Songxian county in Luoyang city of central China's Henan Province has turned small shiitake mushrooms into a prosperous industry that boosts rural revitalization.
Located in a mountainous area, Songxian used to be one of the four most impoverished counties in the province.
Now, it's one of the top 10 counties in terms of edible fungus cultivation in Henan and the largest summer shiitake mushroom planting base in the province.
"Among the varieties of edible fungi, Songxian focuses on shiitake mushrooms," said Wang Shusen, director of the county's bureau of agriculture and rural affairs.
Wang added that the county is a "golden zone" for growing shiitake mushrooms and has been cultivating shiitake mushrooms for over 30 years.
Shiitake mushrooms grown in Songxian are of high quality and have high nutritional value.
Songxian began to develop the edible fungus industry in the 1980s. Gradually, the county has made edible fungus cultivation a leading industry for poverty alleviation. In May 2018, the Henan Academy of Agricultural Sciences offered pairing assistance to the county and launched a project on new varieties and standardized cultivation technologies of edible fungi, giving a boost to the county's shiitake mushroom industry.
Songxian has rolled out incentives for the shiitake mushroom industry for five consecutive years. It has invested 120 million yuan ($16.4 million) to build eight modern large-scale mushroom stick plants, five standardized mushroom spawn plants, and over 80 standardized shiitake mushroom cultivation bases.
Over 100,000 people from 7,500 households in 167 administrative villages of the county are engaged in shiitake mushroom cultivation, which increases the yearly income of each household by an average of more than 20,000 yuan
Songxian now has 74 standardized edible fungus cultivation bases and 241 cold storage warehouses. The county's annual edible fungus output reaches 150,000 tonnes, with the output value and comprehensive benefits hitting 1.6 billion yuan and 4 billion yuan, respectively.
The shiitake mushroom industry has emerged as a pillar industry for the county to boost rural revitalization.
Songxian was recognized by Henan as an area with the most suitable conditions for growing distinctively local agricultural products (shiitake mushrooms) in 2020. A year later, the Songxian shiitake mushroom was put on the list of national famous, special, high-quality and new agricultural products.
Scientific and technological support is key to the county's thriving shiitake mushroom industry.
Kang Yuanchun, president of the Henan Edible Fungi Association and head of the edible fungus team of the Henan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, led a team to Songxian in 2018 and came up with a development plan for the county's edible fungus industry in three months.
Kang's team organized over 50 technical training sessions from 2018 to 2019. As a result, a large number of shiitake mushroom growers improved their cultivation techniques and strengthened their concepts of standardized cultivation.
Kang's team carried out the trial planting of 52 superior shiitake mushroom varieties in places like Baihe town and Huangzhuang township in the county. The team succeeded in the trial planting of shiitake mushrooms in summer in Checun town of the county in mid-July 2019, ending the history of only producing shiitake mushrooms in winter and spring.
A local company introduced equipment and advanced production technologies from the Netherlands. Smart mushroom growing rooms, intelligent temperature control, and cold chain logistics with whole-process traceability have been adopted, enabling year-round mushroom farming. The company has provided jobs for over 300 local people.
"By 2025, we aim to achieve an edible fungus output of 180,000 tonnes worth 2 billion yuan, and strive to cultivate one corporate brand and three agricultural product brands," said Xin Junfeng, Party chief of Songxian county.
Xin added that the county will further develop the edible fungus industry to constantly consolidate the industrial foundation for increasing rural incomes, and accelerate steps to realize rural revitalization.