Jigmi Wangdi

A mushroom spawn lab, and orchid micro-propagation lab were inaugurated at Serbithang, Thimphu on September 24.  Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor and Minister Counsellor, Head of Cooperation, European Union  Daniel Hachez inaugurated the facilities.

The new lab will develop pure cultures, develop mother culture, produce and supply mother spawn-to-spawn production unit at the National Mushroom Centre (NMC), regional units, and private spawn producers, produce and supply cultivation spawn with a focus on sawdust spawn for shiitake mushroom cultivation and conduct research and trials; and variety release, among others.

NMC Program Director Dawa Penjor said that the facility will go a long way in improving services to mushroom growers and encouraging new mushroom growers to make Bhutan self-sufficient in mushroom production.

“With the organic brand, we are hopeful to find niche markets in countries like India and Thailand,” he said.

Dawa Penjor said that NMC has a variety of seeds but most farmers are more familiar with two kinds, which are normally planted on wood or in soil. “Farmers are more accustomed to planting these seeds as they know more about its production process and it is mostly what people buy,” he said.

The program Director added that farmers do not use new seeds as they are not familiar with how to produce them and even if they can produce the mushroom, most people do not buy them.

According to Dawa Penjor, the structure will also serve as a centre to train numerous staff. “We train staff from other regional agriculture centres, extension officers and mushroom growers. We have recently started training for De-Suung Skilling Program and Skill4Life program.”

The construction of the lab, worth Nu 23.68 million, was delayed owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, a fund of Nu 2.49 Million was also given to procure lab equipment.

The NMC was founded in 1984.

Orchid Micro-Propagation Laboratory

The micro-propagation lab, built with EU support of Nu 5.831 million, located at the Royal Botanical Garden was established to incorporate mass propagation through the technique of micro-propagation of orchids.

Currently, some of the wild species of native orchids are threatened with over-harvesting and exploitation since they are considered a delicacy in Bhutanese cuisine. Some of the native orchid species are also under the IUCN red list category of ‘Critically Endangered’ such as the Paphiopedilum farrieanum (Lady Slipper orchid).

The laboratory could produce thousands of seedlings from a single orchid seed pod without having to collect thousands of plants from the wild. The orchid seedlings produced will be distributed to the communities that want to do orchid farming and enhance their livelihoods. The seedlings will also be displayed and conserved at the Royal Botanical Garden for education and awareness.

Orchids have great potential in their commercial value. Orchids are sort after for their medicinal qualities and are used in cosmetics owing to their benefits in skin care. There are 14 species of orchid plants which are endemic to Bhutan.