Institute aiming to boost the nation’s mushroom output

GROWING MARKET::Compared with traditional compost manufacture, the institute said its method could raise yields, reduce manpower and cut odors

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Mar 05, 2013 - Page 3

The Council of Agriculture’s Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute yesterday said its newly developed method of growing mushrooms, using indoor fermentation and tunnel-shaped composting, can reduce time and manpower requirements by up to 50 percent, as well as increasing product yield by between 20 percent and 30 percent.

The institute said the new method has been successful in cultivating mushroom varieties such as the wood blewit, cultivated mushroom, coprinus comatus and agaricus blazei, and the institute has started transferring the technology to mushroom farms and biotechnology companies.

The traditional method of compost production which involves boiling fuel oil to create vapor for sterilizing the compost, takes a significant amount of effort — requiring about 50 liters of oil for every 25 ping (3.3m2) of mushrooms and about four to eight workers — with the resulting compost often lacking quality, with pest infestation issues and an unpleasant smell.

However, the institute’s new method of controlling the indoor temperature and air quality only requires two workers to control the compost fermentation process, reducing manpower requirements by more than half, it said, adding that the method also takes less time and produces better compost quality, as well as reducing air pollution.

Using about five tonnes of dry hay in a batch of compost, the method can increase the profits from growing mushrooms by about NT$60,000, it said, adding that if a mushroom farmer was to use the method five times a year, the increased profits would be about NT$300,000 annually.

In addition, the institute said the new method of using hay, sugarcane waste and other agricultural waste as the main ingredients in composting can also help solve air pollution problems caused by farmers burning hay.

Heavy-metal testing has also shown that mushrooms grown using the new method are in accordance with the Department of Health’s requirements.

The nation’s annual production of fresh mushrooms is about 140,000 tonnes and could generate a profit of more than NT$8.8 billion (US$296.3 million), the institute said, adding that it is encouraging more farms and companies to use the new method to increase their mushroom production.