• Fungiculture is the process of producing food, medicine and other products by the cultivation of mushrooms and other fungi (like truffles). Unlike plants which depend on the sun, mushrooms rely on their growing medium for food and energy. Examples of this food-and-energy source are compost, mulched hay, sawdust and wood chips.
  • Four important mushroom species are grown commercially. These are the common cultivated mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, the Shiitake mushroom, Lentinula edodes, the oyster mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus and the paddy-straw mushroom, Volvariella volvaceae. The common cultivated mushroom is the most important species with the greatest estimated global production.
  • Most mushrooms found in supermarkets have been commercially grown on mushroom farms i.e. in controlled, sterilised environments. Separating edible from poisonous species requires meticulous attention to detail, since there is no single trait by which all toxic mushrooms can be identified, nor one by which all edible mushrooms can be identified. The term ‘gourmet mushroom’ generally refers to any mushroom except the white and brown button mushroom commonly found in supermarkets.
  • Approximately 300 mushroom species have known medicinal properties, and another 1800 with potential medicinal properties have been identified. Extracts of medicinal mushrooms are used to increase disease resistance and to normalise body functions.
  • Mushrooms can also be used for dyeing wool and other natural fibres.

Find grower notes on http://mushroominfo.co.za.

International business environment

Visit www.isms.biz, website of the International Society for Mushroom Science

Mushrooms are produced commercially in Europe (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain), the British Isles, the Far East (China, India, Japan, Korea), North America, Australia and South Africa.


Source: Optimal Utilisation of Thermal Springs in South Africa, WRC Report TT 577/13.

For the newcomer

Role players


Associations and NGOs


Training and research

  • ARC-Infruitec/Nietvoorbij Mushroom Research Centre Dr W A Smit – 082 749 8553
  • ARC-PPR (Plant Protection Research) offers courses on demand at the Roodeplaat campus. For information regarding the courses, dates and prices, please contact: Dr Susan Koch at kochs [at] arc.agric.za.
  • Through the ARC-PPR Mushroom programme, significant contributions have been made to poverty relief. Communities are trained and production infrastructure established to produce oyster mushrooms for their own and local markets. Contact Dr Susan Koch at KochSH [at] arc.agric.za or speak to her at 012 808 8108. For research on mushroom pests – Prof Eddie Ueckermann, UeckermannE [at] arc.agric.za.
  • IsiKhowe Juncao Mushroom Centre (Cedara) Tel: 033 355 9365 / 159 This Centre is part of the campaign to help alleviate poverty and food insecurity in rural KZN. Neil van Rij does mushroom research – 033 355 9159 or neil.vanrij [at] kzndard.gov.za. Alan Manson on campus is involved with truffle production. Contact him at 033 355 9464 or alan.manson [at] kzndard.gov.za.
  • Mushroon Guru Tel: 021 854 5126 www.mushroomguru.co.za
  • Rhodes University Biochemistry and Microbiology Tel: 046 622 3984 J.Dames [at] ru.ac.za
  • Shrooms, based in Newcastle (KZN) sells a mushroom production and business starter pack. They advise clients of different marketing techniques available, and hold seminars on mushroom growing. The starter pack includes an instruction manual. Visit www.ecoafro.com or call 082 059 5972.
  • South African Gourmet Mushroom Academy Tel: 021 855 1136 / 082 749 8553 www.mushroomacademy.com Courses include distance education.
  • The South African National Collection of Fungi, which houses approximately 60 000 specimens, is known nationally and internationally under the acronym PREM. The name PREM is derived from the city in which the collection is situated, Pretoria (PRE), and the M defines the collection as being mycological. The ARC-PPRI is currently the custodian of the collection. For further information contact Dr A Jacobs-Venter jacobsr [at] arc.agric.za.
  • Tshwane University of Technology Dr T Regnier regniert [at] tut.ac.za
  • University of the Free State Department of Plant Sciences Tel: 051 401 2514 www.ufs.ac.za
  • University of Pretoria Department of Plant and Soil Sciences Dr Noncy Gomba and Dr Nazareth Siyoum Tel: 012 420 3770 www.up.ac.za
  • Water Research Council (WRC) Tel: 012 761 9300 www.wrc.org.za The WRC has done a study on using thermal spring water in mushroom farming. Geothermal hot waters heat greenhouses in which mushrooms can be grown. Find details under the “Websites & publications” heading.



Websites and publications

  • Find the clip on mentorships at Tropical Mushrooms shown on African Features at http://featuresafrica.tv/mushroom-mentorship/.
  • Available from the ARC-Agricultural Engineering (ARC-AE) is the publication “Agro-processing of Olives and Legumes (green peas, green beans, cowpeas, lentils, olives, peanuts, mushrooms)”. Call 012 842 4017 or visit www.arc.agric.za.
  • Publications from the ARC-PPR (Plant Protection Research) include: (i) Mushrooms and Toadstools / Sampioene en Paddastoele (ii) Medically Important Spiders and Scorpions of Southern Africa. Write to booksales [at] arc.agric.za or infopri [at] arc.agric.za.
  • Gryzenhout M. 2021. Pocket Guide Mushrooms of South Africa. Cape Town: Penguin Random House.
  • Gryzenhout M. & Goldman G. 2019. Mushrooms and Other Fungi of South Africa. Cape Town: Random House Struik.
  • Step by Step Guide on growing mushrooms ISBN 978-0-620-42224-6. There is also a three part DVD set. Order at www.ecoafro.com.
  • Find the eBook Mushroom Cultivation Business and Marketing Secrecies by Adriaan Smit and Markus Peter-Erik Janssens at www.mushroomacademy.com.
  • Find “Mushroom cultivation” on the website of the Permaculture Research Institutehttp://permaculturenews.org/2015/07/03/mushroom-cultivation/
  • Find the section on farming mushrooms in the Water Research Commission’s Optimal Utilisation of Thermal Springs in South Africa, WRC Report TT 577/13. These include notes on: making mushroom compost, substrate treatment, seeding, incubation, production, and harvesting. The report looks at using geothermal energy in mushroom farming.
  • Commercial mushroom production in South Africa. Bulletin 418. A Eicker. Department of Botany. University of Pretoria.
  • Find the following publications at www.amazon.com: (i) Gryzenhout, M. 2012. Pocket Guide: Mushrooms of South Africa. (ii) Stamets, P. 2000. Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms. Third edition. Also at Amazon are several titles on truffles, including Brown, G., Hall, I.R., Zambonelli, A. 2008. Taming the Truffle.
  • Find the videos on YouTube like “How to Grow Mushrooms” and “How to Grow Truffle Trees”.

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