Ludhiana, Nov 19 (UNI) Punjab occupies just 1.53 per cent of the geographical area of India, yet it produces as much as 45,000 tonnes of mushrooms annually.
This production is more than 50 per cent of the national production of 85,000 metric tonnes.
All credit goes to Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) that has laid a great deal of emphasis on promoting mushroom growing in the state. In view of the many constraints prevailing in Punjab agriculture, including shrinking land holding, declining profitability, increasing cost of production and pollution due to burning of crop residues, PAU is laying stress on promoting auxilliary agricultural ventures like mushrooom farming.
The mushroom growing technology has been disseminated through the time tested extension education programmes of PAU involving a strong research extension linkage, according to Dr N S Malhi, PAU Director of Extension Education.
The university organises training courses by involving Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) which have established mushroom production units for the cause of mushroom growing in the state. Consequently, the number of mushroom growers has increased to about 400 that are distributed mainly in the districts of Amritsar, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Gurdaspur, Ludhiana and Patiala.
The State Department of Horticulture also has its spawn production laboratories at Patiala, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Sangrur for catering to the needs of mushroom growers of the respective regions. Giving details about the mushroom programme of PAU, Coordinator Research of the College of Basic Sciences, Dr P K Khanna said that most of the mushroom grown in Punjab, is the white button variety which is produced through 3-4 controlled production units.
Tracing the chronology of R&D efforts involving technology generation and popularisation efforts, Dr Khanna said that the University has been popularising mushroom cultivation since 1972 and as a result of concerted efforts, a low cost, rural oriented and labour intensive cultivation technology has been developed and successfully transferred to the growers.
This technology is now being practiced by about 400 growers who are growing four varieties--- White Button Mushroom (September-March), Dhingri(October-April), Paddy Straw Mushroom (April-August) and Milky Mushroom (April-September) under natural indoor conditions of temperature and humidity thus enabling them to grow mushrooms round the year.