Tree Farms and Truffles

dwheeler at teleport.com dwheeler at teleport.com
Wed Feb 12 02:21:11 EST 1997


TREE FARMS AND TRUFFLES

c. 1996 By Daniel B. Wheeler

CEO, OREGON WHITE TRUFFLES, 7714 SE Stephens, Portland, Oregon 97215 1995-
President, Oregon Mycological Society 1996
Contributing Editor, Mushroom, The Journal of Wild Mushrooming, 1994-5
President, North American Truffling Society (NATS) 1993-4
Trufflemaster, NATS, 1991-93
President/Trufflemaster/Organizer, Portland Chapter NATS, 1987-89
President, Bear Paws Co, 1987-93
Contributor, The Cookbook of North American Truffles, Frank & Karen Evans,
editors, c. 1987 by The North American Truffling Society
BS, Oregon State University, 1975

Address to the Oregon Small Woodlands Association, June, 1996.

INTRODUCTION

	Frank Morris invited me to speak today on commercial truffles and tree
farms. Thank you, Frank. The text and a selected bibliography will be
available for $10.

DEFINITIONS

	Fungi are not minor forest products. Fungi comprise 52-55% of forest or
plantation biomass. Trees are dependent on mycorrhizal fungi for survival.
These fungi gather phosphorus, nitrogen and water. Tree growers must learn
to grow mycorrhizal fungi.
	Mycorrhizae means “fungus-root.” All truffles and a few thousand mushroom
species are mycorrhizal.
	Truffles are mycorrhizal fungi which fruit underground.
	Oregon White truffle is Tuber gibbosum.
	Oregon Gray truffle is Tuber giganteum.
	Oregon Pallid truffle is Tuber murinum.
	Oregon Black truffle is Leucangium carthusiana.

BACKGROUND

	I found my first truffles in 1985.
	I joined the North American Truffling Society, or NATS, in 1986.
	In January 1986 I met Paul Bishop Sr. at his tree farm near Oregon City
during the first truffle forage he hosted. I found my first mature Oregon
White truffle here. I watched Henry Pavalek find one, then searched a
nearby tree. In 1986 truffles were generally rare here. About 4-5% of
trees had Tubers.
	As a tree farmer I mentioned to Bishop that the fifth requirement to grow
trees was mycorrhizal fungi. Most plants require mycorrhizal fungi for
survival. I suggested a plantation, like his tree farm, would be ideal for
inoculation experimentation. Would he let me try?
	Bishop agreed.

FIRST EXPERIMENT

	I did my first inoculation experiment in June, 1986.	I had
found Geopora cooperi f. cooperi. One half was dried and sent to Dr.
James M. Trappe for preservation and identification. The other half was
buried near a feeder root in a tree stand in front of Bishop’s home. Paul
calls these trees his “getaway patch.” The trees had been heeled in for
later transplantation. In 1986 these trees were 10-12 feet tall, and
unlikely to be transplanted.  In 1982 Gifford Pinchot announced four
things to grow trees: air, water, soil and light. Competition for water,
soil and light was fierce at the getaway patch. After burial, I created a
3-inch diameter corral/teepee using twigs and branches. I hoped this
would prevent an animal from either eating the original truffle, or
accidently inoculating the site. Five months later in November, 1986, I
uncovered a Geopora cooperi f. cooperi within the corral.    Many animals
eat truffles. Truffle spores pass through animals unharmed. A California
Red-backed vole pellet contains 100,000 truffle spores. Chris Maser has
called the California Red-backed vole “The most common animal West of the
Cascades.”	Hundreds of collections representing thousands of
truffles and over 60 truffle species have been collected at Jones Creek
Tree Farm. Only 5 collections of Geopora have been reported.  The corral,
rarity, proximity and rapid fruiting indicated cultivation.

