol. Research conducted in Japan identified a specific amino acid in shiitake that helps speed up the processing of cholesterol in the liver.

In a 1974 study, 40 elderly individuals and 420 young women consumed nine grams of dried shiitake or the equivalent amount of fresh shiitake of 90 grams every day for seven days.

After a week, total cholesterol levels had dropped seven percent to 15 percent in the older group, and six percent to 12 percent in the young women.

Briñas also cited more reasons for eating shiitake mushrooms such as it lower blood pressure in those with hypertension, lower serum cholesterol levels, increase libido, stimulate the production of interferon which has anti-viral effects and has proven effective against hepatitis in some cases.

The abalone mushrooms are a natural source of statin drugs, specifically the isomers of lovastatin.

In 2009, a case control study of the eating habits of 2,018 woman revealed that women who consumed mushrooms had an approximately 50 percent lower incidence of breast cancer.

Women who consumed mushrooms and green tea had a 90 percent lower incidence of breast cancer.

Edible mushrooms are not only good for the stomach alone but for also for the total well-being of a person.

As such, Filipino farmers are urged to cultivate mushroom as additional source of income. “Mushrooms can be grown in enclosed indigenous structures and with minimal capital,” according to Alice Ilaga, the biotechnology program chief of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Mushroom cultivation is an income generating activity that can be done both in rural and urban areas. Mushrooms can be grown on commercial or small-scale using either highly urbane equipment or low-cost materials and agricultural wastes.

By going into mushroom production, farmers can utilize the huge volume of agricultural “waste” that are all over the country such as rice straws, corn stalks and banana leaves, among others. (PNA) LOR/LQ/DOC/cbd/utb

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