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Improvement of truffle cultivation via novel quality control, soil analysis and inoculation methods

Advanced inoculation methods, novel site selection tools and the establishment of mycelial gene banks for economically important truffle species will improve truffle cultivation

Truffles are among the most precious and expensive foods in the world. As mycorrhizal fungi, true truffles grow exclusively in association (symbiosis) with compatible host tree species (oaks, hornbeam, poplars, pines, etc.). Some truffle species like the French Perigord truffle are already cultivated in large-scale plantations, while the precious white truffle (Tuber magnatum Pico) is currently harvested from natural populations only. Truffles are commonly associated with the gastronomic culture of FRANCE and ITALY, where the harvest and marketing of the most appreciated species have a long tradition. Recently, it became clear that the natural diversity of commercial truffle species in SERBIA, and, to a lesser extent, in AUSTRIA, is as high. Most importantly, the precious white truffle has been reported frequently from the lowlands of SERBIA. Evidently, there is a huge natural potential that still awaits exploitation. On the other hand, the natural populations of these fungi might be vulnerable, if truffling pressure increases, so a strategy for the wise use of this resource is needed. Truffle cultivation in truffle orchards or plantations is an economically and ecologically viable form of agriculture that involves the use of natural truffle populations as genetic resources and that may help to protect them from overexploitation. Truffle cultivation is an inherently sustainable economic activity, since it requires a long-term perspective and a good understanding of soil ecology. ECONOMIC ADVANTAGES - In contrast to most agricultural products, there is no overproduction of truffles. The notoriously high prices for truffles are the market's expression of the shortage of supply. - Truffles grow well in some less fertile soils which are of low value for field crops. Truffle cultivation may have a high impact in agriculturally marginal areas where the need for alternative sources of income is particularly acute. - Truffle cultivation may be a motivation for restoring the productivity of abandoned land. - Truffle cultivation can be a strong asset for regional marketing, tourism, gastronomy and related services. ECOLOGICAL ADVANTAGES * Truffles are an integral part of natural habitats and ecosystems that are very important for biodiversity conservation. The plantation of truffle orchards will create near-natural islands of biodiversity in the agricultural landscape. The use of autochthonous genetic resources will further contribute to the prevention of genetic erosion. * Truffle cultivation requires no or very limited inputs of fertilisers and no pesticides, thus protecting ground water and the environment. * Mycorrhiza formation contributes to soil stability and functioning. Reforestation with mycorrhized seedlings will save the soil from further degradation. * The use of barren land and fallows for truffle cultivation may limit the colonisation of land by weedy non-autochthonous species like Robinia pseudacacia. Despite the evident economic opportunities, truffle cultivation is still limited by serious drawbacks: yields are almost unpredictable, ranging from zero or a few kg/ha to over 200 kg/ha, preventing a realistic calculation of future returns on investment. This problem may be linked to uncertainties in site selection, seedling quality, monitoring tools and management practices. Another shortcoming of the current state in truffle cultivation is that trees reliably inoculated with Tuber magnatum are absent from the market. PROJECT OBJECTIVES - Development of more reliable inoculation techniques applicable even to recalcitrant species such as Tuber magnatum. - More precise definition of suitable soil conditions, ecological conditions and management practices for truffle cultivation. - Design of monitoring tools, e.g. for measuring the effect of irrigation schemes. - Systematic collection and molecular characterisation of genetic resources (seedlings and truffles) including development of quick and easy-to-scale-up methodology for estimating inoculation success in greenhouses and in-situ (plantations, forests, parks). Keywords: truffle, mycorrhiza, symbiosis.
Acronym: 
CULTUBER
Project ID: 
3 835
Start date: 
01-03-2007
Project Duration: 
36months
Project costs: 
740 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Precision agriculture technology
Market Area: 
Cultivation of cereals / crops / vegetables

Raising the productivity and competitiveness of European businesses through technology. Boosting national economies on the international market, and strengthening the basis for sustainable prosperity and employment.