IDENTIFICATION AND SUSTAINABLE EXPLOITATION OF WILD EDIBLE MUSHROOMS IN RURAL AREAS (“MYCOTICON”, LDV-TOI PROJECT): DEVELOPMENT OF AN INNOVATIVE TRAINING PACKAGE TO MEET EDUCATIONAL AND INCOME-GENERATING DEMANDS IN SOUTH EUROPE AND FOR IMPROVING THE USE OF MUSHROOMS AS HIGH-VALUE FOOD

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Abstract

In Mediterranean and in southeast Europe the activities of a significant part of the population are traditionally linked with agriculture, forestry and animal husbandry. However, many rural communities are experiencing serious difficulties associated with low income per person and poor employment prospects combined with increased demographic decline. Alternative activities such as the collection and trading of wild edible mushrooms as well as the cultivation of choice species could contribute at providing valuable solutions both in financial and environmental terms.The total number of fungal species which are considered having edible and/or medicinal value is over 2300 [1]. Most of them form large conspicuous sporophores (i.e. mushrooms) during their life-cycle, which are either harvested from the wild or cultivated on a wide range of plant and agro-industrial residues and by-products. Foraying and picking of wild edible mushrooms has a long tradition in most European countries; therefore it constitutes a significant socioeconomic activity, while at the same time reflects local knowledge and social practices that are worth preserving. Recent food market tendencies reveal a high demand potential for wild edible mushrooms among urban consumers. In those cases that wild fungi are not well-known because pertinent knowledge was not spread within families or local communities, people avoid their harvest; instead they are oriented at consuming cultivated mushrooms which become increasingly popular. This latter type of activity is tightly associated with environmental protection through recycling and valorization of low-value substrates together with the conservation of some highly sought-after mushroom species [2, 3].The “Mycoticon” project (EU, LdV-ToI) involves Universities, Technological, and Research Institutions as well as local stakeholders and associated end-users from four European countries, i.e. Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece and Italy. These partners combine their experience and expertise at developing an integrated educational and training package together with its respective tools to meet the demands of suitable target-groups willing to create collective entrepreneurship schemes for exploiting the economic potential of wild mushrooms in rural areas. Ultimately, the objective is to facilitate the generation of a new source of non-subsidized income and create new jobs in areas desperately in need of both. In parallel, local people are expected to be presented with incentives to adopt sustainable management and harvesting practices for wild edible mushrooms together with basic knowledge on mushroom cultivation. Among other anticipated deliverables, national reports were compiled for each participating country as regards the current knowledge/situation on diversity, harvest and trade of wild edible mushrooms as well as on commercial mushroom production. In addition, a voluminous textbook was prepared [4] which provided a detailed description of 22 choice edible and 11 selected poisonous mushrooms (together with many other related taxa) of significance in all four countries. Moreover, it included general information about biology and ecology of mushroom fungi, their common habitats/ecosystems, proper harvest practices and suitable food preservation methods, relevant legislation and conservation issues, and basic guidelines for the cultivation of the most popular species together with prospects for developing tourism activities associated with mushrooms. All of them formed the basis for the development of an innovative training material est
Original languageEnglish
Pages31-32
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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