By Vina Medenilla

Mushroom production has been in the Philippines since the 19th century. But despite having been long introduced in the country more than a century ago, the Philippines’ contribution to the local mushroom demand is only at 10% to date. 

Although it can be a profitable business, many Filipinos do not venture into mushroom farming due to lack of awareness. 

Emma Tolentino, a mushroom grower, ATI learning site cooperator, and the owner of Eco Natural Integrated Farm in Tarlac talked about mushrooms and its potential in the market during an AgriTalk webinar on mushroom production. 

Mushroom potential and benefits

Cultivating mushrooms can provide one with a sustainable income. If you have a one-hectare rice field, you can generate an extra one hundred thousand pesos per year if you also grow mushrooms and use the rice straw from your paddy field as a growing medium. Instead of burning the rice straw, it can be used to produce mushrooms that will not only save the environment through the lessening of agricultural wastes (like rice straw, dried banana leaves, rice hull, and sawdust), but it can also help you earn more. 

Mushroom production also balances the farm’s ecosystem by bringing back the microorganisms and insects that are beneficial to the soil and to the farm itself. You wouldn’t need thousands of pesos to begin this. With mushroom spawn that costs less than P100, you can produce and sell P400 worth of mushrooms. From there, you can start expanding your materials and constructing your growing house until you reach your end goal. 

The market isn’t a problem for mushrooms too as they are gaining popularity in many areas in the country, including Tarlac and Palawan. There are no educational requirements in mushroom cultivation, but through diligence and passion, you can be successful in producing and selling them. 

Types of edible mushrooms 

Here are various edible mushrooms that any individuals can grow whether in a limited or large growing space: 

Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) – A common type of mushroom that is widely sold in groceries and other stores nationwide. Growing shiitake can also be profitable due to its popularity and demand. 

Enoki (Flammulina velutipes)– Also known as enokitake. These are long, thin mushrooms that are popular in Japanese cuisine and are typically added to soups and noodles.

Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) – This is another common type of edible mushroom that comes in colors pink, yellow, white, grey, and black. If you opt to produce this variety, the demand is usually higher for white and grey oysters.

Paddy straw mushroom (Volvariella Volvacea) – Paddy straw mushrooms are warm-loving fungi that come in colors brown, black, and white. This variety is easy to grow and can be grown in less than a month. 

Jelly ear (Auricularia auricula-judae) –  The jelly ear is an ear-shaped mushroom which is why it is also called ‘tengang daga,’ or wood ear. Jelly ear mushrooms are popular ingredients in Asian dishes. In the Philippines, this also serves as an ingredient in pancit and chop suey. 

Reishi or lingzhi (Ganoderma lucidum) – Reishi is known as ‘the mushroom of immortality.’ It is as hard as leather. As per Tolentino, this mushroom is boiled or shredded until it turns into powder, which can be mixed with coffee as a health tonic.

Five factors that affect mushroom growth 

With any types of mushrooms, these are the vital factors that affect their growth: 

Temperature. Temperature varies depending on the type of mushrooms. For instance, paddy straw mushrooms require a temperature of 35 to 38-degree celsius, while shiitake mushrooms will only grow in colder temperatures.

Humidity. The amount of water in the air must be maintained at 80 to 90%.

Light. The place where the mushrooms will be grown must have no direct sun. 

Food. Give enough food for the mushrooms using the substrate that is particular to their  needs. Straw mushrooms require a substrate that is rich in nitrogen and potassium hence, it includes banana leaves and kakawate leaves.

Maintenance. Proper care is important in raising mushrooms. Regardless of variety, make sure to maintain cleanliness by using alcohol and by wearing protective clothing every time you plant, nurture, and harvest them.

Mushroom products

Mushrooms are not just produced and sold raw; growers creatively make products out of harvested mushrooms. In Tolentino’s farm, they make burgers, embutido, longganisa, adobo, curry, bagoong, tocino, and laing using the mushrooms that they cultivate. Other producers turn them into mushroom chips. 

Cost and return of mushrooms 

Producing mushrooms doesn’t need huge amounts of money yet can give you a great profit. For instance, if you are growing paddy straw mushrooms, the cost of banana leaves or rice straw in a one-meter bed is P40, while the spawn is only P80. Your total cost would be P120 per one kilo of mushroom. And the average farmgate price of straw mushrooms is upwards of  P300 per kilo. Therefore, after more or less a month of production, your profit could be P180 per kilo of mushrooms. 

Mushrooms may offer opportunities for income and livelihood, but it can also give many individuals a healthy option for their personal consumption. 

Insights shared by Emma Tolentino during the first day of Agritalk 2020: Urban Agriculture Promotion Webinar Series about Mushroom Production held last August 19, 2020. 

For more information, visit the Agritalk 2020: Urban Agriculture Promotion Webinar Series Facebook group.