France | Research
French scientists succeed in cultivating the white truffle for the first time in the world outside its natural range
This fact is a world novelty that will pave the way for the development of the cultivation of the world's most expensive and rare truffle.2/16/2021
Tuber magnatum Pico, known as Piedmont White Truffle or Italy White Truffle, is the rarest and most expensive truffle. It is harvested exclusively in the forest in some European countries, but the supply often does not meet the strong global demand for this mushroom. Since 2008, after 9 years of joint research between INRAE and ROBIN nurseries, the first truffle plantations intended to cultivate it have been possible in France. The persistence of the white truffle was verified in truffles between three and eight years old, and in one of them, four years old, the first harvests were made in 2019. The scientific results of this work have been published in the journal Mycorrhiza. The production of fruiting bodies of T. magnatum in a plantation outside its natural range is a world first, paving the way for the development of the cultivation of this truffle in France, but also in other parts of the world.
The Italian white truffle (Tuber magnatum Pico) is the truffle star for many great gourmet restaurants around the world. Its particular fragrance made it unique as early as 1700, when the princes of Savoy used it in their diplomatic negotiations. The fruiting body (truffle) of T. magnatum is produced by a fungus that lives in symbiosis with trees such as oaks, willows, hornbeams, and poplars. This truffle is naturally collected in Italy, on the Balkan peninsula, more rarely in Switzerland and in the south-east of France. The annual production of this truffle is of some tens of tons. Attempts to cultivate T. magnatum began in the 1970s in Italy, where more than 500,000 plants have been sold. The first truffles were collected 15 to 20 years after planting, only in about ten plantations, all in areas where this truffle is naturally present. Therefore, it is impossible to confirm that the production is due to the planted trees or truffles naturally present in these regions.
Since 2008, the ROBIN nursery has commercialized mycorrhizal T. magnatum trees following the INRAE / ROBIN nursery process, under the license and control of INRAE. In this way, each plant is individually reviewed by INRAE experts before being commercialized, controlling the presence of truffles, analyzing the morphological characteristics and performing DNA analysis. In a joint INRAE / ROBIN nursery research program, five French plantations were studied. The first result is persistence in the soil for three to eight years after planting the white truffle for four plantations distributed in regions with different climates (Rhône-Alpes, Bourgogne Franche Comté and Nouvelle Aquitaine). The main result of this work was the harvest in 2019 of three truffles and four in 2020 in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine plantation. These truffles are, therefore, the first to be collected in a plantation outside the natural geographic range of this species.
Truffle farming has experienced a worldwide boom in recent years. In France, it is also developing in many regions by allowing farmers to diversify while respecting the environment: it is an agroecological crop that does not require chemical inputs and promotes biodiversity. The results of this study pave the way for the cultivation of T. magnatum outside its natural range, provided that high-quality mycorrhizal plants are planted in suitable soils and proper plantation management is applied.
This world premiere was received by Joël Giraud, Secretary of State to the French Minister for Territorial Cohesion and Relations with Local Authorities, in charge of Rurality: "As a former deputy for the Hautes-Alpes and member of the Government in charge of the defense of rural areas, I wanted to salute this world first. It perfectly illustrates the innovation capacity of rural areas that the Government supports and encourages. "
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