Mushroom cultivation profitable for farmers in Ladakh, beneficial for health too

Around 64% women in Ladakh suffer from anaemia, and since the region has a huge vegetarian population, mushrooms provide them the much needed nutrition to improve their health and immunity

Representative image
Representative image

NH Web Desk

Ladakh has a large number of vegetarian people and adverse climate condition. They require some alternative supply of nutrition which improves their health and immunity. Thus, mushroom can be a great alternative food resource that will contain all the required nutrition. Especially 64% of Ladakhi women suffer from Anaemia, some common visible symptoms are cracked nails, chipped enamel, and reduced flow during menstrual period and fatigue.

After careful observation and understanding of the problem, a non profit organisation, Vishwadeep Trust had discussions with the Head of Buddhist monks, Rinpoche Ji to include mushrooms in diet and on farm land. They can also add as an additional income to farmers and promote sustainable agriculture. Mushrooms convert wastes into potential valuable resources.

Mushrooms can also be dried using solar dryers and stored for 4-6 months successfully which will improve the shelf life of mushroom. Solar dried mushrooms have natural brown colour. They retain nutrition and moisture content that can be used to make soups. Vishwadeep's innovation of the low cost, portable solar dryer is beneficial for women and reduces hill related accidents. The cultivation of mushrooms by farmers trained by this social organisation using the authentic solar dryers fetch farmers 30% higher prices.

Ladakhi farmers face many problems due to lack of enough cold storage facilities. In such a situation, this solar dryer act as a portable store room. Another issue is that there is no system in place to grow crops during winters. Mushroom cultivation is a great alternative for income enhancement in harsh winters.

It also contributes significantly in waste bioconversion by transforming post-harvest agricultural waste into nutritious and marketable products. It is an important horticultural cash crop which brings quick revenue for the farmers especially in the cold regions of Ladakh where pasture lands are present. Mushrooms are cultivated commercially namely White Button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus), Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus spp.), Paddy straw mushrooms, Shitake and Milky mushrooms.

Mushroom cultivation can benefit by converting recyclable agro products to protein rich diet supplement at minimum cost, with little land dependence that can be potential food source as well as a marketable product in impoverished areas. Million tons of agricultural waste are burnt all over India which emits hazardous air pollution. Mushroom cultivation can provide a sustainable solution to the suffocating environment. Agricultural residues and straws can be used as a substrate to produce mushroom. This is a profitable business and an eco-friendly solution to deal with growing pollution.

It can boost the immunity and reduce the cases of diabetes and anemic patients as it is a rich source of folic acid and linoleic acid. Mineral salt content in mushrooms is superior to that of the meat and fish and twice that of vegetables. While protein content is twice to that of potatoes and asparagus, four times that of tomatoes and carrots, and six times that of oranges.

Mushrooms grow rapidly and yield higher returns in shorter period of time. Cultivation of Oyster mushroom is the easiest and shortest way of mushroom cultivation.

Mushroom is the solution to low cost investment, high productivity and better nutrition. The world population is rising rapidly and India comprises the highest population of malnourished population.

The trainings by the NGO, Vishwadeep Trust at Takmachik , Domkhar and Urbis villages received great responses from the farmers of both the villages especially from women. The mushroom bags prepared during the practical session of the training were kept at respective villages to let them observe them.

The economic benefits of mushroom are immense and can benefit the farmers. Their only concern was how to get the mushroom spawn.

After the training the farmers are now aware that in Leh, they can buy mushroom spawn from KVK Stakna and Agriculture Dept. farm at Guphuks. Mushrooms have proven to be an easy and sustainable way to provide Ladakhi farmers better health and income.

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Published: 23 Nov 2021, 5:30 PM