A Bayelsa-based scientist on Sunday advocated the use of emerging techniques that increases the shelf life of edible mushroom to tackle protein deficiency.
Mr ThankGod Timipanipiri-Wood said in an interview that a recently developed genetic technique which increases the shelf life of mushroom from three to 10 days would transform the economic benefit of mushroom farmers.
Timipanipiri-Wood said the method known as Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats and associated protein 9 (CRISPR-Cas9) improves the freshness of edible mushroom by 80 per cent.
According to Timipanipiri-Wood,Chief Executive Officer, Greenwood Agribusiness Ltd, protein deficiency in Nigeria still remains a major threat to the affordable protein need of the fast growing population
He noted that recent statistics shows that over 14 million women and 37 % , amounting to over 77million of children in Nigeria under five years are suffering from one or more protein deficiency diseases or simply malnourished. .
He noted that edible mushroom production as an alternative protein source is a money-spinning agro venture that can create 16 million jobs for the youths and women while addressing the protein and medicinal needs of Nigerians.
He however regretted that the shelve life of this perishable food product has continue to be a source of concern to the producers, marketers, and end users not just in Nigeria but globally.
“However, with the current modern biotechnology application called Gene editing, the problem of shelve life and other organoleptic properties can be reduced greatly.
“Just like vegetables and fruits, are perishable in nature and deteriorate within a day after harvesting due to their high respiration rate and delicate epidermal structure.
“The effect of the perishable nature of mushrooms can really be frustrating to a small scale mushroom farmer for instance in Ibadan who produce 100 kg of fresh mushroom fruits weekly but sells only 70 kg to his clients in lagos and Benin.
“Because of the distance of the market to his harvesting room, he might suffer over 30% loss due to very short shelve life of the farm produce,” He said..
He explained that gene editing technique that gives scientists the ability to modify the DNA of mushrooms to keep them fresh for up to 10 days or more, just like apples.
He explained that the CRISPR-Cas9 system has wide acceptability across the scientific community because it is faster than conventional breeding, cheaper than Genetically Modified products.
He said the new method is more accurate and precise, and more efficient than other existing genome editing methods.
He said it was pausible that the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) has been providing a guideline for the operation of gene editing in Nigeria.
“It means individuals, institutions and cooperate companies can get approval from NBMA for the research on gene edited mushrooms.
“After the release of the gene edited oyster strain, mushroom farmers can smile home with greater returns as production loss due to decaying or deterioration would have been reduced drastically.
“It is now up to well meaning mushroom breeders, molecular biologists ,mycophagists, and relevant Government Institutions to take advantage of this new technology for addressing problems of post harvest loss.