Pine waste to Mushrooms : Forest fires to Food

A novel project

designed to develop low-cost technology for mushroom cultivation

on pine needles, to curb the menace of forest fires and to build food-secure & climate-resilient communities in the Indian Himalayan Region

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Chir pine (Pinus roxburghii) is one of the most dominant forest plants in the hilly state of Uttarakhand. About 16% of forest area is occupied by Chir pines in the elevation range between 1000 and 1800 metres. It is estimated that more than 4 lakh tonnes of resin-rich pine needles are dropped annually on the forest floor, adding to flammability of the forest.

Each year, more than 1500 forest fire incidences are reported in Uttarakhand, affecting an area of about 4000 hectares. Such recurrent fires in pine forests have several negative impacts on the environment and affect timber wealth of forests. Contributing to water scarcity and soil degradation, these fires damage livelihood of regional rural communities, which are mostly dependent on traditional agriculture. It is eminent that removal and management of pine needles from forest floor is necessary to mitigate the menace of forest fires. 

Pine needles do find several applications, such as in gasifiers for electricity generation, bio-briquetting, paper making etc. and these have contributed to management of pine needles from forest floor to some extent in specific locations. However, in most of the region, pine needles are completely unutilized and cover the forest floors, making these forests prone to fires.

Therefore, utilization of pine needles to grow mushrooms at commercial scale can provide a multifaceted solution to many related social, economic and environmental challenges faced in the region - by ensuring regular removal and management of defoliated pine needles from the forest floor, by producing nutrient-rich food products of medicinal value and, most importantly, by generating employment and livelihood option for vulnerable rural communities. 

KHERDA has initiated a novel project to develop low-cost technology for cultivation of

Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus species) on defoliated pine needles and 

to establish rural entrepreneurship hub for promoting Oyster mushroom cultivation

as viable livelihood option in hill communities of Kumaon, Uttarakhand.

WHY MUSHROOMS ?

1. Mushrooms are tasty, healthy and easy to grow. 

Soft and delicious, Oyster mushrooms are rich in essential proteins (more than wheat or milk), vitamins (B1, B2, B12, C, D, folate, niacin) and are excellent source of dietary fibre. This low-carb food has antitumor, antifungal and antiviral properties, with ability to lower cholesterol and reduce colon cancer.

Simpler technical know-how, less initial investment and shorter pre-production duration make Oyster mushroom business suitable for rural entrepreneurs, small farmers and women. 

2. Mushrooms are climate-smart agri-food.

Oyster mushrooms are cultivated in captive conditions in a wide range of temperatures, ensuring production throughout the year in all seasons. Cultivation process is insusceptible to slight variations in climatic conditions, weather fluctuations and damage by wild animals (monkeys, boars etc). Also, mushrooms can be produced in bulk via vertical cultivation. Therefore, commercial mushroom production is an excellent recourse to enhance climate-resilience and food security. 

Project Action Plan

Phase I

Low-cost technology development  for Pleurotus cultivation on defoliated pine needles 

# Pre-treatment of pine needles with selected microbes, N-enrichment and compacting

# Optimization of cultivation condition for high-yielding Pleurotus species in lab studies

# Field-trials, mushroom yield and quality analysis, cultivation process design and economic assessment

Phase II

Rural entrepreneurship hub establishment for promotion of Oyster mushroom business

# Set-up of spawn production unit, cultivation, processing and storage units at selected locations; Utilization of empty houses/structures in villages

# Training facility for youth, farmers and women from rural communities

# Online store for convenient trade and networking between producers, vendors and consumers  

Phase III

Demand generation, supply chain networking, industry collaboration and scale-up 

# Mass awareness programs for demand generation in regional market

 

Collaborations with regional food market players to establish supply chain and sale outlets

# Investment generation, establishment of mass production sites, brand development and industry collaborations for sustainable business   

For any project-related queries / suggestions / opportunities for collaborations and investments, please feel free to write to us at mayur.agrawal@kherda.com

Copyright 2020 by Kherda Renaissance Foundation