JKUAT Introduces New Mushroom Variety

Mr. Muchiri examines  trametes mushrooms at the Mushroom Growing Center.

Medical research across the world indicate that a significant number of people are suffering from lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cancer and hypertension among others. With medicines and treatment being costly to many people, natural remedies such as herbs, fruits and mushrooms have been proven to reduce the cost of treatment.

Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Mushroom Growing Resource Centre, has introduced a new type of mushroom, Trametes also known as Turkey Tail. This mushroom variety has medicinal value and if consumed, could play a significant role in managing the impact of lifestyle diseases, while at the same time, reducing the cost burden on patients.

According to Mr. Patrick Kanyi Muchiri, a Senior Technician and Researcher at the Institute of Biotechnology Research (IBR) at JKUAT, the Trametes variety initially originated from a commercial spawn producer called MYCELI in Belgium.

Speaking during an interview conducted last week at the Mushroom Research Centre, Mr. Muchiri said, the mushroom contains a wide variety of phenol and flavonoid antioxidants which are useful in strengthening the immune system by reducing inflammation and stimulating the release of protective compounds critical in managing lifestyle diseases such as blood pressure, blood cholesterol and Leukemia.

“I have two family members suffering from Leukemia and when I discovered the mushroom can control the disease, I decided to grow it and help more people,” Mr. Muchiri intimates.

Research findings published on Medical News Today, a credible health information website in the United States, reports that extracts from Turkey tails may have benefits to patients undergoing treatments like chemotherapy. Turkey tails contains compounds such as polysaccharopeptide (PSP) and polysaccharide-K (PSK) which appear to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

These compounds may also offer benefits for gut health inhibiting colon cancer cell growth thus stopping them from migrating and infecting other healthy cells. Further studies revealed that PSK from Trametes may act as supplements for colorectal cancer or other intestinal cancers. Protein-bound beta-glucan (PBG) a component of Turkey tail has also been found to help prevent obesity.

Asked what plans JKUAT is putting in place regarding capacity building, Mr. Muchiri states that the institution will train farmers across the counties on how to build a mushroom housing structure, grow, prepare, dry and package the mushroom.

Mr. Muchiri showcases mushroom spawns ready for planting at the Mushroom Growing Center

He further says, farmers will also be taught how to construct a solar drier to help boost the preservation of harvested mushrooms.

“Trametes, which takes three months to develop, is cultivated on hardwood sawdust such as mahogany where it gets its nutrients from. The fungi can also grow on decayed rocks. The conditions required to grow the mushroom are 25 degrees centigrade, direct humidity of 80% and 19 degrees centigrade when you set up the bag. In the case of Trametes mushroom, fruiting starts in the fourth month and is harvested for two months. Turkey tail thrives especially in warm climate and it is not prone to diseases,” says Mr. Muchiri.

“The inputs required to grow the mushroom are simple structures made of bricks, mud or stones to control the temperature, mahogany, limestone and nitrogen in form of cotton seeds which are put in a bag and pasteurized for 1-2 hours. The mushroom seeds are incubated for three months,” observes Mr. Kanyi.

First, the mushroom is dried using the sun or a solar drier and extracted by boiling it. It is then grinded into a fine powder using a blender or a grinder. The powder can be packed in capsules, sachets or added to flour and drinks as value addition.

Mr. Muchiri revealed that JKUAT intends to sell the mushroom seeds (spawns) to farmers in the next two months where two kilogrammes of spawn will go for Ksh. 200 and a kilogramme of dried mushrooms will sell at Ksh. 3000.

“Incase consumers cannot afford to buy the dried mushrooms in large quantities, there will be an option to purchase smaller portions of the mushroom at pocket friendly price,” says Mr. Kanyi.

Explaining future plans, the researcher revealed that they plan to grind the mushroom for farmers and pack them into capsules and sachets in case they cannot afford solar driers and blenders at a lower fee. Farmers will be trained on how to commercialize the mushroom products for economic empowerment.

Mud house nursery is suitable for the growth of mushrooms

Mr. Kanyi confirmed that countries such as China have recorded lower cases of lifestyle diseases. This, he notes, can be attributed to predominant consumption of mushrooms.

“I call upon those who are skeptical about mushrooms to embrace the consumption of mushrooms because they can offer primary health care intervention alternatives before the diseases become critical,” remarks Mr. Muchiri.

Other types of mushroom spawns available at JKUAT Mushroom Growing Resource Centre include; Shiitake, Ganoderma, Oyster and Button among others. Shiitake and Ganoderma species are also grown for their medicinal purposes.

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