changing economics

dwheeler at dwheeler at
Thu Feb 6 01:31:25 EST 1997

I have been working with mycorrhizal truffles for the past 10 years.
Truffle inoculated trees show significant increased tree growth and
value. This is especially true when several species are co-inoculated.

Based on 10 years of research at this plantation, there appears to be a
succession of mycorrhizal fungi as trees mature. Seedling Douglas fir
inoculated with Suillus, Rhizopogon, Martellia, Lactarius, Laccaria or
Thelophora may or may not see rapid growth after their third year. While
these fungi do assist tree survival, increased growth rate is not

In contrast, many underground fungi have greater economic income value
per year than the trees they are grown with.

At Oregon City, Clackamas County,  Oregon, we have seen 22-inch tall 2-2
trees grow up to 9.5 feet from	February to October. At the same time,
this tree was producing Oregon	White truffles, which we are currently
selling at $180 per pound, delivered Express Mail.

Recently, unknown to me, two customers ordered Italian White truffles,
which are selling for $100 _per ounce_ side-by-side with Oregon White
Truffles. The results were, at least to me, amazing. I knew that the
late James Beard had called Oregon White truffles "at least as good as
Italian truffles," but also knew he didn't think much of truffles in
general. However these two customers, in individual taste-testings
concurred whole-heartedly. One went so far as to post several notices on
the Internet to that effect.

Why is this important? We estimate the stand, first inoculated in 1986,
is producing between 300-1300 pounds per acre per year. This means a
potential income of $30,000 to $1,300,000 per acre per year, all while
growing trees more rapidly.

The economic equation for tree cultivation is changing.

This is not the only example. I recently received word from Ian Hall in
New Zealand. A French Black truffle (Tuber melanosporum) plantation of
widely spaced inoculated hazelnut trees has recently started to produce,
five years after planting. But instead of T. melanosporum, Ian obtained
what may be T. magnatum, Italian White truffles. Last year (1996), the
plantation produced 200 kilograms of truffles from about 2 acres. All
product was sold locally to a single restaurant in New Zealand for
$400,000 NZ, about $3,000 per kilogram US.

Perhaps, in our zeal to get the cut out, we are missing the economic
forest for the trees.

There are several hundred known hypogeous mycorrhizal fungi in the United
States. You may want to access this database at:

The database lists collections submitted to the non-profit North American
Truffling Society, and identified by Dr. James Trappe. Dr. Trappe is, for
my money, the foremost authority on truffles in the world today.

The database contains genus, species, date collected, city/county/state/
province, and number of collections submitted. To access information on
Oregon White truffles, search for Tuber gibbosum Harkn.

Daniel B. Wheeler

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