Nabadeep Saikia and
Kapil Deb Nath

1.   Introduction
There are different views regarding the origin of the term “mushroom”. In Latin “fungo” means to flourish. It was a term which was used to refer to mushroom and to excrescences from the ground or from the trees. In Greek, the term “mushroom” was derived from the word “sphonggos” or “sphoggos” which meant sponge and referred to the sponge like structure of the some of the species. The word mushroom usually thought to derived from the French word “mousseron” (muceron), “mouse” or “moss”., but it is not used in quite same sense. From these, it is easy to understand how the country name of “mushroom” originated.

Mushroom is a general term applied to the fruiting bodies of the fleshy fungi and as such belongs to different groups of fungi. The majority of these mushrooms belong to Hymenomycete of Basidiomycotina, characterized by the presence of spore- bearing layer known as Hymenium.

2.   History of Mushroom
Mushrooms have been considered a delicacy for several thousand years. In the ancient Greek and Roman literature we find references of mushroom. The fist record of cultivation of mushrooms was during reign of Louis XIV (1638- 1715). In 1800, the French started growing mushroom underground in the quarries around Paris on horse manure which was stacked in heaps and allowed to heat up naturally. Finally refined methods were introduced as a result of the investigations of the French mycologists. Thus in France mushrooms were produced in large quantities in catacombs, caves and quarries around Paris with a composting procedure essentially comparable with one used today. It has been suggested that cultivation above ground originated in Sweden.

3.   Mushroom cultivation in India
In India, cultivation of edible mushrooms did not exist till recently though methods of cultivation for some have been known for many years. Bose (1921) was successful in culturing two agaricus on sterilized dung. Su and Seth (1940) described the procedure for spawn production and cultivation of Volveriella. Thomas et al., (1943) cultivated Paddystraw mushroom at the College of Agriculture, Coimbatore. Thereafter many improvements and modifications in the growing method were worked out at several research centres in India (Asthana, 1947; Rath, 1961; Ramakrishnan et al., 1968; Gupta et al., 1970; Munjal, 1973 and Purkayashtha et al., 1986).

Commercial mushroom growing was first initiated in New Delhi and Solan and later it spread to Jammu & Kashmir, the Nilgris, Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh, UP, Maharashtra, MP and Gujarat. The Indian Council Of Agricultural Research (ICAR) sanctioned the creation of National Centre for mushroom Research and Training (NCMRT) during 6th Plan in October 1982 with the objectives of conducting research on problems of mush room production and utilization and to impart training to scientists, teachers, extension workers and interested growers.

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