Scientists at the Institute of Food Research are helping in the expansion and diversification of mushroom cultivation in Uganda.
A new two year project ultimately aims to improve the diets of Ugandans, increase the incomes of local farmers and create a sustainable trade through training and research. By the end of the project, it is anticipated that a secure supply of stable, reliable high quality mushroom spawn and registered spawn producers will provide an entirely integrated service to farmers for the development and diversification of mushroom cultivation in Uganda.
This will mainly be achieved by providing farmers with a stable supply of high quality mushroom spawn, which will in turn improve the development and diversification of mushroom cultivation in Uganda. Mushrooms are a highly nutritious crop rich in protein and useful nutrients that have the potential to bring benefits to Ugandans. Mushroom cultivation requires less space than other crops and can take place near the home.
Heading the project is Dr Pradeep Malakar from the IFR, which is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Working closely with him will be Professor Mike Peck and Professor Keith Waldron. Other partners in the project are the Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI), Makerere University (Department of Botany), and the Mushroom and Resource Training Centre (MTRC), and, in China, the Shanghai Academy of Agricultural Science (SAAS) and Guizhou Academy of Agricultural Science (GAAS). IFR and the Chinese consortium partners have developed strong links, especially in the area of food safety, with help from a BBSRC China Partnership Award to Dr Malakar. The new mushroom project is primarily funded by Department for International Development (DFID) with additional funding from the China's Ministry of Agriculture (MOA).
The project will establish a breeding programme, and a Ugandan indigenous mushroom germplasm bank at UIRI. Soil samples will be collected and sent to scientists at the IFR to be analysed. As mushrooms grow close to the soil, they are prone to picking up soil microbes and may be contaminated with spores of the pathogen Clostridium botulinum, which produces a deadly toxin. Appropriate measures must therefore be put in place to reduce the risk of botulism. The Institute of Food Research has expertise in Clostridium botulinum, and has already partnered with the Shanghai Academy of Agricultural Science to get a better understanding of these problems with mushroom cultivation. This new project will share that knowledge, engaging with stakeholders such as farmers, government agencies and research and training institutions. Additionally, spent mushroom compost (SMS) from Uganda will be sent to IFR for evaluating the potential for exploiting SMS in fuels and composts.
The IFR will also assist in improving a mushroom biology curriculum at Makerere University, Uganda's largest university, which will educate students on subjects such as mushroom genetics and breeding, edible and medicinal mushrooms and development of products.