SECOND EXPERIMENT

	In May, 1987 I collected 5 pounds of truffles. Most were Martellia,
Rhizopogon, Hymenogaster, and Barssias. About twenty percent or one pound
were Tubers. A slurry of these fungi plus an added secret ingredient was
applied to rows 12 thru 15 in Plantation 2 via backpack sprayer.
	Plantation 2 rows are 6-8 feet distant with trees 4-6 feet apart in the
rows in 1987. Trees were 6-8 feet tall and starting to form interlocking
branches.
	No one knew how long inoculation might take in 1987. European truffles
require 15 years to fruit. The experiment would likely take several years.
	In 1987 and 1988 Oregon experienced a severe drought. Yet in November,
1988 hundreds of pea-sized immature truffles appeared. Several trees had
hundreds of tiny truffles each.
	Truffles were being cultivated. It had taken only two years.

OTHER INOCULATIONS

	Truffles are perrenial fungi. I have collected Oregon White truffles with
seedlings and 150 year-old-trees. No one knows how long truffles remain
with individual trees.
	To ensure long-term productivity and diversify fungi, Paul & I have
inoculated every year since 1987 with a variety of fungi. These include:
Hericium erinaceus, Cantharellus cibarius, Laccaria laccata, Laccaria
amethystina-occidentalis, Grifola frondosa, Pleurotus ostreatus,
Lentinulla edodes, Stropharia rugosa-annulata, Laetiporus sulphureus,
Lepista nuda, Morchella elata, Hymenogaster parksii, Endogone lactiflua,
Martellia brunnescens, Rhizopogon parksii, Rhizopogon villescens,
Rhizopogon vinicolor, Rhizopogon villosulus, Suillus luteus, Boletus
chrysenteron, Boletus zelleri, Barssia oregonensis, Tuber gibbosum, Tuber
giganteum, Tuber californicum, Tuber murinum, Tuber sphaerosporum, Tuber
spinoreticulatum and Leucangium (Picoa) carthusiana. These inoculations
appear to be beneficial. Production of trees and truffles are increasing.
	In 1989 a systematic truffle sampling was done. While not as abundant in
1987, truffles were larger, averaging nickel- to quarter-sized.

GOOFS

	During June 1989 I asked Paul's permission to mark trees with tape. I
argued truffle-inoculated trees might be more valuable for truffle
production than as christmas trees or timber. Each truffle species would
get a different colored tape.
	Paul agreed with reservations. He asked that I use different colored tape
than that he was using to mark timber trees. I agreed.
	Tree marking was logical, but also stupid. Within 5 hours the mistake was
obvious. I should have marked non-producing trees. The plantation looked
like decorated Christmas trees!

PRE-INOCULATION PRODUCTION/BASE-LINE

	Before inoculating in 1986, Row 12-13 in Plantation 2 produced about 5
pounds of assorted truffles. About one pound were Tubers. This row is
about 150 feet long and about 6 feet wide, or 900 square feet. With 43,560
square feet per acre, an acre of such trees should yield about 48.4 pounds
of Tubers.

POST INOCULATION

	Four years after inoculation, in 1990, a 6x8 foot area produced
 .5 pound of Tubers. This suggests 453.75 pounds per acre, an increase of
978 percent from 1986.	       Other samplings have shown from 300 to
1300 pounds per acre per year. Two other sites have been inoculated with
similar results. Production of individual trees within inoculated stands
varies from isolated Tubers to 3-4 pounds per tree per year. The reason
for this variation is not currently understood.        From 1986 to 1996
over 30 forages have been held at Jones Creek Tree Farm. These include
NATS, Portland Chapter NATS, Clackamas County Farm Forestry Association,
Mid-Willamette Valley Mycological Society, Oregon Mycological Society,
Lincoln County Mycological Society and the OMS Cultivation Committee.
Literally hundreds of people have seen, collected and sampled truffles
here.

OREGON WHITE TRUFFLES, A Business

	In 1995 I started Oregon White Truffles. Oregon White Truffles
offers both goods and services.  Goods include truffles for culinary and
inoculation purposes at $60 to $100 per pound. Smart shoppers can compare
my price with Exotic Meats and More, of Indianapolis, IN
(1-800-495-9722), which currently offers white and black "Domestic Oregon
truffles" at $299 per 1/4 pound, or nearly $1200 per pound.		
Services include truffle consulting at $500 per hour and truffle
inoculation at $1000 per acre.

