Three villages in La Rioja - northern Spain – are home to the vast, dark, humid growing sheds that produce its 77,000 tons of mushrooms each year. Almost half of Spain’s cultivated mushroom crop is grown in the region. This makes Spain the third-largest producer in Europe, behind Poland and the Netherlands.
Pablo Martínez, is an agronomist who is based at the Mushroom Technological Research Centre of La Rioja (CTICH). He manages a Europe-wide project to tackle the environmental challenges faced by the industry. Many people know very little about how mushrooms are grown. While it’s easy to buy a starter kit online to have a go at home, growing on a commercial scale is very different – managing humidity, temperature and light to produce a regular, quality crop while contending with pest control.
The global market is projected to grow from around 15 million tons in 2021 to more than 24 million tons over the next five years. To meet demand, growers need to fail-safe their crop from pests and, for now, they rely on pesticides. Tighter regulations are limiting available products and concerns over the impact on the environment and human health mean growers are looking to researchers to come up with answers.