How can I grow white truffles or Tuber magnatum? Can I farm white truffles? Can I grow white truffles in the UK? These are some of the most common questions we’ve been asked over the years and the response has always been that the technology just isn’t there yet. Many years ago, we developed a system that resulted in well colonised trees with T. magnatum, but we had never offered these for sale as there are still so many unknowns about its cultivation.  Consequently, there was widespread excitement this week when it was reported by a French team that white truffles had been produced from inoculated trees and in just 4.5 years! We thought it would be useful to provide a brief synopsis of this report and the current state of the technology to help would-be cultivators. 

MSL Blog: So can we grow white truffles, Tuber magnatum? - Feb 2021

Cultivation of white truffles: Tuber magnatum

How can I grow white truffles or Tuber magnatum? Can I farm white truffles? Can I grow white truffles in the UK? These are some of the most common questions we’ve been asked over the years and the response has always been that the technology just isn't there yet. Many years ago, we developed a system that resulted in well colonised trees with T. magnatum, but we had never offered these for sale as there are still so many unknowns about its cultivation.  Consequently, there was widespread excitement this week when it was reported by a French team that white truffles had been produced from inoculated trees and in just 4.5 years! We thought it would be useful to provide a brief synopsis of this report and the current state of the technology to help would-be cultivators. 

The paper in question (see reference below) reported that on one orchard in France, three truffles were produced in 2019, with weights of 40g, 37g and 31g. Then in 2020 two further truffles were produced weighing 45g and 56g. The first harvest was 4.5 years after planting and methods were very similar to those that are used for black truffle cultivation. There is no technological advance but the production is big news and I’ll describe some of the conditions used, below, but first to frame the results with some background context. 

Attempts to cultivate white truffles began in the 1970s, around the same time as black truffles. Since then, a minimum of 500,000 T. magnatum inoculated trees have been planted in Italy alone and since 2008, many more have been planted in France. Despite this phenomenal scale of experimentation, reported results have been very few and mainly confined to a handful of small reports in Italy. In all these cases, the production occurred in areas that already produced T. magnatum, in some cases in the trees directly bordering the small orchards. Consequently, it was impossible to say where the fruiting bodies had emerged from. At the same time, some environmental studies had shown that mycorrhizae couldn’t be found in some producing wild areas and in other areas where mycorrhizae were found, no truffles were located. This all added-up to an assumption that more needs to be understood about the biology of T. magnatum to help aid in its commercial-production. 

The above is certainly the point of view we at MSL have taken and, despite producing plants and monitoring them in pots, we haven’t supplied them to any orchards and have declined offers of purchase until we know more and could earnestly guide on how to cultivate them. This hasn't been the situation in Italy, France or Spain (or indeed the US and Australia) and although nearly every cultivator has been unsuccessful, we now know that it should be possible under the right conditions! The challenge now is to understand and then replicate those conditions. 

It's important to note that white truffles do occur naturally in France, but not in the region of this recently published study. Further, the authors checked a few (10) samples of soil from surrounding woodland and found no T. magnatum DNA. The approach used is similar to wide-spread practices in black truffle orchards in France: regular soil cultivation, weed suppressant cloth, irrigation (this point is probably particularly important in this case as soil humidity may be key) and crushed truffles are also added to the ground to try and add more spores (see previous blog entry on mating in truffles here). 

So to sum it up, it may be possible to cultivate T. magnatum and we will be providing a very small number of trees to those who wish to run trials. We congratulate the authors of this recent paper but would still caution that there is a huge amount we don’t know about production of this species and until more is discovered,the likelihood of producing white truffles from inoculated trees is close to zero. For a commercial return it’s definitely best to stick to cultivating the reliable species Tuber aestivum or Tuber melanosporum.  However, if we don't try...

 

Further reading

Bach, C., Beacco, P., Cammaletti, P. et al. First production of Italian white truffle (Tuber magnatum Pico) ascocarps in an orchard outside its natural range distribution in France. Mycorrhiza (2021). https://doi-org.ezproxy-s1.stir.ac.uk/10.1007/s00572-020-01013-2

 

If you are interested in purchasing truffle trees to establish your own plantation, you can find more information on our Truffle Trees and Consultancy page about what we offer. You can also contact us with details of your location and we will assess your suitability without any obligation.

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