The status of truffle cultivation worldwide

dwheeler at dwheeler at
Tue Jan 30 03:43:31 EST 2001

The following article was written by Zelda Carter and Kelly Collins from
a presentation by Charlie LeFevre at the January, 2001 North American
Truffling Society meeting.

The Status of Truffle Cultivation Worldwide
by Charlie LeFevre as written by Zelda Carter and Kelly Collins

	At the NATS (North American Truffling Society) meeting on January 9,
Charlie LeFevre spoke on the cultivation of truffles. His talk focused on
the French Black truffle (Tuber melanosporum) and the European hazelnut
(Corylus avellana).
	What is the connection between truffles and hazlenuts? Although T.
melanosporum is ectomycorrhizal with many tree hosts, including both
angiosperms and gymnosperms, the European hazelnut is the tree most
commonly inoculated. Hazelnuts are used because of their rapid growth and
extensive root systems. They also allow for earlier production than other
hosts. The hazelnut takes at least three years to begin producing
truffles, but it is seven to ten years with other hosts. Typical yields
are around 15-20 kg per hectare per year ten years after planting, but
some farms yield far more. Truffles occur naturally between 40 and 47
degrees N. latitude and up to 100 meters in elevation. T. melanosporum
occurs mostly in NE Spain, S. France and N. Italy.
	The site preparation includes removal of all existing
ectomycorrhizal tree roots from the soil before planting truffle-trees.
Soil amendments (usually lime) are added, with plowing of 40-50cm. The
ground usually needs no fertilization. Trees are planted at a density of
250 to 1,000 trees per hectare (2.471 acres). When the seedlings are
planted they are irrigated for a couple years to get established.
	Weed control, mulching, pruning and thinning can be very important
for truffle cultivation. The French black truffle likes soils with a pH
between 7.5-8.3, a balanced texture, and a well-drained, granular
structure with 2-8% organic matter. It also prefers 600-900 mm of annual
	In the Spring there is vegetative growth of the mycelium, this
requires mild and moist weather. In the Summer, the primordia form when
it is warm and dry. This is a risky time of year because, if it gets too
warm and dry the primordia will not develop further. In the Autumn, the
truffle enlarges. During the Winter, the truffle matures. Again, this is
another risky time of year because of the possibility of freezing.
	The black truffle mycelium "burns" the area around the base of its
host tree. This is called a brule and is a good indication that truffles
will begin to form in the next few years.
	Truffles give off strong aromas which allows pigs and dogs to smell
and locate them. Some truffles produce a steroidal hormone found in pigs
and humans that likely acts as a pheremone(sic).
	The French black truffle sells for as much as $1,600 a pound retail
and is commonly used by the French in omelets. Its flavor is easily
overpowered and dissipates with overcooking. It is most potent when fresh
and nearly raw. The white Italian truffle (T. magnatum), which sells for
much higher prices, is used shaved over dishes, mainly on pasta. There
has been an increase in the wholesale price of white truffles in Italy
from 1995 ($1,000) to 1999 ($4,000). This increase in price, along with a
steadily declining production, has caused a renewed interest in learning
about the cultivation of truffles.

Brief History of truffle cultivation:

1813 - Joseph Talon, a French peasant, used acorns planted under oak
trees. He later transplanted the seedlings with their truffle mycorrhizal
hosts in his own field as a way of cultivation.

1900 - Vast areas were planted using Talons method. People abandoned
their plantations after the economic devastation associated with world
wards I and II.

1973 - The first artificially inoculated seedlings were planted.

1978 - First harvest of truffles from inoculated trees.

	Currently there are 300,000 to 450,000 seedlings being produced
	There may be more than 100 plantations in the United States, 2 of
which are producing; 26 in Australia, 2 of which are producing; and 65 in
New Zealand, 4 of which are producing (refer to article by Pat Rawlinson
in last NATS newsletter).

Posted as a courtesy by:
Daniel B. Wheeler

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