Poland as Europe's largest producer of mushrooms uses additives of Phase III substrate to the value of several million euros. Poland does not produce the additives, they are all imported. At present the market is virtually full of the major suppliers of additives. They are not distributed directly by the manufacturer. In one case, they are distributed by the Polish distributor in other cases by companies producing or selling the mycelium. Since about two years some alarming changes can be observed which accompany the delivery of the next additives to Poland. I wrote about this in issue 3\2012 in a Manufacturer Mushroom Bulletin ‘Mushroom’. The facts are as follows:
1.A compost producer, in principle, puts the additive by one producer selected at its discretion generally on the basis of exclusivity of its suppliers. One part of the composting factory specifies the additive separately and gives its value. It also includes a value of the dose from 0.5 to 1.5% of the substrate weight, depending on the customer's requirements. The other part of the composting factory sells the substrate always with the additives with a fixed dose. By giving up the additive, you do not pay a lower price.
2.Overall, there is a view that the additive is used just to be on the safe side, because that is the custom. The same view is shared in the Netherlands. It is believed that if there are no additives in the compost it means that it has an insufficient substrate.
3.There is no mechanism for determining the dose depending on the characteristics of the substrate and the amount that is put on the shelf. Only in the summer the dose is reduced or given up on for fear of overheating.
4.The additives market is highly competitive and it is difficult to verify the effects of additives. Because of this the cheapest additives are always the most popular.
5.The whole concept of the use of additives in Poland is based on the experience that was gained by the industry during the period of using Milli Champ.
6.I confirm the fact given by Mushroom Business no. 58 April 2013 by Con Hermans that the additives are different from one another not only from different suppliers but also by doing a personal observation I can see significant differences between the batches.
7.The basic difference is the colour, generally they are darker and it is more difficult find soy, smell, the thickness of the fraction from a large share, small fractions from a large share of the fat ones. More often shucks of grains are noticed in significant quantities, mainly from oilseeds.
8.There is a total freedom in reporting on the composition of additives on the packaging and packing slips. A common practice is the lack of any information on packaging.
9.According to the same Mushroom Business the additives offered retain 48% of protein as standard. This information does not mean a lot especially in the face of the fact that the Polish health authorities challenged one batch of additives after finding in it the presence of non-vegetable protein.
10.My observations indicate that the application of currently available additives on the market is becoming less relevant. This is evidenced by at least two facts. The first one is the substrate deterioration in the winter. In one part of the composting plant it was not compensated despite the use of different doses of additives. The second fact is that the manufacturer of leading crop in the area of 10 000 m2 for over a year has not ordered substrate with additives and also achieves good yields and the yield variability is the same as in the case of other producers that use the substrate with additives from the same composting plant.
Here are some of the conclusions that can be drawn in this situation:
1.The fact that a product is an additive or what its composition shall be determined by its producer who has a complete flexibility in shaping its composition.
2.The producer can provide information on the composition of the product or may not provide it at all.
3.The additive may pose a threat to food security in a given country based on its own rules and the recipient may not be aware of that. The final decision remains in the hands of sanitary supervision officials. It is worth bearing in mind that the existing situation entails the potential possibility of finding in the additives illegal animal protein or substances containing GMO and in the coming years even formaldehyde or other or not yet identified substances. All these elements pose forconsumers potential suspicions of unhealthy food production by producers. Today's consumers are very sensitive when it comes to safe production conditions.
4.A composting plant or a mushroom producer should be directly responsible for bringing the additive into a market if they bought the additive themselves and spread it.
5.Currently nobody is responsible for the production effects of the additives used.
How to interpret this situation?
I think the explanation is simple. An erroneous assumption is that any protein in the substrate is equally absorbed by the mushroom. Only those components of the additive introduced into the substrate Phase III are absorbed, which will be transformed by enzymes produced by the mushroom during the mycelium growth (up to 10 days from spreading), and they result in increased yield and quality of fruiting bodies in the first and second flush. In other words, in a period that determines the size of the achieved crop. The protein in the additive does not affect the yield of the third flush.
Given the situation with the substrate –the difficulty with standardizing it and the high price, it is necessary to control the feeding of mushrooms by additives outside the composting plant. This is due to the need to obtain higher and stable yields. This is an important opportunity for development of the industry facing the market challenges.