The mushroom which is fed by termites | Omajowa


Did you know that there exists a relationship between termites and fungi?

The Termitomyces, a mushroom of the genus basidiomycetes, known by the locals as omajowa, converts the 
undigestible wood for the termites to provide them with the necessary nutrients for survival.

Figure 1: Termitomyces (Omajowa) [1]

The termites, on their part, feed the fungi with wood which serves as the carbon and nitrogen source for the fungi.
Besides, the fungi maintain the water balance within the colony at around a humidity of 80%. If the humidity is below, the fungus comb evaporates water, while the comb absorbs the water at a higher humidity.

A typical fungus comb can hold up to 30 kg water. [2]

This delicate balance reduces the risk of infecting the colony with competitor fungi like, for example, the green mold.
Furthermore, extracts of the comb material showed that they had antifungal properties, which inhibits the growth of green mold.

Even more interesting is that for most people, this Termitomyces is an edible mushroom. One of these mushroom species is one of the largest mushrooms worldwide and can reach a size of up to one meter in diameter and can weigh up to 2.5 kg. Hence this mushroom is popular in Africa, China, and India.

Figure 2: Termitomyces titanicus [3]

As this mushroom is a rare one, scientists have started back in 2000 to investigate the possibility of artificial cultivation of the termite mushroom.

Which led to several patents [4] in Korea disclosing a method for cultivating and producing mushrooms. They used sawdust, corn shavings, wheat bran, corn flour, and calcium carbonate for the substrate. This mixture is heat-treated at 100°C for 1 to 3 hours. The water content after the heat treatment is between 60 to 80%.

The substrate is then inoculated aseptically with pieces of the fungus and incubated between 20 to 30°C and a humidity of 60 to 70% for 30 to 40 days. To ensure the right amount of humidity, the fresh air intake should be closely monitored and, if needed, adjusted. During the fruiting phase, the temperature is maintained between 15 to 30°C, the humidity between 80 to 95%, while applying light between 200 and 400 lux.

The patent mentioned the importance of the relationship between day and nighttime and daytime and daytime temperature.

After 20 to 30 days, the termite mushroom can be harvested in up to five flushes with an optimal interval of about 10 days leading to a mushroom yield of 2 to 4 kg per 1 square meter.

Talk to you in the following video.



[1] Candice (Candice) at Mushroom Observer, a source for mycological images, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

[2] Termite research

[3] Blimeo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

[4] Patent KR101634587B1