Volume 19 Part 1 Article 5
Title: From theory to practice – success in implementing drip irrigation in commercial mushroom (A. bisporus) cultivation
Author: Ofer Danay, Paul Van den Berg , Dov Raz, Yoram Engel, Eran Kobi, Ilana Barski and Dan Levanon
In today’s practice, mushroom watering is done by spraying systems. Watering has to be stopped to avoid quality damage, from the “pin setting” stage until all first flush mushrooms are picked. After the second flush, during the “No irrigation” periods, casing and compost humidity decreases, to a level that prevents development of first class mushrooms, which makes it unfeasible to pick the third flush. This is reducing the profitability of mushroom cultivation. Drip irrigation was developed to overcome these obstacles of the spray watering systems. Since water is applied below the mushrooms it does not cause any quality damage. In the last year experiments with the new watering system were carried out on three commercial mushroom farms, in three different countries with two different growing techniques: The one layer system and the six shelves (the standard cultivation way). The control was watering with a conventional spraying watering system. A special device was developed for the introduction of the drip tube lines into the casing and collection at the end of the growth cycle. With the use of this machinery, installing and collection drip irrigation in mushroom cultivation rooms became fully automatic. The drip lines can be used for few growing cycles. Drip irrigation succeeded to keep casing and compost humidity as needed even with 30% reduced thickness of the casing layer. Optimal compost and casing humidity is achieved by a newly developed computerized irrigation controller, with an algorithm that use input from compost and casing humidity sensors and the climate controller. Due to the “water shortage” of the spray irrigated rooms, the second flush mushrooms weight/size ratio was higher with drip irrigation, meaning: for the same diameter, less but heavier and better mushrooms. This situation also enables reduction of picking costs. The drip irrigated mushrooms quality of the third flush, was much higher (91% class A) than that of the spray irrigated mushrooms that were picked by machine (13% class A). The increased relative humidity, in the spray irrigated rooms, is avoided with drip irrigation, decreasing the energy needs for drying the rooms. Decreased bacterial blotch incidence, due to dryer mushrooms using drip irrigation, also enhanced mushrooms’ quality. Total higher mushroom quality: 95.4% class A, as compared to only 74.6% class A, of the entire yield, using drip instead of spray irrigation increased the entire crop value. These results indicate that introduction of this new technology can improve profitability of mushroom growing.