Non‑negotiables of truffle growing

The general principles of truffle growing are universal. There will always be variables, depending on hemisphere, climate zone, soil type and elevation, however there are non-negotiable factors that apply to all situations. When we refer to non-negotiables, we mean the most important aspects of truffle growing.

These principles can’t be ignored or changed, and are imperative for reliable, efficient and profitable truffle production. If compromise is made, perhaps due to under-capitalisation or rushing a project, it will most likely impact efficiency and performance.

Truffles may certainly be produced outside these parameters; however, quality, yield and reliability may also be adversely affected.

10 non-negotiable factors

The right advice

Establishing a truffle farm requires considerable investment in land, resources, time and money. With any worthwhile long-term investment, the best advice, based on experience and up to date research, should be sought before committing to a project. Specialist consultancy can provide this assistance.

Education

A great starting point is to attend an introductory seminar for valuable insight into all aspects of the industry. By the end of the day, you’ll know if truffle growing is something you should seriously consider.

If you are entering the industry, seek further education by way of a truffle growing course and other specific reading materials.

There has been significant changes in our knowledge base over recent times due to continued research. Learn current best practice and keep up to date. This puts you in the best possible position for successful production. Your industry education should be an ongoing process.

Climate

Adhere to the prescribed temperature ranges and monthly rainfall distribution patterns. Truffle initiation, development, maturity, quality and aromatics are all heavily influenced by temperature and rainfall.

Whether you are sceptical or not about the reasons for climate change; it is undeniable, that significant change is occurring. Truffle growing is a long-term endeavour; therefore, the changing weather must be considered when selecting a suitable site.

If a farm is to produce for 30-40 years; what will the temperature and rainfall patterns be in 2050?

The Site

Several specific geographic characteristics and substantial water resources for irrigation are required. Information must also be gathered about previous use of the site, including past crops, fertiliser and chemical regimes and potentially competitive soil fungi.

Soil

Soils suitable for truffle growing are quite specific. Soil texture, structure and natural drainage must meet the requirements, critical to producing high quality truffles. Soil analysis must be carried out as part of the initial site investigation, to determine texture, nutrient levels, minerals, pH and the additives required for soil adjustment.

Host trees

Purchasing host trees of the highest quality is paramount to success. A reputable specialist nursery will have strict hygiene standards and uniformity of product. They will produce their trees in specialised pots. When independently assessed, host trees will have good root structure and display high inoculation percentages.

Irrigation

Well-designed truffle farms have extensive irrigation systems. Having the ability to control when you irrigate, can mean the difference between harvesting a crop or not. System design should specifically allow for the dynamic and changing needs of the trees as they mature. Soil moisture monitoring is highly beneficial.

Initial earthworks

Prescribed earthworks must be carried out in the right sequence, in preparation for farm set-up and planting. Soil compaction must be relieved. Liming processes may differ depending on the farm design and layout. Tree row mounding is often used to increase soil drainage. Processes may vary slightly depending on soil type.

Weed control

Weed control after planting is vital. Protection from competition for the first four years makes a considerable difference to the development of both fungus and tree. Various options for protection are available.

Avoiding soil re-compaction

After selecting a site with the appropriate soil and carrying out the prescribed earthworks, its critical for the future success of the project to avoid re-compaction of soil within 1.5m either side of the trees. No machinery should ever impact this ‘production zone’. This includes even light machinery such as ride-on mowers. Truffle soils must remain loose and friable.

The bottom line

Truffle farming is complex and requires all pieces of the equation to be correct, for a farm to operate efficiently, to yield well and return maximum profit.

The uncontrollable elements, including climate, geography and soil type must be assessed as suitable, prior to committing to establishing a project.

Seek professional site analysis and attend an introductory seminar for valuable industry insight.