Morel Mushroom Scarcity – “Gucchi” Shrinking in Size Due to Climatic Change
Rising temperature is restricting the natural growing conditions of the rare Himalayan mushroom which is concerning authorities as well as locals
Morel mushroom or Gucchi (a rare Himalayan mushroom) is naturally grown in the Indian districts of Jammu and Kashmir and high-altitude regions of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. But lately, morel mushroom scarcity is noticed due to climatic change. So, the world’s most costly edible mushroom from the Morchellaceae family might disappear from the ecosystem after a few years.
Generally, Morchella mushrooms start growing in natural conditions after February. Locals find morel mushrooms grow post snowfall, following thunderstorms. But two major factors are leading to morel mushroom scarcity. One reason is the increasing temperature that’s making soil lack moisture.
So, Gucchi (botanically termed as Morchella esculenta) is shrinking rapidly. Since these edible fungi need moisture to grow naturally, the soaring temperature conditions are making them shrink.
This year January’s global surface temperature was recorded at around 0.89 degrees Celsius higher than the 20th-century estimate that was for 12.0 degrees Celsius. It is the sixth hottest recorded temperature over the period of the last 143 years.
Another factor that contributes to the scarcity of Guchhi is the plucking method used by locals. Usually, people who hunt for morel mushrooms pluck the whole range of the mushrooms they find in one ecosystem. This leads no other fungi to complete the further life cycle of the morel mushrooms for another season.
Concerning locals as well
According to Anil Kumar, a senior scientist at the Indian Council of Agriculture Research Directorate of Mushroom Research at Solan, Gucchi is the recent victim of changing climate in Himachal Pradesh.
These are not the usual mushrooms that are easy to grow in labs. So, one has to wait for them seasonally to grow in the natural environment. That’s what makes Gucchi mushroom one of the most costly edible mushrooms in the world. Even increasing human activities are causing a reduction in the yield of morel mushrooms. It is because there’s a huge impact on the environment due to several human activities.
Even locals in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir are concerned. It is because most of the collectors sell the morel mushrooms for income. But the decreasing yield of these mushrooms is a cause of concern for them. After all, its price is around INR 10,000 per kilo to INR 30,000 per kilo in the main market. So, it seems to be a big setback for locals.
The Directorate of Mushroom Research has experimented with cultivating morel mushrooms artificially. It’s the first time for the Indian Council of Agriculture Research-Directorate of Mushroom Research to successfully cultivate Gucchi. However, the process is still in progress.
While it could be a ray of hope for the locals in the future, the rising temperature conditions are still a cause of concern for the natural ecosystems. Probably, after a few years, we cannot even find naturally grown morel mushrooms anywhere. And, it’s quite disheartening!