The aspiring mushroom grower needs to do the relevant research, have some patience, and put in the required amount of hard work to get reasonable results.
A decomposer and a fungus, the mushroom must live on or in its feed supply. Once matured, it releases spores that germinate, branch and put out mycelium. These tiny, frond-like, structures take up nutrients from the organic substrate and grow to form mushrooms.
The aspiring mushroom grower needs to do the relevant research, have some patience, and put in the required amount of hard work to get reasonable results. A rewarding hobby, growing mushrooms for the family table provides nourishing and flavoursome food.
Kingsley Chipange, University of Zambia crop scientist, says mushrooms are a good alternative protein source and encourages growers. Small mushroom projects can grow from supplying family, and friends, to supplying local markets and generating profit for the grower. To get a feel for the market the mushroom farmer should investigate local demand before growing the mushrooms.
Experienced small- and medium-sized growers stress the value of the niche market for their mushrooms. The smaller grower can find a gap by supplying exotic oyster and shitake mushrooms, and stay relatively free of commercial grower competition. Oyster mushrooms are good to eat and have cheaper input costs than button mushrooms, but are said to be more difficult to grow.
To get started try the University of Zambia for mushroom spawn. Alternatively approach the Jihai Agriculture Company, a Chinese commercial mushroom operation that has pledged its support to the growth of small-scale farmers.
A beginner grower needs: a suitable substrate eg. straw; plastic bags; a spray bottle; water and mushroom spawn. Avoid contamination by working on clean surfaces and chop the straw into shortish lengths (thumb length). Sanitise the straw by boiling it and draining off the excess water.
Put the damp straw in a clean container, wait for it to get to room temperature, pack it into the plastic bags and put the mushroom spawn into the straw. Make holes in the plastic bag with a sterilised nail and put the bag indoors and out of direct sunlight. The ideal temperature is between 18°C and 20°C.
At about five weeks when mushrooms start forming keep them misted with the spray bottle. Harvest them by twisting so that the base remains attached for further mushroom growth. There should be 3 5-week cycles. After that the cycle must be restarted with fresh spawn and substrate.