Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Expanding mushroom venture

Coop awarded sterilizer, rice hull stove
by Vishia Mae Dominic J. Tolcidas
Regional Applied Communications

To help expand its livelihood venture on mushroom production, the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) Negros Occidental awarded a drum sterilizer and rice hull stove to the Negrosanon for Economic Development Multipurpose Cooperative (NEEDMPC) based in Barangay Old Sagay, Sagay City.

NEEDMPC Manager Lucia Miñoza said the new sterilizer given by OPA will help cut down their cooperative’s operating cost and increase production and income for its members.

Lilibeth Miñoza, team leader of the mushroom project, said that “since we started mushroom culture in September last year, we have been using a pressure cooker for canning to sterilize the fruiting bags. The cooker could only accommodate 12 bags. For fuel, we also used liquefied petroleum gas which is costly.”

“With the drum sterilizer, we could sterilize as much as 80 fruiting bags at a time. Rice hull, a farm waste which we use as fruiting media as well as fuel, is given free by a mill in the community and we only need to pay for hauling. This means big savings and more profit for us,” Miñoza said.

NEEDMPC availed itself of OPA training on subculturing of the mother spawn and multiplying them by inoculation into the fruiting bags. “We were able to make good spawns because we followed the procedure taught to us by Alexander Lecciones, Agriculturist II and Mushroom Culture Specialist of OPA,” Miñoza added.

According to Lecciones, OPA gave the mother spawn of the oyster mushroom species Pleurotus sajor cajo which is rich in protein, vitamins A and B complex, and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and potassium. A delicious, low-calorie, cholesterol-free, it also has anti-tumor properties.

Lecciones said there are styles of growing mushrooms and the coop devised its own by hanging the tubular-shaped fruiting bags using nylon ropes tied to the ceiling to pile as much as eight layers of the bags. The bags need to be sprinkled with water regularly for the mushroom fruits to pop out and be harvested. Because mushroom culture needs a cool temperature and the right humidity especially in hot summer months, foam moistened three times a day is placed at both sides of the growing house. After the mushroom production cycle is completed for about 2-3 months, the fruiting bags can be used as plant fertilizer. It’s zero waste, he added. According to Lecciones, people who engage in mushroom culture have to be diligent, meticulous and patient.

NEEDMPC Chairperson Myrna Dañas said the coop established its own growing house and laboratory for P70,000. It allocated a capital of P25,000 to jumpstart mass production after the September 2009 training and a return of investment came in two months.

Miñoza who is also a biology professor at the Northern Negros College of Science and Technology in Sagay City, said that they have 850 fruiting bags available. If they sell them at P25 each, they could get P21,250. This excludes the mushroom fruits that could be harvested from the fruiting bags.

It’s actually double income if you sell the fruiting bags and the fruits separately. Mushroom fruits command a high price of about P400 a kilo. There’s a lot of cash in mushroom,” Miñoza added.

Earlier, OPA distributed drum sterilizers and rice hull stoves to the 10 pilot organic villages in the province. The sterilizer-stove set costs about P10,000 and is being fabricated by the Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation Incorporated (AIDFI) in Bacolod City.

The equipment awarded could also be used to sterilized agar oatmeal or coco gel media for Trichoderma harzianum, a compost fungus activator that hastens the decomposition of rice farm waste for the production of organic fertilizer.

Other active mushroom growers in the province are Sipalay City which will market fruiting bags on their March 27 city fiesta and a Himamaylan City grower who regularly supplies Aboy’s Restaurant and Bacolod Adventist Medical Center in Bacolod City.

Turning 16 years this year, and with 847 active members in and outside Sagay City, NEEDMPC was named well-managed coastal vegetable garden (1st level) in the 2nd Farmers and Fisherfolks Summit and the 4th Negros Island Organic Farmers Festival in November 2009 at the Bacolod Pavilion Hotel in Bacolod City.

The coop also manages a bangus pond, two fishing boats, rice trading, nata de coco making, and the production of nata pickles, its latest successful venture that has given livelihood to rural women.

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