Science - October 14, 2004

Sporeless oyster mushrooms good for lungs of growers

They are not on the market yet, but it looks as though oyster mushroom growers will soon be able to breathe a sigh of relief. The Mushroom department of Applied Plant Research has developed a variety that has no spores.

The spores of oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) cause irritations in the air passages. Unlike regular mushrooms, which only release their spores when their hoods open, oyster mushrooms release spores from a very early stage in their life cycle. ‘Growers have to wear a sort of motorbike helmet that filters the air round their nose and mouth,’ explains researcher Dr Johan Baars.
The sporeless oyster mushroom will make these helmets a thing of the past, and an additional advantage will be that the climate in the cultivation area will become more stable as less ventilation will be required. ‘The new variety may also lead to less spread of disease, but that is only a theory at present,’ says Baars. The development of a sporeless strain started seven years ago with a naturally occurring variety, which produced a sporeless characteristic that we were able to introduce in a commercial variety.
Three mushroom growers are currently carrying out large-scale tests, after which more will be known about yields. It is not yet clear whether the new mushroom will be a commercial success. ‘There is a lot of interest from mushroom breeders. The Netherlands is the biggest producer in Europe and third in the world; everyone is looking to us,’ according to Baars. / YdH

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