EDIBLE mushrooms are an excellent dietary source of protein, amino acids, vitamins, carbohydrates, fibre and numerous minerals. They are also increasingly being valued for their medicinal, nutritional and industrial properties now.
Malaysia has a great diversity of edible mushrooms and a climate that is ideal for cultivating them throughout the year. The dominant variety is the grey oyster mushroom (pic).
Current research activities in Malaysia are mainly concentrated on discovering new wild mushroom varieties with nutritious and/or medical potential.
Recently, mushrooms were declared an industrial crop by the Agriculture and Agro-Based Ministry to boost efforts to farm them on a commercial basis.
Many new species are being cultivated, posing several challenges, including developing suitable technologies to ensure the mushroom industry remains viable.
Though a variety of edible mushrooms are endemic in Malaysia, almost all varieties cultivated here are not native to the country. Identification and domestication of new wild edible mushrooms and production of new genetically improved seeds could reverse this trend, reducing cultivation costs and increasing the farmers’ revenue within a short period.
The Mushroom Research Association of Malaysia, founded in 2000 to assist mushroom farmers and researchers, has been successful where identifying new mushrooms for cultivation is concerned. However, other stakeholders in the mushroom industry, including farmers, should also come up with new concepts and ideas.
Where the general population is concerned, the main issue for the industry is to emphasise the healthy and nutritious benefits of mushrooms in their diet.
DR FARHAT A. AVIN
Department of Biotechnology
Faculty of Science
Lincoln University College, Malaysia