While the popularity of mushrooms due to their different properties is growing, according to Chinese researchers, we are ignoring some contradictions. The worldwide mushroom production of around 12 million metric tons in 2019 is estimated to reach 23 million metric tons in 2027. Hence, sustainability and the impact on the environment are in question.
There is a dichotomy between deforestation and afforestation inside a country and the timber import from outside.
With that comes the erosion of the soil and, therefore, the impact on the cost of mushroom cultivation.
Besides, researchers are seeing another contradiction between fungi-grain and fungi-stockbreeding. The cultivating of grains such as wheat or rice to use them as, for example, spawn material or supplements will increase the amount of arable land needed to grow these grains which will impact their price and the environment.
These contradictions led 50 years ago to the quest of searching for a new method to cultivate mushrooms. Prof. Zhang proposed in 1971 a grass-based substrate which led to first success in 1986 and the introduction of the JunCao Method one year later.
JunCao is the use of herbaceous plants as a substrate for the cultivation of edible and medicinal fungi. The techniques which are using JunCao are defined as the JunCao Technology, which includes, for instance
• The cultivation techniques of JunCao to control water and soil erosion by JunCao.
• Processing and preservation technique of JunCao.
• And the edible fungi cultivation with JunCao.
Plants studied were, for example, reed, elephant grass, cordgrass, or alfalfa, as well as more common ones like sorghum, sugarcane, or corn.
The requirements for these plants are several-fold.
• Resources are needed to cultivate them. Especially land and water consumption.
• Can the mycelium grow on them, and will they develop fruiting bodies?
• Yield, biological efficiency, and production rate.
Therefore, a rigorous screening method was developed to find the best plants.
Those plants were then further processed through one of the three methods.
- Raw material cultivation, which is used for, e.g., for Agaricus blazei Murill
- Fermentation cultivation, which is used for the cultivation of Pleurotus ostreatus and the
- Sterilization cultivation, which is used for cultivating Lentinula edodes
While the raw material cultivation method is the simplest, it has the disadvantages of relatively low biological efficiency. On the other hand, fermentation cultivation and sterilization cultivation lead in both cases to higher biological efficiency.
This difference between these three methods indicates that 1) the breakdown of the substrate is essential. Thus, the nutrients are easier accessible for the fungi, and 2) reducing the contamination level through fermenting or sterilization is crucial to reach high biological efficiencies.
To further utilize the JunCao technology, a whole industry is formed around it.
According to Chinese researchers, the JunCao industry has three major advantages compared to the traditional fungi industry.
• Efficient use of solar energy, land, and water.
• Comprehensive cycle utilization of the plants, fungus, and animals.
• Tightly link the economic, ecological, and social benefits.
What do you think about the JunCao Method? Do you agree with the findings? And is JunCao, therefore, the future of mushroom cultivation?
Let me know down in the comment section.
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