Solan (Himachal Pradesh), May 29: In the last few years, mushroom farming in the Chamba Ghat region of Himachal Pradesh's Solan District has revived the fortunes of farmers. Solan is today referred as India's Mushroom City.
The time between October and May is appropriate to grow the 'Golden Crop'. Low input costs and high lucrative returns have convinced farmers to switch to mushroom cultivation. Credit for this attraction towards mushroom farming should go to the National Research Centre for Mushroom (NRCM) located in the Chamba Ghat, which provides quality seeds and educates the farmers on various aspects of mushroom farming.
"Here we grow white button mushrooms from October to May. About 30-40 families and their family members are engaged in mushroom farming. It is a labour-intensive job. In a year's time, we have three to four crops. I have been growing mushrooms for the past three decades and at present, we grow 30,000 bags of mushrooms every year with a capacity of growing upto a lakh bags of mushrooms. We have an annual return of 15 to 20 lakhs of rupees," said Vinod, a mushroom farmer.
"There are few families in this field, but they are setting an example for others to follow. Still, I feel there are chances of promoting mushroom cultivation in this region. People are realising that the market for mushrooms is expanding throughout the country, and not only in this region," opined Dr. A K Tiwari, the Director of the National Research Centre for Mushrooms.
He also stressed on the need for creating public awareness and for using refined technology for mushroom cultivation.
"For the past two years, I have noticed that the rates of vegetables and non-vegetarian items have not come down. In this scenario, mushroom proves to be pocket friendly to customers. It can also boost the earning of the mushroom growers, raising their income levels and making them economically strong," Dr Tiwari added.
In Himachal Pradesh, different varieties like milky mushroom and ouster mushroom can be grown according to the suitable climatic conditions.
A nationwide demand for mushroom has solved the problem of unemployment among the youth since they can engage themselves in cultivation, preservation and marketing of the product.