Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Rice straw for mushroom production highlighted at workshop

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna—“In addition to bioenergy, a profitable use for rice straw is in mushroom production,” said Craig Jamieson, a bioenergy expert, during a multi-stakeholder workshop organized by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)-SuperGen Rice Straw Energy Project, held at IRRI headquarters on 21 March.

Rice straw, a byproduct of rice cultivation, is one of the world’s most abundant resources for biomass energy. Despite this, most of the rice straw left over after cultivation is burned in the field for disposal.

This issue and the challenges and opportunities in using rice straw for mushroom production were the focus. According to Jamieson, annually around 300 million tons of rice straw (60% of the total) are burned in Asian rice fields. “So much of this byproduct is allowed to burn while there are 623 million people without electricity," he said. "With the right approach, that rice straw could be transformed from a waste to a fuel.”

Aside from bioenergy, rice straw can be a basic material for mushroom cultivation. “In the Philippines, however, using rice straw for growing mushrooms is seldom done," Jamieson pointed out. "Instead, the country burns its straw and imports most of its mushrooms.”

Growing mushrooms on rice straw can help break down the straw making it more suitable for anaerobic digestion. Anaerobic digestion produces biogas, which can in turn be used as an alternative energy source for cooking, generating heat for drying, and producing electric power.

Attending the workshop were representatives from Philippine research institutions, universities, traders, producers, NGOs, and the private sector (photo). It was an opportunity for the participants to identify the barriers to using rice straw for mushroom production in the country and how to overcome them. The participants also explored strategic ways for stakeholders to collaborate in reaching shared goals.

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