By the term trufficulture we mean the cultivation of truffles by way of seedlings of forest species (holm oaks, oaks, etc.) in mycorrhizal association with the fungus of the truffle, normally the black truffle (Tuber melanosporum). This cultivation is done in suitable zones. At present, plantations exist in those counties where there are already wild truffles in the woodlands and also in other zones with favorable soil and climate conditions for the fungus’ development.
Trufficulture rests on three pillars:
– Suitable soil and climate
– A seedling well-adapted to the environment and in good mycorrhizal association with the truffle.
– Providing the necessary supports for the cultivation.
In general terms, a plantation requires a prior study of the terrain – calcareous soils with a favorable texture – in Mediterranean-continental climates with 400-800mm of annual precipitation, part of which occurs during the summer period. Realizing the plantation requires prior preparation of the plot, ensuring that good seedlings are purchased, not only in terms of appearance but also in mycorrhizal quality.
|The starting point for any project of truffle production is the evaluation of the physical-chemical characteristics of the soil for truffle production.||The quality of the seedling is one of the three pillars for the success of the plantation.|
|The protector aids the rooting of the seedling; it shouldn’t be kept in place for more than two years at most.||Design of a high-density plantation (600-800 seedlings per hectare) with the aim of provoking a precocious production.|
In terms of previous crops, the most interesting lands for trufficulture are those on which cereals, arable crops in general, grapevines, olive orchards, and almond orchards have been cultivated, as well as those lands that have ceased to be cultivated but have been invaded by forest species (pines, holm oaks, oaks, etc.). In recently created forest terrains, a period of two years should be respected with some intermediate crop grown, for example cereal, before undertaking the planting, in order to clean as much as possible the soil of fungi that could compete with the truffle. A forest mass surrounding the plantation is likewise not desirable and it is best to minimize as much as possible the “influence” effect of the roots of the adult trees located at the edges of the plot to be planted.
Plots surrounded by forest (pines, holm oaks, etc.) are not the best candidates for trufficulture.
Once the planting has been done, we will care for the seedling in the first two or three years by hoeing, irrigating in summer and tilling the corridors between the rows with a cultivator in the spring and early summer.
The first year of the plantation with protectors. Observe how the corridors between the rows are wider than the distance between the seedlings in the row. The dog will still have to wait some years before scratching the soil with his paws.
Working the corridors usually ends in the fourth to sixth year when the brûlées begin to appear. Pruning can begin in the third year. If irrigation in production isn’t possible, it may be appropriate not to prune except for small interventions in very specific trees.
Plantation 4-5 years of age; at this age of the plantation, tilling the soil with a cultivator or harrow is normal.
Production can begin between the sixth and tenth year. Proper irrigation is fundamental for regular production and achieving a good profitability of the plantation. Tilling the corridors is optional although generally they aren’t tilled. Digging holes or nests in the brûlée and burying there a mix of organic material with or without spores, with or without different components that can improve production, is fundamental nowadays in order to significantly increase truffle production.
|Digging holes or nests in the brûlée and partially filling them with a suitably prepared substrate improves truffle production beginning two years after the holes have been dug.||Adult plantation in which the brûlées around the tree (zones free of herbaceous vegetation) are visible. At this stage of the plantation, the soil is usually not tilled.|
The productive period of the plantation is unknown, but it is very reasonable to expect to maintain production for 25 years (35 from the moment of planting), or even longer with pruning and clearing interventions, etc.
Trufficulture in Spain is still in its early years and new supports and techniques to improve yields will unquestionably emerge in the future. At present, average production at adult plantations is 20-30 kg/hectare.
|Panoramic view of an adult plantation in production with trees that have been significantly pruned.||Hazelnut tree orchard with soil and climate favorable for truffles, originally planted for hazelnut harvesting.|
|The reward in the form of truffle production may begin when the plantation is about eight years old. The truffle dog is the inseparable companion of the truffle grower when the time comes to gather truffles.||Spectacular truffle weighing almost 2 kg grown in Aragon. (Photo: Juan Antonio Vilas).|