Eastern Mirror Desk
Dimapur, Oct. 10: Consumers in Nagaland may soon be savouring fresh homegrown shiitake mushrooms, thanks to the work of a certain Naga scientist. Shiitake is an edible mushroom native to Southeast Asia. Its name is made up of two Japanese words, ‘shii’ referring to the castanopsis tree and ‘take’ which means mushroom.
Shiitake mushrooms are quite expensive and its availability is limited. It is grown in small quantities in India and therefore Indian shiitake consumers have no choice but to import it from Korea, Thailand, Japan and China. “But Nagaland can become the market for shiitake consumers,” Dr. Sosang Longkumer told Eastern Mirror.
Longkumer is the senior scientific officer at ALON, a multipurpose cooperative society. He has conducted numerous seminars on shiitake mushrooms and trained more than 50 persons on shiitake mushroom cultivation. He also gives free training on mushroom cultivation.
He experimented with different spawn varieties from outside the country and finally perfected the process of growing the mushroom in Nagaland. “Of course I am not the first to grow shiitake mushroom in the state but the earlier experiments by others were not sustainable,” according to him.
Since a single batch of shiitake mushroom spawns can stay productive only for a limited period, new spawns required to start a new batch has to be imported again. For Longkumer, it is not an issue as he produces his own spawns.
“Farmers and enthusiasts from the state can have a profitable business cultivating and selling shiitake mushrooms with huge return on investments,” he said. The market price for fresh oyster mushroom is around INR 300 per kg whereas fresh shiitake costs around INR 1500 per kg. The return on investments for shiitake is significantly higher than either oyster or button mushrooms.
“Also, the geographical location and climate of both Nagaland and Manipur is perfect for shiitake growth,” added Longkumer.
Shiitake is grown in two major ways: sawdust and oak. “95% of shiitake farming in the world is done through the sawdust method which is faster but the quality is inferior. Only 5% of shiitake is grown in oak like its natural counterpart which takes longer to grow but the quality and overall value is the best in class,” explained Longkumer.
Under Longkumer’s tutelage, a farmer in Kohima has successfully cultivated shiitake mushrooms in oak logs with ‘positive results’. It took about a year for the shiitake mushroom to bloom using a special 11-step process devised by Longkumer for Nagaland farmers.
He is said to be the sole producer of shiitake spawns in Nagaland. His vision is to empower Nagaland farmers by providing them with good quality shiitake spawns at a reasonable price, offering free training for shiitake farming and also a buyback policy for all customers who purchase spawns through him.