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Specialty Mushrooms

Daniel Royse
Department of Plant Pathology

Total mushroom production world-wide has increased more than 18-fold in the last 32 years from about 350,000 metric tons in 1965 to about 6,160,800 metric tons in 1997 (Table 1). The bulk of this increase has occurred during the last 15 years. A considerable shift has occurred in the composite of genera that constitute the mushroom supply. During the 1979 production year, the button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, accounted for over 70% of the world's supply. By 1997, only 32% of world production was A. bisporus. Mainland China is the major producer (3,918,300t-or about 64% of the total) of edible mushrooms (Chang 1999, 2002).

In 2001 to 2002, the United States produced 393,197 metric tons (or about 7% of the total world supply) of mushrooms (USDA 2002). Agaricus bisporus accounted for over 90% of total mushroom production value while Lentinula, Pleurotus, Grifola, Flammulina, Hypsizygus, Hericium, and Morchella were the main specialty genera cultivated. The value of the 2001 to 2002 specialty mushroom crop in the USA amounted to $37 million, down 12% from the 2000-2001 season. A specialty grower is defined as having at least 200 natural wood logs in production or some commercial indoor growing area. The average price per pound for specialty mushrooms received by growers, at $2.77, was down 27 cents from the previous season. For the past 8 years, specialty mushroom production has increased an average of 20%. Based on recent and historical trends, it is expected that diversification of the mushroom industry will continue in the United States and many other western countries. The development of improved technology to cultivate each species more efficiently, will allow consumer prices to decline. 

Table 1. World production of cultivated edible mushrooms in 1986 and 1997.


Fresh wt (x 1,000 t)

Species
1986
1997
Increase
(%)
Agaricus bisporus
1,227
(56.2%)
1,956
(31.8%)
59.4
Lentinula edodes
314
(14.4%)
1,564
(25.4%)
398.1
Pleurotus spp.
169
(7.7%)
876
(14.2%)
418.3
Auricularia spp.
119
(5.5%)
485
(7.9%)
307.6
Volvariella volvacea
178
(8.2%)
181
(3.0%)
1.7
Flammulina velutipes
100
(4.6%)
285
(4.6%)
130.0
Tremella spp.
40
(1.8%)
130
(2.1%)
225.0
Hypsizygus spp.
--
--
74
(1.2%)
--
Pholiota spp.
25
(1.1%)
56
(0.9%)
124.0
Grifola frondosa
--
--
33
(0.5%)
--
Others
10
(0.5%)
518
(8.4%)
5,080.0
Total
2,182
(100.0%)
6,158
(100.0%)
182

Source: Chang (1999).
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Auricularia spp., Flamulina velutipes, Grifola frondosa, Hypsizygus marmoreus, Lentinula edodes, Pleurotus spp., Pholiota nameko, Tremella fuciformis, Volvariella spp.

Marketing of specialty mushrooms in the United States is a relatively new enterprise. Since consumers are increasingly interested in diet and health, many food companies are focusing marketing efforts on a nutrition message (Johnson 2002). According to Johnson (2002), sales for products considered nutritious continue to grow. As the United States population continues to age, nutrition becomes even more important.

Production and consumption of specialty mushroom in the USA and other western countries is expected to increase at an accelerated rate in the years to come (Farr 1983, Royse 1997, 2001, 2003). As production technology is improved through interdisciplinary efforts, the retail price for specialty mushrooms should decrease. As economies improve in Latin America, production of specialty mushrooms could increase at an even faster rate than in the United States. The culinary advantages offered by specialty mushrooms bode well for the continued growth and development of the specialty mushroom industry worldwide.