2 Sep 2014

Edible fungi may have export potential

3:29 pm on 2 September 2014

Scientists researching the cultivation and commercialisation of two edible fungi believe it could be the start of a lucrative gourmet export market for this country.

Plant and Food Research has spent a number of years studying the potential of a mushroom, saffron milk cap (Lactarius delicosus) and a truffle, the Bianchetto truffle (Tuber borchii), both which fetch high prices here and overseas.

Dr Alexis Guerin from Plant and Food said after five years of trials, saffron milk cap, which is a symbiotic fungus that grows with pine trees, has been yielding 400-kilograms of mushrooms per hectare.

He says the mushroom can fetch up to $50 per kilogram in this country.

"It is a good way to improve the return from a piece of land which otherwise would just be planted with pine trees which would wait to cut for timber."

Dr Guerin said it would be ideally suited for a small holding.

"Like an addition to farm units or a horticultural farm or vineyards and there are some environmental benefits such as planting trees to help fix carbon emission levels and also these fungi live on the roots of trees and they extend into the soil and that contributes to soil health, so there are environmental benefits, not just economic."

Dr Guerin said overseas saffron milk cap and Bianchetto truffles were highly regarded for their potential health benefits and even supported a dedicated truffle-tourism industry.

"New Zealand being a small country and a small population probably the local market could be saturated quite quickly, although because these are new products it won't happen tomorrow, but eventually it will happen so I think the next step would be to look at exporting to markets such as Japan and China, and long term this is an important opportunity for New Zealand."

Dr Guerin said the rarer Biancetto Truffle can sell for up to $3000 per kilogram.