|Authors: ||C.K Lefevre, I.R. Hall|
|Keywords: ||black truffles, Tuber melanosporum, Corylus avellana, hazelnut, filbert, truffières, mycorrhizae|
Truffles, venerated among the world’s culinary delicacies, are the reproductive structures of various ascomycetous fungi.
Research on truffle cultivation began in the mid 1800's and eventually led to the discovery of ectomycorrhizae in 1885. However, it was not until the late 1970's that truffles were harvested in French and Italian truffle orchards (truffières) that had been established with artificially inoculated seedlings.
Despite this success, the majority of black truffles and all other species of truffles are collected from natural areas rather than from artificial truffières.
The truffle species most commonly and successfully cultivated is Tuber melanosporum, the famous "French" or Périgord black truffle.
Its hosts include many tree species, but the trees most frequently inoculated are Corylus avellana, Ostya carpinifolia and Quercus spp.
T. melanosporum production in artificially established orchards seldom exceed 40 kg/ha but there are instances of yields greater than 100 kg/ha.
In Europe, wholesale prices are around US$300 to US$450 per kg although elsewhere prices can be much higher.
In New Zealand, for example, wholesale prices for grade 1 truffles produced out-of-season and shipped to the Northern Hemisphere are currently US$1450 per kg.
Truffles can appear as early as three years after planting but full production typically requires 10 to 20 years.
Although most truffières outside of Europe are still young, several have begun producing and some show highly promising results.
However, contamination of truffières by other competing ectomycorrhizal fungi and inadequate knowledge of their ecological requirements pose formidable problems for researchers working to optimize production of the Périgord black truffle and cultivate other Tuber species.
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