CROPS

	Fungi offer tree farmers multiple potential crops for additional
revenues. Crops include: shiitake, truffles, oysters, blewitt, enokitake,
Giant Stropharia, morels, chanterelles, Boletes, Hericiums, Ganodermas,
Auricularia, maitake, matsutake, Shaggy manes, Shaggy Parasol, and
others. The Summer 1993 issue of Mushroom, the Journal of Wild
Mushrooming quotes people who participated at the Wild Mushroom
Harvesting Discussion Session at Victoria, B.C., March 3, 1993. Two are
relevant here.	   Betty Ann Shore of Britannia Beach, B.C., said
residents of D'Arcy, B.C. have kept track of the money earned over the
last 10 years from matsutake. D'Arcy residents lobbied the Ministry of
Forests to stop logging. A petition, supported with 10 years of data,
provided a strong case which led the ministry to not sell the timber. It
was demonstrated that the value of mushrooms harvested was more than the
value of the timber.	   Graham Howard of Vancouver, B.C. offered a
second example. In Bella Coola, an area that potentially could produce $1
million worth of mushrooms every year was clearcut. The logging company
removed $20 million worth of logs. Had the area not been clearcut, it
could have produced that much income in 20 years. Trees and other
resources owuld have remained. The logging company argued successfully
that the trees were needed now, not 20 years from now.	    According to
Jerry Larson of the State of Oregon Agricultural Development Commission,
matsutake mushrooms were worth at least $20 million to Oregon in 1991. On
October 13, 1993 mushroom buyers offered $750 per pound for matsutake.

RAPID TREE GROWTH

	As the fifth requirement to grow trees, mycorrhizal fungi impact
tree growth. Most known cultivated mycorrhizal fungi barely keep Douglas
fir alive. These include Hebeloma crustuliniforme, Pisolithus tinctorius,
Laccaria laccata,  Thelophora terrestris and Lactarius deliciosus. In
September 1990 I found Oregon White truffles under a 13-foot-tall
christmas tree at Jones Creek Tree Farm. In November 1990 Paul cut the
tree. By February, 1991 Paul had planted a 22-inch replacement about 3
inches from the stump. Between February and October, 1991 this tree grew
over 10 feet. I believe it tapped into the existing mycorrhizae, which
allowed for the tremendous growth.    On January 3, 1996 a single large
truffle was found near this tree. It was nearly 4 inches square, and
weighed 5.75 ounces, a record for the plantation.	 That day was
memorable for many people. It was a joint OMS-NATS forage. An estimated
50 people attended. Many had never seen a truffle before, yet found 1-3
pounds in 90 minutes.

MARKETING

	The world truffle market exceeds $6 billion annually. The yearly
European pick probably exceeds that amount by 20-30 times, but is not
reported for tax purposes. French truffle hunters pay a 35-50% tax rate
on income they report from finding truffles. Many do not report the
income.      Italian White truffles sold for $3,000 per kilogram in 1994,
while French Black truffles sold for $900 per pound in San Francisco.	 
 In 1984 Oregon White truffles sold for $400 per pound. High prices mean
problems. Misidentified truffles appeared in Portland markets. Prices
plummeted, and have remained low locally.	  I believe no one knows
the true market potential for the United States. I have 160 potential
markets in Oregon, three times that in Washington, and about 4000 in
California. The number of markets in the United States is staggering.

POTENTIAL

	At $60/pound and 453 pounds/year, an acre of truffle-inoculated trees
would generate truffles worth $27,180. At 1300 pounds/year and $100/lb.,
truffles would mean $130,000 per acre per year.
	This is the tip of an economic iceberg. Oregon has over 30 Tuber species.
Several species can co-exist with the same tree. I have grown Oregon White
and Oregon Black truffles with the same tree. I have grown Oregon White,
Oregon Gray, Oregon Pallid, and Tuber sphaerosporum with the same trees.
While truffle inoculation is beneficial on any slope, commerical
harvesting is not recommended on slopes over 8 degrees. Erosion is bad for
trees and truffles.

CONCLUSION

	I believe fungi will become the major crops of Oregon small woodland
owners. Christmas trees, firewood and timber will become incidental
secondary sources of income.
	Thank you for your time.

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