Mushroom farmer lauded for spreading scientific knowledge

By YAN DONGJIE | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-10

1.jpegGao Yunwang (center) checks the status of bamboo mushrooms cultivated in Shunchang, Fujian province. CHINA DAILY

After dedicating over 20 years of his life to teaching others how to cultivate bamboo mushrooms in rural China, Gao Yunwang was named one of the 2023 China Science Communication Top 10 figures at a ceremony in Beijing in March.

His efforts to popularize scientific knowledge, particularly among rural farmers in Fujian province, have enabled them to improve their farming techniques and raise their incomes. Gao's teachings have had an impact on farmers from nearly 200 villages, helping to lift them out of poverty and contributing to a 1.4 billion yuan ($194.6 million) increase in income over the past two decades.

Over the years, he has focused on innovating and promoting bamboo mushroom cultivation techniques, helping farmers in Fujian and surrounding areas to achieve better economic benefits.

It began in the early 1990s, when Shunchang county in Fujian was earmarked for being a suitable place to promote the cultivation of bamboo mushrooms — a variety used in the preparation of several dishes nationwide.

In Dali town where Gao resides, the farmers attempted to grow the mushrooms, but failed due to a lack of experience.

This set Gao on the path to crack the impediments to success, introduce new technology and techniques, and provide his fellow villagers with the opportunity to succeed.

In 2001, Gao, who was then a cadre at the township management station, became a science and technology envoy and began to delve into research into high-yield bamboo mushroom cultivation techniques.

One of his early and most influential breakthroughs was the discovery that using bamboo shavings instead of wood in the cultivation process would reduce costs and produce higher yields. In his research, he quickly set a record yield of 1,500 kilograms of mushrooms per hectare, doubling the traditional planting yield.

Gao then went door-to-door in the villages nearby, distributing technical materials to villagers and organizing training sessions to gradually disseminate his techniques.

With Gao's help, the bamboo mushroom planting industry in Shunchang blossomed until it became China's largest bamboo mushroom planting base with 667 hectares of land in use.

"In the harvest season, drying techniques are crucial in determining the quality and price of bamboo mushrooms. Local mushroom farmers with many years of cultivation experience have become experts in this area," Gao said.

2.jpegGao discusses mushroom planting techniques with farmers. CHINA DAILY

With the development of the farming industry came improved sales channels.

The latest sales channels have come via social platforms. "Many people in the village now use Douyin, a video-sharing and livestreaming platform, so I also wanted to give it a try," he said.

In October 2021, under the guidance of neighbors such as Lan Shuifeng, Gao installed Douyin on his mobile phone and uploaded a set of bamboo mushroom pictures. After that, Gao uploaded some bamboo mushroom cultivation technique videos. One video of him watering bamboo mushrooms got more than 14,000 views in five days.

"Douyin videos are intuitive and fast, and the effect is good. I want to use these social platforms to help more people learn about this uncommon agricultural product and enable distant mushroom farmers to understand new high-yield cultivation techniques," Gao said.

His WeChat group dedicated to bamboo mushroom cultivation has 500 mushroom farmers from all over the country who share their experiences and tips with each other.

Over the past 20 years, Gao has traveled and taught his techniques in 23 counties and cities in five provinces, including Jiangxi, Zhejiang and Anhui, lifting 368 people from 103 households out of poverty.

In mid-March, Gao, who retired more than half a year ago, arrived at a field in Renshou town, Shunchang, to teach mushroom farmers and young science and technology envoys bamboo mushroom planting techniques.

Gao's most cherished memory of the impact he has had on rural communities is embodied in a single letter he received from a fellow villager in the 1990s, a letter that he still carries with him in person to this day.

"In the letter, this villager mentioned his family's difficulties that he had to leave his hometown to make a living as a migrant worker, and how hard it was. His letter touched me and inspired me to continuously delve into bamboo mushroom cultivation techniques, not only learning from experts but also teaching the broader farming community into the fields," Gao said.

Luo Jiayuan contributed to this story.

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