Mushroom is a saprophytic fungus that grows on dead and decaying organic matter. Due to the absence of chlorophyll, it is unable to synthesize its own food and hence is dependent upon the organic matter/substrate for food.
The first record of cultivation of mushroom dates back to the reign of Louis XIV (1637-1715). French scientists were the first to detail record the mushroom cultivation techniques which is valid even now.
In the same context, an article was published in Paris in 1707, following that mushrooms were cultivated in the foothills of France in 1800. In these regions horse dung was used (which itself got pasteurized due to high temperatures), as the substrate for spawn inoculation and mushroom production.
Subsequetly, this technique spread to neighbouring areas and local inhabitants started mushroom cultivation in cases, mines and other moist areas. In 1810, mushroom cultivation began in specially designed crop rooms which got further cultivation in many parts of the world.
In India, commercial cultivation of mushrooms had been with the joint effort of scientists and farmers. Annual mushroom production has increased to 80,000 ton in 2006 from a mere 1,000 ton in 1981. Fifty percent of this is produced by marginal and small production units and the rest by industrial establishments.
Mushroom husbandary is now one of the major sources of income for farmers of many states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Himanchal Pradesh. The major producers of mushrooms are Punjab (35,000 MT) Tamilnadu (15,000MT), and Andhra Pradesh (5000MT). Mushroom production of Uttarakhand alone increased from 2,640MT in 2000 to 5340MT in 2006, with Dehradun, Nainital, Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar the major production centres. Button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) constitutes about 90% of total production in India where that of other cultivated mushrooms viz. Pleurotus, Lentinula, Auricularia and Calocybe are very marginal.