SUGARCANE DREGS HASTEN GROWTH OF MUSHROOMS

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 6 (Bernama) -- People are often tempted by the cool,

refreshing taste of sugarcane juice whenever they pass sugarcane fields or juice

stalls.

The beverage is even more appealing on a hot day. The natural sweetness of

the juice, topped with a couple of ice cubes, is almost impossible to resist.

Aside from its popularity as a thirst-quencher on a sultry day, sugarcane is

also known for its role in the production of sugar.

The liquid sucrose in its thick stalk is a major input in sugar production.

However, after squeezing all the sucrose out of the fibrous stalks, the dregs

are often discarded.

But the fact is that they can be used as a planting medium for oyster

mushrooms. In fact, studies show that cultivating oyster mushrooms through this

method is not only economical, but also faster and higher-yielding.

THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE IDEA

It took four months of research for Nor Azzah Mohamed and Nur Farhana Abdul

Razak to come up with this innovative method to cultivate oyster mushrooms.

The Plantation and Agrotechnology students at the Mara Institute of

Technology University (UiTM) worked under the supervision of their lecturer,

Zainuri Mohd Salleh, to eventually win the Best Association award at the

university’s "Invention, Innovation and Design Exhibition 2011".

Nur Farhana said the idea for a new cultivation method came after he read

numerous books and journals on mushroom cultivation techniques.

"I have read an overseas journal about sugarcane dregs for cultivating

mushrooms, but the yield was lower compared with cultivation using rubberwood

sawdust. However, our study results found that sugarcane dregs increased oyster

mushroom production. Perhaps this is due to the types of sugarcane used.

"This is because there are two types of sugarcanes. One is for sugar

production, while the other is specifically for juice extraction. We used the

cane for juice extraction, while they (the overseas studies) must have probably

used the cane for sugar extraction," she told Bernama in a recent interview.

FASTER, HIGHER YIELD

Several techniques have been used among growers to improve the yield of

oyster mushrooms. Apart from rubberwood sawdust, paddy straws, empty oil palm

bunches, coconut dregs and cotton are also used.

Paddy straws have proved to be the fastest-yielding medium so far -- a batch

of mushrooms can be harvested 52 days after cultivation.

In contrast, oyster mushrooms grown on rubberwood sawdust can only be

harvested after 60 days.

However, cultivation by sugarcane dregs yielded surprisingly fast results --

the mushrooms could be harvested only 28 days after plantation.

Zainuri noted that such quick yields would significantly benefit growers.

"Our research shows that oyster mushrooms thrived on sugarcane dregs,

resulting in shorter harvest times and higher yields. The mushrooms are planted

in a plastic bag known as ‘fruiting blocks,’ which contain a mixture of

sugarcane dregs, paddy bran, quicklime and water.

"We found that the Mycelium Running (fungal movement) in the mixture is

faster than that seen in a rubberwood sawdust fruiting block. That''s how

mushroom growers can get their first yield within 28 days," he explained.

"Usually, oyster mushrooms are harvested eight times, but this depends on

the level of care. So, imagine the level of the yield if they are grown on

sugarcane dregs. Overall, you have lower costs, shorter harvest times and higher

yields," he added.

HIGH DEMANDS CALL FOR ALTERNATIVE METHODS

Due to the huge demand for oyster mushrooms, Zainuri said it was time to

come up with alternative methods of cultivation.

In addition, there has been a shortage in supply as the price of rubberwood

soars in the market. Besides that, rubber trees also take a long time to mature.

"Rubber trees are decreasing by the day. Furthermore, in order to obtain

sawdust, the trees have to be felled first. Rubber trees take 20 years to grow

before they become mature enough to be felled. Meanwhile, demand is on the rise.

This leads to high production cost. There is a definite possibility, therefore,

that oyster mushrooms can become more expensive," noted Zainuri.

"In contrast, sugarcane only takes a year to mature. However, sugarcane

dregs have still not been used for cultivation. Through this study, we found

that they can definitely help oyster mushroom entrepreneurs," he added.

WHAT ABOUT THE NUTRIENTS?

Oyster mushrooms are known to be rich in nutrients; in fact, they have been

said to be nearly as nutritious as meat. It is, therefore, a healthy choice for

those on a vegetarian diet. It is also rich in vitamins B1, B2 and C, as well as

in fibre and protein.

But what about oyster mushrooms cultivated on sugarcane dregs? Will they be

more nutritious? Is the taste more delicious compared with mushrooms cultivated

the conventional way?

Zainuri said their research had not yet delved into these issues, but added

that there was a possibility that they could be more delicious.

"Our study focused more on the efficiency of using a new production method.

For judging taste and nutritional content, we would need another study," he

added.

"It’s possible that they are tastier than oyster mushrooms cultivated on

rubberwood sawdust, due to the amount of natural sugars inside a sugarcane

stalk. However, we would need to perform a study to confirm that," he concluded.

-- BERNAMA

SKMS CR SHM INE CR

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