Oyster Mushroom Farming in India – A Full Guide

Introduction: Hello farmers today we are back with a great information of Oyster mushroom farming in India. Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus sp.) belonging to Basidiomycetes class and Agaricaceae family is popularly known as ‘dhingri’ in India. Oyster mushroom produces naturally in the temperate and tropical forests on dead and decaying wooden logs or dying trunks of deciduous or coniferous woods. It could also grow on decaying organic matter. The Oyster mushroom fruit bodies are distinctly shell or spatula-shaped with different shades of white, cream, grey, yellow, pink or light brown that depending upon the species. Oyster is one of the most suitable fungal organisms for producing protein-rich food from various agro-wastes or forest wastes without composting.

A step by step guide to Oyster mushroom farming in India

Oyster mushrooms are the most preferred ones among the edible mushrooms due to their ability to produce quickly and productively in various lignocellulosic media, their versatility, and absolute ease of farming and their nutritional value especially as a source of protein. They are cultivated throughout the world for producing flavoring and aromatic with medicinal stuff; lignin and phenol degrading activities; antimicrobial activities and antioxidants; immune-enhancing activities and producing secondary metabolites such as terpenoids, alkaloids, and phenols.

A Guide to Oyster Mushroom Farming in India.
A Guide to Oyster Mushroom Farming in India.

Varieties of Oyster mushroom

All the varieties of Oyster mushroom are edible except P. olearius and P. nidiformis, which are reported to be poisonous. There are about 38 species of the genus recorded throughout the world. In recent years 25 species are commercially cultivated in different areas of the world, these are P ostreatus, P. flabellatus, P. florida, P. sajor-caju, P. sapidus, P. cystidiosus, P. eryngii, P. fossulatus, P. opuntiae, P. cornucopiae, P. yuccae, P. platypus, P. djamor, P tuber-regium, P. australis, P. purpureo-olivaceus, P. populinus, P. levis, P columbinus, and P. membranaceus, etc.

Oyster mushrooms production

Oyster mushrooms are the 3rd largest cultivated mushroom. China is the world leader in Oyster production, contributes about 85% of the total world production of about a million tonnes. The other countries producing oyster mushrooms contain Korea, Japan, Italy, Taiwan, Thailand, and the Phillipines. The present production of Oyster mushroom crop in India is only around 1500 tonnes due to low domestic demand. The inhibiting factor is that export demand orders are large and can be met only if a linkage is developed between producer, cooperatives, and exporters.

Economic importance of Oyster mushrooms

The economic importance of the Oyster mushroom lies mainly in its use as food for human consumption. It is rich in Vitamin C and B complex and the protein content changes between 1.6 to 2.5 percent. It has most of the mineral salts necessary by the human body. The niacin content is about 10 times higher than any other vegetables.

The folic acid present in Oyster mushrooms mainly helps to cure anemia. It is appropriate for people with hypertension, obesity, and diabetes due to its low sodium: potassium ratio, starch, fat, and calorific value. Alkaline ash and high fiber content make them appropriate for consumption for those having hyperacidity and constipation.

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The spent straw can be re-cycled for cultivating Oyster mushroom after supplementing with wheat or rice bran @ 10 to 15 %. Also for preparing compost of white button mushroom after appropriate supplementation with the nitrogen-rich horse or chicken manure. The spent straw can be used as cattle feed and also for biogas production and the slurry can be used as manure.

Oyster mushroom growth techniques

The different types of Oyster mushrooms growth techniques are given below;

Oyster mushroom farming in polythene bags

The paddy straw is chopped into small pieces of 5 cm length, soaked in water for 8 hours and the water is squeezed out. The paddy is then placed in polythene bags that are 45 cm in length and 30 cm in diameter perforated with holes. About 200 grams of grain spawn is mixed 5 to 6 Kg of straw in these polythene bags. The spawning is done up to 2/3rd of the bags and mouth is tied. The bags are then placed on shelves in the growing room having a temperature of 24 to 26⁰C and relative humidity of 85%.

Rectangular Blocks

Bottomless wooden trays of 50 X 33 X 15 cm in dimensions are required for this purpose. A transparent polythene sheet is spread on the bottom of the tray such that it becomes the bottom of the tray and covers it from the sides on the inner side. And the loose edges hang out of the tray. The wet, chopped paddy straw is filled in the tray to form a thick layer of 5 cm and the spawn is scattered consistently. Lay another 2 layers of straw and repeat the spawning process after every layer. A last layer of straw is added and then compressed firmly. About 200 grams of spawn is sufficient for 2 blocks and the loose ends are folded over the straw block and tied with a string.

Agro-climatic requirements for Oyster mushroom

Oyster mushrooms can grow at a moderate temperature ranging from 20 to 30⁰C and humidity 55-70% for a period of 6 to 8 months in a year. It can be cultivated in the summer months by providing the extra humidity required for its growth. The best growing season for Oyster mushroom farming is from March/April to September/October and in the lower regions from September/October to March/April.

