She advises farmers to observe hygiene when handling the equipment used in the production of mushroom.
“Every time you go into the mushroom structure, make sure you wash hands and limit the number of people going into the structure,” says Prof Ohanya.
Stages in Mushroom Production
There are four crucial steps in mushroom production. These are:
This is prepared to provide the crops with a place to grow. The bed must have nutrients suitable for the growth of the mushrooms.
Wheat straws are commonly used to make compost because they are easily available. The ingredients needed are: 250kg wheat straw (chopped 8-20cm long), 20kg of wheat/rice bran or cotton seed meal, 3kg of ammonium sulphate/calcium ammonium nitrate, 3kg of urea and 20kg gypsum.
Mix thoroughly the ingredients as you add water. The compost should be piled into stacks measuring about 1.5 by 1.5m.
The compost should be turned every two days to allow for aeration and proper watering. This also allows the wheat straws to be moved to warmer parts of the pile.
Here is the guide for turning:
1st turning – 4th day, 2nd turning – 8th day, 3rd turning – 12th day, add 10 kg gypsum and 4th turning – 16th day, add 10 kg gypsum. Final turning – 20th day
Gypsum reduces greasiness that the straws would otherwise have and is a conditioning agent.
The compost is ready when the straws become easy to bend, have a high water-holding capacity, the colour changes and becomes darker, and has a strong smell of ammonia.
The compost should then be packed into clear bags to enable the farmer to see the changes going on and to identify diseases and infections easily. The bags should then be taken to the mushroom house/building and placed on “shelves’’.
This is the actual process of planting the mushrooms.
The spawn is spread on the surface of the compost and it slightly penetrates the surface. You can do this by making a small hole using your finger and planting the spawn.
The temperature of the room should be contained at around 25 degrees Celsius. A humidifier should be used to make the room humid and if the gadget is not available, water can be manually sprayed on the walls and floor of the room.
Once the spawn has attached to the wheat straws and looks like a white substance, soil is added to the surface of the compost. A layer of soil is needed; here forest soil is preferred.
However, the soil has to be treated to rid insects. Formalin solution can be used to sterilise the soil before casing is done.
Growth and harvesting
Mushroom is harvested severally throughout its lifetime. What are harvested are called flushes.
The first flush comes 15-20 days after soil casing and 35-40 days after spawning. Mushrooms should be harvested at the right size otherwise they will become too big and rapture.
Each bag should produce at least a kilo of mushrooms throughout its lifetime. The harvests can go up to the fifth flush.
It takes approximately 15 weeks from composting to end of harvesting. A mushroom house should not be close to a cattle shed because the flies from the cattle can contaminate the mushrooms.
One of the biggest challenges in mushroom production is getting quality spawn.