Sir Tell us about Mushroom
Mushrooms are edible medicinal fungi. They are large fungi that we can see with the naked eye. Fungi are groups of organisms they derive their foods through saprophytic means unlike plants that require energy to grow feed and to manufacture, and then mushrooms are basically fungi and they are big you can see them with the naked eye unlike the micro fungi, mushrooms are macro fungi. There are four main categories of mushrooms, we have those that are edible in order words you can eat them, there are other groups that we call medicinal mushrooms that is mushrooms that are able to produce some chemicals that are used in taking care of ailments and there are also mushrooms that are poisonous in order words if you take them they can kill you, there is another group of mushrooms we refer to as the miscellaneous group, they are mushrooms that are yet to be known or identified as either medicinal or poisonous or edible . they are found in almost every habitat forests, savannah , they can grow on woods, on ordinary ground all sorts of environments Nigerians have been eating mushrooms for a long time now but unfortunately they depend on collection from the wild in order words as you go for mushroom hunting you may collect edible ones or even poisonous ones without knowing the difference at times we hear of people who died after taking a meal, they might have eating poisonous mushrooms without knowing it, that is why we are stressing the need for Nigerians to eat mushrooms that are cultivated instead of depending on wild mushrooms that grow in the bush, there is. You go to other countries of the world like Europe, America or parts of Asia you see mushrooms sold, they sell packaged mushrooms and its real business . in Nigeria we can also derive benefits from the cultivation of mushrooms . Edible mushrooms are rich in protein, B-vitamins and contain moderate amount of vitaminC, but are however low in carbohydrate.They are generally preferred to fresh vegetables because weight for weight, the body absorbs all of mushrooms eaten without wastes.
Mushroom cultivation involve Bed preparation, Spawning(mushroom seed planting), Casing, Picking or harvesting, Packaging. Each step requires careful handling for best results. Not all mushrooms follow all the above five steps . Some species require specific conditions for their growth and development . Common edible species in Nigeria are Pleurotus tuber-regium(tuberous mushroom),Lentinus squarrosulus ,Auricularia auricula,Lepiota sp,Termitomyces spp, this is the king of mushrooms, very common where you have the anthill its very sweet and quite big, Volvoriella esculenta, Lycoperdon spp among others.
Our people in Nigeria should begin to grow mushrooms there are lots of advantages in cultivating mushrooms, it will give money to farmers there is lots of market in Nigeria for it and we can earn foreign exchange from exporting it apart from edible mushrooms there are also medicinal mushrooms. Mushrooms are rich in supplements, mushroom is a recommended treatment for ashma, infact one of my students who was an asthma patients used to chew mushrooms today she no longer suffer asthma. We can use it to take care of Asthma, Arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes etc . Infact Mushroom fortified meals give HIV/AIDS patients weight, it increases immune system and give apetite. This has been confirmed by the World Health Organisation [WHO].
The African Centre for Mushroom Research and Technology Innovation was built last year in 2014 when i was the Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin. It was commissioned in November by the then President represented by the Chancellor the Lamido Adamawa. It was created to serve as the centre for human capital Development , documents all forms of Mushrooms and recommend for commercial purposes. Research has shown that Mushrooms are good for human development. The edible mushrooms is good for human nutrition and for medication. In most hotels in Nigeria mushrooms are served for omelette and breakfast. It is better we eat the cultivated mushrooms to avoid a wild mushrooms that could lead to the eating of the poisonous one. The species we have in Nigeria are very delicious and comparable with the ones from others parts of the world. So the centre was created to document all available identifiable mushrooms in West Africa particularly in Nigeria and develop a gene bank because most of the mushrooms we used to eat as children are disappearing because of the problems of deforestation. We train interested persons and corporate organisation on the technique and technology for mushroom farming both for eating and business. Mushroom farming is not capital intensive it does not require large hectares of land to cultivate, in America mushrooms grow even in caves. We have collaborations with other universities in Europe and America so what we cannot do here we take them for abroad for more research and . The whole tobacco business in North Carolina, USA is now shifting to Mushroom business. In North Carolina University they have cancelled their Tobacco farm and replaced it with Mushroom farm. That will tell you how profitable the business in Mushroom is. We have relationship with North Carolina A and T University. We have the technology to fortify our mushroom intake for various edible means, for instance we will soon have mushroom bread. If you have a mushroom powder you can fortify it to give you garri. Actually what we are getting from mushroom are polysaccharides, they are compound that have the abilities to take care of some of our ailments. We are however having lots of challenges we need more government funding for research, we need more equipments and we need constant electricity or generators.
Market for mushrooms
There is a huge market for mushrooms both locally and Internationally. Infact we cant even cope with the high demand for mushroom in our local menu. There is no standard hotel in Edo state here that does not serve mushroom soup or omelette for breakfast. It also has a huge foreign market and a source of foreign exchange earnings for developing countries. It is already a multibillion dollar business in Europe, America and Asians countries especially China and Japan.
Tell us about yourself sir
My name is Professor John Okhuoya from Owan local government area of Edo state. I attended Holy Trinity Grammar School in Sabongida Ora. I later came to the University of Benin then Midwest Institute of Technology as a pioneer student. Have my first Degree in Micro Biology. I worked briefly at the Rubber Research Institute here in Benin as a Research officer and later went abroad for my PHD Programme. I had my PHD at the University college Wales, Cardiff, PHD in Mycology, Mushroom Science. I came back to the University of Benin to work as a Lecturer from 1983 rose through the ranks to become a Professor in 1995. I rose to become Head Of Department of Botany then Dean of the Faculty of Life Sciences and also rose to become the Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University.