The Impending Mycocultural Revolution, Part 2

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By David Law

In the last installment of this topic, I highlighted Dr. Foley’s recommendation for farmers to invest in revolutionary agricultural solutions to achieve the following:

  1. Incentives for farmers
  2. Precision agriculture
  3. New crop varieties
  4. Drip irrigation
  5. Gray water recycling
  6. Better tillage practice
  7. Smarter diets

These objectives resonate closely with my notion of a Myco-cultural Revolution. In specialty mushroom cultivation, we can achieve the goals listed above:

  1. Incentives for farmers: Indoor, environmentally controlled production process allows farmers to produce mushrooms continuously throughout the year. The risk of bad weather, drought, and other unwanted conditions can be drastically minimized. The increased income for farm operators is much higher than traditional open air farming.

Sample Revenue per Hectare
(Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation 2011 data)

Mushroom Rice Asparagus
Production (1,000 tons) 7,719 722,560 8,197
Hectares (1,000) 21 163,147 1,465
Tons/hectare 367.57 4.43 5.6
$/kilogram $2.57 $0.45 $2.20
Revenue/hectare $944,659 $1,993 $12,309

Global rice production in 2011 was 7.7 million metric tons using 163 million hectares of land. In the same year, 8.2 million metric tons of asparagus was harvested from 1.47 million hectares of land. The total mushroom production in 2011 was 7.72 million tons on the equivalent area of 21 hectares. Mushroom cultivation took place mostly indoor with substantially higher cost of construction, however, the productivity of mushrooms both in term of tonnage and value of the crops is exceptionally high. This provide tremendous incentives for farmers to engage in mushroom production.

  • Drip irrigation: A recent study named the Mushroom Sustainability Story: Water, Energy, and Climate Environmental Metrics published by the SureHarvest group sponsored by the Mushroom Council describes the water usage in mushroom cultivation (below). In the U.S., the production of rice is estimated to consume approximately 1,275 cubic meters of water for one ton of rice. The study above indicates the consumption of water for one ton of mushrooms to be about 16.7 cubic feet. Mushroom cultivation requires about 1.3% of the water needed for rice cultivation.Items 5, 6, and 7 are practices and habits that we need to developed to help conserve our precious resources.Today, global mushroom production is only equal to that of asparagus. The fungal kingdom is under represented in our daily diet. Mushrooms, being a healthy and nutritious food, should be included more in our diet. Now, if we were to increase mushroom production to that of Broccoli, we would need a 10-fold increase in production. This may be an environmentally sustainable way to help feed the next 2 billion people coming online in the next 40 years.