Mushrooms are treasures in the wild — Dr. Lauretta Ofodile

Mushrooms are treasures in the wild — Dr. Lauretta Ofodile

According to a report by prnewswire.com, the global Mushroom market accounted for US$ 38.13 Bn in 2017 and it is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate, CAGR of 7.9% from 2018 to 2026. In this chat with Vanguard, Dr. Lauretta Ofodile, the Director of College Central Research Laboratory, and Chief Lecturer in the Dept. of Biological Science, Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos, an expert in plant mycology and mushroom biotechnology, speaks on the nutritional, health and economic benefits of mushrooms. She says many Asian nations are making billions of dollars from mushrooms and urges Nigerians to key into the industry as currently, demand is higher than supply in Nigeria. Excerpts:

Actually, I call mushrooms treasures in the wild because they are one of the best natural foods God has provided for mankind; so because of this belief that most mushrooms are poisonous, we decided we needed to grow and commercialise local mushrooms.

Farming edible mushrooms is very important. To farm mushrooms, you use the known edible mushrooms so you don’t need to go to the bush or wild to select mushrooms.

The mushrooms you see in grocery stores and in the markets are mushrooms known to be eaten by people; the ones we grow as farmers are edible mushrooms so you don’t need to go and search for them in the bush.

The poisonous mushrooms are very few that you don’t even need to worry yourself about them. Those who are prone to getting poisoned by mushrooms are those who go into the bush to look for mushrooms when they are not experts, they have no idea about mushrooms. Even our rural women and men who know about mushrooms, some of them had in the past made mistakes and picked poisonous ones. So the mushrooms we encourage people to eat are those that are already commercialised, grown by farmers or imported and sold in the market. Nobody should be afraid of eating mushrooms but you are not encouraged to go to the wild and pick up mushrooms. Identifying mushrooms You should not bother about identifying edible and poisonous mushrooms because they need scientific process. You are not an expert, so you don’t even know which laboratory to go to, or what process or protocol to follow. Mushroom farming in Nigeria Mushroom farming is in its infancy in Nigeria. In recent times, it has become well known that mushrooms can be grown and they are available in our markets. We have about 50 mushroom farmers in Nigeria now; that is the one we call Pleurotus or Oyster mushroom and we have one Button mushroom farm in Lagos. I was privileged to have consulted for that farm and in setting up the farm. Most of the button mushrooms you find in Lagos are supplied by that farm. Then we have been able to train about 100 people in the last three years on how to grow oyster mushrooms and so we come from the known to the known, not even from the known to the unknown. All oyster mushrooms are edible so you don’t need to be afraid of eating oyster mushroom. As an expert, I can assure you that no oyster mushroom is poisonous. Button mushrooms Button mushrooms are not indigenous mushrooms, they are temperate mushrooms so they can grow only in temperate weather. The only farm in Lagos growing button mushrooms invested hugely to see that they have temperature control system which can give button mushroom about 14 degrees Celsius, computerised climate control system, imported substrate and all that. That is the only temperate mushroom sold here. None of the species of the tropical/indigenous mushrooms which we grow in Nigeria is poisonous so I assure you, you don’t need to be afraid of eating our locally produced mushrooms or any oyster mushroom you can find. Oyster mushrooms are exotic for the temperate regions while button mushrooms are exotic for us. Mushrooms are the best Mushrooms are functional foods because they are nutritional and medicinal. They are very important. They are used for different value-added products. I can fortify bread, biscuits, chin-chin etc with mushrooms. Currently in this laboratory, the Central Research Lab, Yaba College of Technology, we are trying to formulate a product from oyster mushroom that could serve something similar to Nutri C. Nutri C is artificial, but we want to produce something healthy, nutritious and medicinal. Mushrooms are medicinal and very nutritious.

For such people, especially those with health issues, that are meant to abstain from red meat and all that, mushroom is better than meat and fish because when you eat mushroom, you are taking both medicine and good food. The protein in mushrooms has all the 20 amino acids. Oyster mushrooms have vitamins C, E, D and different minerals like potassium, phosphorus required for human body development and sustenance. Ganoderma This mushroom is used for medicinal purposes. We have it in Nigeria but it has not been harnessed. Personally, I am looking for investors in this area to produce nutriceuticals – capsules, tea bags etc from Nigerian ganoderma. In 2014, we were privileged to have won the Lagos State Research and Development Council, LRDC awards. We were able to search for active components against cancer from ganoderma collected from Lagos State. We found two isolates that were very active against breast cancer cells. We want to commercialise it. It is anti-tumour, anti-cancer. We tested ganoderma against fibroid and it was active against fibroid even in rats. Awareness in Nigeria Between the time we started mushroom research and cultivation and when we set up the World Bank-Assisted Lab in Yabatech, and now, there has been a drastic increase in awareness and interest in mushroom farming. Around 2011, we had just a few farms but right now, we have about 50 mushroom farms in Nigeria – South-West, South-East, South-South and North, especially Abuja. We have over 15 farms in Lagos. Ebonyi State Government has a mushroom farm. The increase in awareness has been exponential. Between 2011 and now, it has grown from 10 to 50 per cent. Impact on economy If some reasonable investment is made in mushroom production technology, it is going to contribute to the growth of Nigeria’s GDP. Good for environment Mushroom farming can be used to manage oil pollution in the Niger-Delta region because mushroom mycelia can eat up crude oil and make polluted farms useful again. If we have a big industry there, all their waste can be dumped there and that can remediate the soil. So they can grow mushrooms and eat and make the environment healthy. China is the highest GDP-earning nation in mushroom, then we have Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan. In fact, Asian countries are doing very well.

SOURCE:VANGUARD

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