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Gucchi mushroom on the verge of extinction?

Gucchi mushroom on the verge of extinction?

Many experts and scientists are of the belief that Gucchi also spelt as Gicchi, a kind of mushroom found only in the Himalayan region, districts of Jammu and Kashmir and parts of high altitude areas like Himachal Pradesh, and Uttrakhand, is on the verge of a decline. The reason stated is climate change and the process of how these mushrooms are cultivated.

The rise in the temperature has not only been harsh on the humans, animals and affected them but it has also been really harsh on the productivity of several other species. Belonging to the Morchellaceae mushroom family, Gucchi is world’s most costly edible mushroom. It is believed that it needs moisture to grow but the rising temperatures are making it difficult for their production. The soil where Gucchi is grown should be moist, but due to the climate change the moisture from the soil is drying up this causing the shrinking in the production of Gucchi.

The Gucchi mushrooms often begin to develop after the month of February. The producers also point that Gucchi grow after thunderstorms and snowfalls during winter. The Jammu and Kashmir Forest Department’s 2018-19 Handbook on Forest Statistics shows that morel production decreased from 2,000 quintals (200 tonnes) in 1991 to 88 quintals (8.8 tonnes) in 2018, and then to zero in 2019.

According to the locals from Jammu and Kashmir, the water scarcity caused by the climate changes in recent years has made it impossible for the production of Gucchi to survive.

Gucchi is an essentially costly mushroom because it is used in medicines, for eating purpose. Depending on size and quality, sun-dried Gucchi mushrooms can sell for up to INR 30,000 (USD 392) per kilograms. Some reports suggest that the Gucchi mushrooms possess anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant effects on the human body.

The production of Gucchi mushroom has not only been affected in this part of Himalayan range but reports from Swat valley Pakistan show that the production there has also been affected. The locals from there have quoted to different media outlets that the production of Gucchi mushroom has been affected drastically because of the dry weather conditions there. They also stated how their income has been affected by the sudden drop in production. According to some locals from the Himalayan region from past eight to ten years the production is on a rapid decline. And since the Gucchi mushroom is declining the prices are also soaring high.

The another factor that experts believe is causing the problem of decline in the productivity of Gucchi mushroom is that locals and people who are involved in the business of Gucchi, usually pick up the whole pack of the mushrooms in the area thus causing it to shrink.

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It is mostly found in Kashmir’s higher altitude Anantnag, Kupwara, and Kangan forest ranges. Gucchi can also be found in the Doda and Kashtiwar forest ranges in the Jammu area.

Gucchi is often referred to as the “food of the royals,” and is found among one of the cuisines served in Kashmiri weddings.

With the climate change, the heatwaves in Himalayan ranges especially in Kashmir have become common and the rain has become scarce. It is feared that once one of the most expensive mushroom Gucchi, which has also been a source of livelihood for alot of Kashmiri families may get extinct in coming years.

According to a report by Thirdpole a senior scientist at DMR, Anil Kumar who since 2019,  has been working to domesticate the cultivation of morel mushrooms said, “There has been a visible seasonal shift in morel’s availability.”  He also added another reason, and said, “With morels proving so hard to find, people are now plucking all the mushrooms they come across, leaving no spores to grow into mushrooms the following spring.”

Artificial cultivation of the Gucchi mushroom in the labs is under process and shows a ray of hope to the mushroom, yet the growers are sceptical about the future of the mushroom. Climate change has reduced the amount of mushrooms that could be found in the wild, so cultivation most likely can be the way of the future.

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