Type of substrate is required for Oyster mushroom farming

Oyster mushrooms can be cultivated on any type of dried agricultural waste such as wheat or paddy straw, maize, jowar or bajra waste or oil see wastes or leguminous crops.

Growing oyster mushrooms on straw

Oyster mushroom farming on a straw can be broken into four parts they are the treatment of the straw, inoculation, incubation, and fruiting. Each step is crucial to the next and affects the overall crop yield. The step-by-step process of growing oyster mushrooms on straw is discussed below.

Chop straw

By chopping the straw the cell walls of the straw are broken making it very easier for the Oyster mycelium to access the nutrients. Chopping the straw can makes the particle size smaller allowing a more compact substrate.

A relatively small gap of 1 to 2 inches between pieces of straw is like the Grand Canyon for the mycelium to grow over. It will take wasted energy and time for the mycelium to try and grow over these sorts of gaps. By chopping the straw and firmly packing the bags air pockets could be minimized and yield increased.

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Treat straw

Using the method which best meets the needs of the grower the straw is formed for the oyster mycelium. By treating the straw microorganisms are killed and competition for the obtainable nutrients is limited.

Inoculate

Add spawn into the treated straw and this is the material used to introduce the mushroom mycelium to the new substrate.

Incubate

Incubation must ideally occur at 75 degrees for about 3 weeks depending on the inoculation rate. Bags must be placed with at least a palm distance between them to limit overheating.

Fruiting

When the mycelium has fully colonized the substrate, then the fungus is ready for fruiting. Contaminated bags with molds can be discarded while bags with patchy mycelial growth may be left for few more days to complete mycelial growth. While various species want different temperature regimes all to require high humidity (70-85%) during fruiting.  Frequent spraying of water is necessary for the cropping room depending upon the atmospheric humidity.  Fruit body formed under humid conditions (85-90%) is bigger with less dry matter while those developed at 65 to 70% relative humidity are small with the high dry matter. CO2 concentration during cropping must be less than 800 ppm. or 0.6%.  Sufficient ventilation has to be provided during mushroom fruiting.

There are four parameters to be aware of when fruiting. The parameters are light, humidity, temperature, and CO2 level. For most Oyster mushrooms a well-lit room at 85 to 90% humidity, 65 degrees, and CO2 below 800 PPM is ideal.

Harvest

Harvesting typically occurs about 5 to 10 days after the substrate is moved into fruiting conditions. Mushrooms must be harvested before the caps completely flatten out.

Precautions in Oyster mushroom farming

One should always keep good hygiene and doors and windows should be covered with wire mesh. The spores of Oyster mushroom cause allergies thus before entering the cropping rooms the exhausts should be put on 2 hours in advance. It is also advisable to open windows and one must use a mask during cultural operations.

Oyster mushroom farming technology

The procedure for oyster mushroom farming can be divided into following steps;

  • Preparation or procurement of spawn
  • Substrate preparation
  • Spawning of substrate
  • Crop management

Spawn preparation for Oyster mushroom farming

A pure culture of Oyster mushroom is needed for inoculation on the sterilized substrate. It takes 10 to 15 days for mycelial growth on cereal grains. It has reported that jowar and bajra grains are superior over wheat grains.

Substrate preparation for Oyster mushroom farming

This mushroom can be cultivated on a large number of agro-wastes having cellulose and lignin which helps in more enzyme formation of cellulose that is correlated with more yield. These contain straw of paddy, wheat, and ragi, stalk and leaves of maize, millets, and cotton, used citronella leaf. Also sawdust, jute, and cotton waste, pea nut shells, dried crop grasses, sunflower stalks, used tea leaf waste, discarded waste paper and synthetic compost of button mushrooms, etc. It can also be cultivated by using industrial wastes such as paper mill sludges, coffee byproducts, tobacco waste, and apple pomace, etc.

The different methods of substrate preparation are;

Steam Pasteurization – In this process, pre-wetted straw is packed in wooden trays or boxes and then kept in a pasteurization room at 60-80⁰C for few hours. The temperature of the pasteurization room can be manipulated with the help of steam through a boiler. The substrate after cooling at room temperature is seeded with spawn and the entire process takes 3 to 5 days.

Hot Water Treatment – The substrate after chopping (5-10 cm) is soaked in hot water (65 to 70°C) for 1 hour or 60 to 120 minutes at 80⁰C or in case of paddy straw at 85⁰C for 30 to 45 minutes. After draining the excess water spawn is added. The leached water contains a lot of soluble sugars and phenolic compounds. Hot water treatment makes the hard substrate such as maize cobs, stems, etc. soft so the growth of mycelial takes place easily. This process is not suitable for large scale commercial farming.

