Wednesday, May 25, 2016

New mushroom culture technologies introduced in Catanduanes
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, May 24 (PNA) -- Edible mushroom production in the abaca-rich island-province of Catanduanes is expected to become a trend following the introduction of new technologies in the culture of this highly in-demand food commodity.

It certainly would offer another good source of income for the island’s farmers, most of them presently confined only abaca production, Governor Araceli Wong said in a statement reaching here Tuesday.

Spearheaded by the Provincial Agricultural Services Office, the initiative, collaborated with the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Trade and Industry, featured demonstrations of latest technologies and training focused on the use of abaca waste other than rice straw, bran or hull as culture medium.

The training and demonstration also oriented hundreds of farmer-participants on the health benefits of the commodity and its offer of sustainable income for rural families even for those who only have small spaces and less capital for investment, Wong said.

PASO head Roberto Ceballo said in the same statement that the training hopes to enlighten and supplement ideas to further improve trade of farmers, given that mushroom products have been continuously gaining popularity among high-class hotels and restaurant consumers as connoisseur delights.

A good cash crop that is rather easy to grow, mushroom commands a high demand owing to its health benefits as a chemical-free food and nutritional values, being rich in prime nutrients and even medicinal properties.

Mushroom, which contains about 90-percent water and very low in calories, is enjoyed for its flavor and texture when added to soups, salad and sandwiches or used as an appetizer while extracts are also increasingly being used in nutraceutical products and sports drinks.

It has very little sodium and fat and very high in dietary fiber; hence, mushroom is an ideal food for persons following a weight management program or a diet for hypertensives being an excellent source of potassium, a mineral that helps lower elevated blood pressure and reduces the risk of stroke.

One medium portabella mushroom has even more potassium than a banana or a glass of orange juice and one serving of mushroom also provides about 20-40 percent of the daily value of copper, a mineral that has cardio-protective properties.

Mushroom is a rich source of riboflavin, niacin, and selenium -- an antioxidant that works with vitamin E to protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals and reduces the risk of prostate cancer among males and breast cancer among females.

“Commercial production of edible mushroom would be a trend in Catanduanes. While we grow a lot of abaca, we also see in the province the potential of wide-scale production of this highly-profitable commodity using idle farm spaces,” Wong said.

The training and techno-demo activities provided hundreds of participants, mostly farmers and women, a discovery of an opportunity to earn from the simple technology of mushroom culture even within the confines of their homes, in their backyards up to their abaca farms, according to Ceballo.

The techno-demo included discussions on mushroom fruiting bag production, mushroom processing, inoculation procedure and technology on how to start community-based culture with emphasis on the sterilization process that is imperative in the production of mushroom fruiting bags to eliminate contamination.

Policy and technology updates involving the country’s mushroom industry were also provided during the occasion which drew overwhelming interest from those who witnessed and participated in the techno-demo including Wong, he said.

“And so, another lucrative industry that the provincial government will be supporting financially, with the PASO and DA providing the technology, has been born in Catanduanes based on a work plan that tackles the problem on the lack of knowledge on the proper culture of mushroom among most rural folk and farmers,” the lady governor said.

The work plan also addresses the old belief that mushroom grows naturally during the wet season by way of an intensified information dissemination and technology transfer in coordination with local government units (LGUs), the Catanduanes State University (CSU) and farm cooperatives as a way to popularize mushroom culture among local farmers.

Earlier, Luz Marcelino, regional chief for Bicol of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) research division which takes the lead role in the implementation of mushroom projects in the region, underscored that mushroom production is not only a big livelihood opportunity but also a gender responsive undertaking as women can also engage in this economic activity.

Moreover, she said, mushroom locally called “kurakding” or “kabute” in Tagalog, is a high-value farm product that is a delicacy accepted as vegetable usually cooked with coconut milk and other vegetables which is considered one of the favorite local dishes.

Apart from its popularity as a food commodity, edible mushrooms that could be produced in Catanduanes may also address the high demand but meager supply in Metro Manila and other major markets in the country and abroad, Marcelino said.

The DA regional official explained that mushroom production involves fungiculture, a process that requires different conditions for optimal growth.

Instead of seeds, mushrooms reproduce asexually through spores.

Despite all of these, Marcelino said, Bicol has limited mushroom production even as resources for its culture are readily and widely available.

But for Wong and Ceballo, this commodity would be another moneymaker for the province, next to abaca, as a result of the recent technology demonstration and training.

The province, sitting off the northeastern side of the Bicol Peninsula and separated from the mainland by Maqueda Bay, has a total of over 35,500 hectares of abaca plantations cultivated by 15,454 farmers, producing an average of 19,000 metric tons of fiber yearly, representing 33.2 percent of the total national annual production to become the country’s fiber industry leader.

This makes abaca its backbone industry, which since time immemorial has made the island a prized contributor to country’s fiber export earnings. (PNA) BNB/FGS/DOC/CBD