26 June 2014
Sydwell Sihlangu, who is doing his Masters degree in crop science at North West University, has managed to cultivate oyster mushrooms in the dry climate of Mahikeng.
Usually the mushrooms were grown in temperate and sub-tropical regions, “none of which Mafikeng [Mahikeng] offers, making this a milestone for crop science and a major development in food security”, the university said.
The region is semi-arid, and the town’s summer temperatures can go up to 37°C, making it unsuitable for cultivation of the mushrooms. “The oyster mushroom is one of the most important macro fungi, producing high levels of quality protein for various agro-wastes,” the university stated.
“I am especially proud, because it is a real breakthrough in terms of crop science,” Sihlangu said. “I plan to work even harder and create more recognition for small-scale farmers and the important role they play in the country’s economy.”
Sihlangu worked under the supervision of Dr Khosi Ramachela
How it was done
Sihlangu made use of crop residues to successfully grow the mushrooms.
The university said the concept used – using non-conventional crop production with existing agricultural systems – could improve conditions for small-scale farmers.
“Plant hormones are involved in several stages of plant growth and development. The objective therefore was to investigate the effects of different plant substrates and growth hormones on the growth characteristics and nutrient content of oyster mushroom species in the arid and semi-arid regions.”
Thesis and work
Sihlangu’s thesis is titled “Effect of different plant substrates and growth hormones on the growth characteristics and nutrient content of oyster mushroom species (pleurotus ostreatus) in the semi-arid region”.
He has been working with the assistance of Neo Makhobela, an honours student.
The Mpumalanga-born student would like to continue to work with small-scale farmers to share his knowledge and possibly train them.