The Teagasc research and advisory mushroom team have published a booklet outlining the various options for growers thinking of changing from bag growing. The purpose of the study was to investigate the forces driving a change from the successful bag production system and to examine options available to growers. The advantages and disadvantages of the systems were determined along with indicative costs. The effect of investment on the cost per kilogram of mushrooms produced was calculated for a number of different options.
Reasons for change
There are many factors driving the need for changing the growing system. These include:
Availability and cost of labour
Increase in the size of growing units to retain viability
The need to improve disease control using integrated crop management systems
Health and safety considerations for growers and operatives
Environmental issues including disposal of spent compost
Availability of grants
Ten systems were considered in the booklet but there are three broad categories of system to be considered. These are:
Changing bag layout to facilitate ease of picking. This results in reduced fill but involves very little cost.
Using plastic wrapped blocks of compost to form a level cropping bed. This can reduce the labour for filling and stacking and can be automated to some extent. The blocks can be placed on multiple tiers of staging. These systems are intermediate in cost.
Multi level shelving systems, which readily facilitate automation. The ultimate is to have a two or three tier shelving system using phase 3 loose filled compost. These are high investment but are attractive from the labour saving, reduced use of plastic and compost disposal point of view. They can save up to 18-man hour's labour per crop by comparison with bags.
Factors identified when considering the economics of change include
Age of grower and capacity to adapt to a new production system requiring greater management skills
The size of the unit. If going for an automatable system the larger the number of tunnels the cheaper the overheads.
Profitability of the present unit. If it is not there is little point in changing to a higher investment system.
Most growers have already received a copy in the post. If not a copy can be obtained from the library at Kinsealy Research Centre (01 8460644).