The mushroom sector is the second smallest of AHDB Horticulture's sectors contributing approximately 4% of the annual Horticulture levy income. This sector primarily comprises the range of Agaricus bisporus products but also includes the much smaller level of production of various exotic species. The UK mushroom industry has undergone a period of declining profitability and associated rationalisation in recent years. The trend for smaller businesses to cease trading and for the largest ones to expand continues.

The problems contributing to the decline were examined in AHDB Horticulture project CP 025 in 2004. The main factor identified was that costs of production were outstripping income and the main recommendations were that growers should improve the collection of comparative data, collaborate to reduce costs and consider vertical integration into three tiers comprising composting, growing and marketing. More recently the dramatic fluctuations in energy costs have further eroded business viability. Optimising energy use and minimising costs are thus of major importance.

The problems of the availability and cost of skilled and semi-skilled labour are common to most sectors in horticulture and are recognised by Defra amongst others. The target of reducing labour costs per unit of production is a major challenge involving improved business management, increased capital investment and staff training.

The increasing concerns of the general public over the environmental impacts of production are reflected in the strategic and applied research and development addressing the issue of odours from mushroom compost production and the introduction of the revised Waste Regulations. The impact of the latter on the disposal of spent mushroom compost could add significant cost and further reduce viability.

Defra launched a public consultation in December 2010 on proposals to reduce and phase out the use of peat in horticulture by 2030. The impact of this consultation may significantly affect the industry which is keen to investigate any cost-effective sustainable alternative products.

The main R&D strategy, downloadable below, covers the main issues for the mushroom sector but the panel further encourages innovation and concepts on any topic which may benefit the industry. Please contact the relevant Research and Knowledge Exchange Manager to discuss any ideas.


James Holmes

Resource Management Team Leader


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