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Spawning of Substrate for Oyster mushroom farming

Freshly prepared that means 20-30 days old grain spawn is best for spawning. Old spawn (3-6 months) stored at room temperature range (20-30⁰C) forms thick mat-like structures due to mycelium aggregation. The spawning must be done in a pre-fumigated room (48 h with 2% formaldehyde). The spawn must be mixed at 2 to 3% of the wet wt. of the substrate. One bottle of the spawn of 300 g is sufficient for 10 to 12 kg of the wet substrate or 2.8 to 3 kg of dry substrate wt. Spawn can be mixed carefully or mixed in layers.

Spawned substrates can be filled in polythene bags (60 x 45 cm) of 125 to 150 gauze thickness. About 10 to 15 small holes (0.5-1.0 cm diameter) should be made on all sides especially 2 to 4 holes in the bottom to leach out excess water. Perforated bags provide higher and early crops (4-6 days) than non-perforated bags because of the accumulation of high CO2 which inhibits fruiting. One can use empty fruit packing wooden boxes for filling the substrate. Polythene sheets of 200 to 300 gauze thickness of 1.25 x 1.25 m are spread in rectangular wooden or metal box. The spawned substrate is filled and the polythene sheet is folded from all the 4 sides to make a compact rectangular box. Then it is tightly pressed and tied with a nylon rope. The block is incubated as such and then mycelium growth polythene sheet is removed.

Crop Management in Oyster mushroom farming

The spawned bags are kept in the incubation room for mycelial growth. Spawn bags can be carefully kept on a raised platform or shelves or can be hanged in cropping room for mycelial colonization of the substrate. During mycelial growth, the bags are not to be opened or no ventilation is required. Moreover, there is no need for any high relative humidity, so no water must be sprayed.

Once the mycelium has fully colonized the substrate and forms thick mycelial mat it is prepared for fruiting. Contaminated bags with mold can be discarded while bags with patchy mycelial growth may be left for a few more days to complete the mycelial growth. There is no requiring for casing the substrate. All the bundles, cubes or blocks are arranged on wooden platforms or shelves with a minimum distance of 15 to 20 cm between each bag in the tier.

The Oyster mushroom production from 1 kilo of dry straw

If we use good quality spawn, substrate and under optimum conditions, one can easily harvest 600 to 900 grams of fresh mushroom from 1 kilo of straw.

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Oyster mushroom harvesting

Mushroom must be harvested when they attain a size of 6-8 cm. Though, the optimum time for plucking is just before starting the inward rolling of the margins of the fruit body. Mushroom should not be allowed to shed spores as it affects the poor quality of mushrooms. The fruit bodies must be harvested by twisting them so that broken pieces are not left out on the bed surfaces, which can cause bacterial infections and rotting of beds.

After the harvesting process, the first flush of the outer layer of the block should be scraped 0.5 to 1 cm. deep. This helps to clean the remainants of 1st flush and to initiate 2nd flush, which appears in about 10 days of the first one. Similarly, 3rd and sometime 4th flush will appear in 8 to 10 days intervals. However, about 85 percent of the crop came out in 1st, 2nd and 3rd flush; hence many growers take only 3 flushes. The production of Oyster mushroom may range between 50-75 percent of the dry straw used depending upon the care and hygienic program maintained during the cropping period. A small size mushroom farm takes about 4 to 5 crops during the season August to January.

Oyster mushroom yield

1 Kg of oyster mushrooms can be obtained from 5 to 6 Kg of wet straw.

Advantages of Oyster mushroom farming

Variety of substrates – Oyster mushroom can degrade and grow on any kind of agricultural or forest wastes, which consists of lignin, cellulose, and hemicellulose.

Choice of species – Among all the cultivated mushrooms the Oyster mushroom has a maximum number of commercially cultivated species appropriate for round the year farming. Moreover, variation in shape, color, texture, and aroma are available as per the consumer’s choice.

Simple Farming Technology – Pleurotus mycelium can grow on fresh or fermented straw and it does not need a composted substrate for growth. Substrate preparation for Oyster mushroom is simple. Further, this mushroom does not need controlled environmental conditions like A. bisporus as most of the species have a wide temperature, relative humidity, and CO2 tolerance.

Longer shelf life – Unlike white button mushroom, the Oyster mushroom fruit bodies could be easily dried and stored. Dried Oyster mushrooms can be instantly used after soaking in hot water for 5 – 10 minutes or it can be used in powdered form for several preparations. Fresh mushrooms have a shelf life of 24-48 hours even at room temperature.

Highest productivity – The productivity of Oyster mushroom per unit time is high as compared to all other cultivated mushrooms. One can harvest a minimum of about 500 to 700 kg of fresh Oyster mushroom from one ton of dry wheat or paddy straw in 45 to 60 days, while with the same quantity of straw only about 400 to 500 kg of white button mushrooms are obtained in 80-100 days (including period needed for compost preparation). The yield of Oyster mushroom can further be increased by supplementing the substrate with suitable nitrogen source viz., soybean and cottonseed meal or by introducing high yielding cultures or strains.

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