Agricultural wastes for the production of fruiting bodies and bioactive compounds by Cordyceps militaris

Domestication and fruit body cultivation of C. militaris has been developed for more than 30 years in China. Among all Cordyceps mushrooms, C. militaris is the only edible fungus with fruit bodies cultivated in large scale for commercial production worldwide.

There are mainly two sets of models for fruit body cultivation, using insects as host or cereal grains (mainly rice or wheat) as substrates. The latter one is more popular because of its easy operation. And fruit body product from this model prevails in market. However, raw materials for fruit body production become a problem along with the development of cultivation industry. Over 4, 000 tons of dry fruit bodies were produced per year in China, consuming at least 500, 000 tons of cereal substrates.

In commercial production of Cordyceps militaris (a famous Chinese medicine), usually cereal grains were utilized as cultivation substrates. In a recent study, four different agricultural waste substrates were tested for fruit body cultivation of C. militaris. Cottonseed shells (CS), corn cob particles (CCP), Italian poplar sawdusts (IPS) and substrates spent by Flammulina velutipes (SS) were employed to cultivate C. militaris, using rice medium as control.

Considering the production and quality of fruit bodies, CCP were suitable for growth of C. militaris. It exhibited the following good performances: mycelia growth and fruiting phases consistent with those recorded on rice medium, the second highest production of fruit bodies with the highest contents of active components, especially cordycepin. The other suitable substitute substrate was CS, which giving the highest production of fruit body. IPS and SS were poor in the cultivation of C. militaris. Both of them gave low production of fruit bodies with low contents of active components. In conclusion, using CCP or CS as substrates in the cultivation of C. militaris could decrease the production cost and protect the environment largely.

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