Can I grow white truffles?
Can I grow white truffles?
We are often asked, ‘can I grow white truffles on my land?’. With the famous white truffle, Tuber magnatum, achieving the highest wholesale price of any truffle species, the allure is obvious. Revered for its aromatics, with hints of garlic and cheese, T. magnatum is widely appreciated but, in contrast to the related black truffle species, has so far eluded commercial cultivation.
By our own estimates, over the past few decades somewhere in the region of 1,000,000 trees inoculated with this species have been planted across the globe, by optimistic cultivators. Despite this, successes have been extremely limited and possibly the only fully verified cultivation where the truffles have arisen as a direct response to the trees being inoculated with T. magnatum, has recently occurred in France. This may sound extremely promising, and we believe it is an exciting development, but we would still urge extreme caution.
We haven’t been alone in experimenting with T. magnatum having produced plants with a range of host trees, but we took a decision not to release these plants for sale. The main reason being the huge uncertainties in its cultivation… Indeed, the mycorrhiza seem to develop well but then maintaining mycorrhization levels is extremely challenging and some hints as to why, may be found in what we see in the field.
Often, in white truffle areas where the fruiting bodies are found we are unable to locate mycorrhiza and conversely, in other areas, mycorrhiza can be found but no truffles! This interesting observation hints that the biology is more complex than we would like for cultivation.
We’ve recently contributed to two articles that address this by journalist Nic Flemming, the first can be found here: https://www.theguardian.com/food/2022/jul/24/puzzle-of-prized-white-truffles-finally-yields-science-fungi?CMP=share_btn_link
The second article, published by Nature, is a very nice, in-depth piece about the challenges and successes in this field, and we would highly recommend reading it for all of those with an interest in white truffle cultivation: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-02118-8
White truffle cultivation poses some unique challenges and, from our perspective, much more research is certainly needed. If we can source funding, this is something we are keen to address in depth to explore some of our ideas, applying our equipment and expertise. This is an exciting area of research and we very much look forward to seeing the field develop.
For questions, comments, or collaborative research ideas: please do get in touch!