Truffle can live and develop in nature, or it can be cultivated through the technique of truffle cultivation.
By truffle cultivation we mean the set of cultivation and management techniques for truffles production.
The origins of truffle cultivation has its rootssince the sixteenth century, the first scientific-based techniques are found in the last decades of the nineteenth century. The factors that contribute to the success of cultivation are many:
- Mycorrhizal plant
Truffles mycorrhizal plants are produced in nurseries in order to avoid contamination. After a few months from sowing, the sprouts are inoculated with truffles and raised for about a year in a protected environment.
- Planting site and the pedoclimatic characteristics
White truffle (Tuber Magnatum) prefers a less luminous environment, in which the vegetation completely covers the ground and protects it from sudden changes in temperature as well as sunshine.
On the contrary, Black truffle (Tuber Melanosporum), lives in open environments, with sparse vegetation or exposure to the sun.
Apart from these two cases, the ideal development environment for other truffle species is not so demarcated, even when considering the wide-ranging Italian environment (compared to the Spanish moors, for example).
Soil management and symbiont plants
There are several plant cultivation treatments which do change depending on time step. In the first starting years, there is a tendency to create the best circumstances for the development of the plant and truffle, while in the following years the actions are more geared in maintenance of the above mentioned conditions.
A demonstrated useful cultivation technique is the distribution of sporal inoculum, which increases the development of both the mycelium and mycorrhizae. Thanks to the cooperation with a local processing company, Pedemontis has enormous quantities of material that is allowing us to operate with sporal inoculations of the four main truffle varieties.
Truffle farming applied to scientific knowledge is providing excellent results in both cases of Tuber Melanosporum and Tuber Aestivum, while, despite its environment being difficult to reconstitute, significant results have been obtained for Tuber Magnatum.
Facing an increasingly demanding market, truffle farming is taking on an increasingly important role confronted with truffle natural production reduction.
The natural resources decline is due both, to human causes (deforestation, pollution, disrespect for the ecosystem), and to climatic conditions (increase in temperatures).
Tuber Melanosporum is the most valuable truffle specie that is cultivated with good results. In fact, even in not so favorable years, cultivation techniques can mitigate the effect of season trend.
Following is Tuber Aestivum, which by nature is very adaptable. Other noted crops but to a lesser extent, are Tuber Borchii and Tuber Brumale.
To conclude, truffle farming can represent a valid opportunity in the context of multifunctional agriculture, enriching the offer of farm products or local farms. At the same time, truffle farming helps the environment, it is a completely natural method that protects biodiversity, recovers abandoned territories and relaunches them on a socio-economic level.
Mycorrhized plants Nursery
Modern truffle farming is based on inoculation, carried out of about one or two months seedlings.
It is necessary that the nurseries that carry out this operation respect the sterile hygienic conditions as much as possible to avoid pollution.
Inoculation can be carried out with different methods:
- sporal inoculation: obtained from fresh or preserved ascomas inoculating young semi-sterile seedlings. This method can be successfully applied on valuable truffle species (Tuber Melanosporum, Tuber Aestivum), while to date the results regarding Tuber Magnatum are still irrelevant.
- mycelial inoculation: to date this technique has concerned seedlings for scientific purposes. The method consists of isolating the mycelium, making it grow in vitro in order to mix it with the substrate soil where the seedling will be growing.
- inoculation by radical approximation: it is an alternative technique, which exploits the mycorrhizal infection spreading capacity. It targets the sterile plants inoculation by putting their root systems in contact with those of a plant colonized with truffles.
Nursery and market problems
Unfortunately, the market today offers plants without sufficient guarantees or they are contaminated by fungal species other than truffles. It is therefore difficult to orient oneself having a clear situation, especially regarding price levels.
To delimit this problem it is essential that:
All truffle mycorrhized plants on the market must be certified;
- a single national certification system must be established for all entrepreneurs in the sector
- must experience an active control system on two levels: the first step is up to the nurseries, which will make use of certified external laboratories, while the
- second step touches the Regions, with random checks on seedlings lots.