Super mushroom for immunity & livelihood

By Sandeep Das

Mushrooms contain protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These can have various health benefits and high nutritional value. Cordyceps is a parasitic fungus that includes over 400 different species which are found all over the world and are mainly parasitic on insects and other arthropods and a few are parasitic on other fungi.
There are several benefits of Cordyceps. It is used to treat coughs, chronic bronchitis, respiratory disorders, kidney disorders, night-time urination, male sexual problems, anaemia, irregular heartbeat, high cholesterol, liver disorders, dizziness, weakness, ringing in the ears, unwanted weight loss and opium addiction.
It is also used for strengthening the immune system, improving athletic performance, reducing the effects of aging, promoting longer life and improving liver function in people with Hepatitis B.
Of the more than 400 species of Cordyceps discovered, two have become the focus of health research — Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris. Natural cordyceps is hard to get and may be expensive which promoted for its cultivation at laboratories.
Cordyceps is a super mushroom well known for its immuno-modulating effect, anti-ageing, antiviral as well as energy booster effect and it is experimentally well-established. This mushroom is as expensive as Rs 8 lakh per kg dry weight. Fortunately, DBT-GoI Technology Incubation Centre on Mushroom, Bodoland University, is in a capacity to grow this mushroom in laboratory conditions since 2017 in mass scale and almost a pioneer in the field.
The lab standardisation and its related research got initiated in the laboratory in 2012. It needs 60 days for a crop cycle. It requires specific photoperiod, enriched media and an encapsulated environment with all the parameters at optimum to mimic the natural habitat with optimum gaseous exchange.
Mostly found in Nepal, China, Bhutan, Japan and south-east Asian countries, these mushrooms thrive in humid climates and dense tropical forests. But due to over-collection, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed this species as threatened.
The mode of cultivation may be vegetative, egg and dead pupa, only egg and live pupa (natural host). An average human can consume up to 0.5-3gm on dry weight basis, though 150 mg Cordycep powder is a decent amount to initiate feeding mass population regularly for immediate immune boosting.

Mushroom commercialisation

Since the mushroom is full of medicinal virtues, there is a wide possibility of mass commercialisation. Even the used substrate of the mushroom can be commercialised. Depending on the level of Cordycepin, the international price varies. Also, the international price varies with the mode of production like vegetative or egg and dead pupa or only egg or live pupa.
The price varies from few lakhs to Rs 8-9 lakh depending on the level of cordycepin.

How it will help

Due to COVID-19, the local communities have been facing various issues in earning their livelihood as the collection of seeds and leaves was restricted. It eventually caused loss to those groups who are totally depending on the forest for their day to day lives. They may be able to earn better living with mushroom cultivation as it is easy to do so by providing some optimum condition. Also, there is no major requirement of specific environmental condition and can be grown with some specific efforts. It is not very difficult but can be proven as an efficient way to earn living with a minimum land requirement.
The research team has closely worked with 48 farmers in Kokrajhar and 25 self-help groups.
This write-up has been prepared to initiate mushroom cultivation programme as a mode of livelihood among local communities of Meghalaya.
We are willing to establish such study in various parts of the country and ready to facilitate training for cultivation of super mushrooms in vivo and its commercialisation.

(The author is Dean of Faculty
of Science & Technology, Bodoland University, and is the pioneer in this study)

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