Growing Truffles : 10 tips for a successful truffle farming
Growing truffles is a very profitable activity, which does not require large investments and gives great satisfaction.
Truffle cultivation also contributes to sustainable development and plays a very important ecological role because it guarantees the protection of soil erosion, prevention of hydrogeological instability, the restoration of the natural fertility of exhausted soils and absorbs Co2.
To cultivate truffles it is not necessary to use chemical fertilizers or herbicides that are harmful to the environment. It is essential to know the characteristics of the soil, climate, and cultivation techniques. Here are 10 simple and practical tips to follow to start a successful truffle plant.
What is truffle?
The truffle is a very valuable mushroom, highly sought after all over the world. The Italian one is probably the most famous and prized in the world, for this reason cultivating truffles has become for many agricultural entrepreneurs a good opportunity to diversify crops and have excellent earnings.
The first thing to know if you want to start a truffle plant is that the truffle is a symbiont mushroom, that cannot live alone, but only in symbiosis with the roots of forest plants like Roverella, Cerro, Leccio, and Kernel. Managing a truffle ground, therefore, means managing the territory and the soil where these plants grow, treating them with the right amount of nutrients and water. The truffle, being a mushroom, needs fresh and moist soils to grow.
Another very important thing to keep in mind is that the cultivation of truffles has a very long time: from the moment you decide to start a truffle to the moment in which the first truffles are harvested, they take 5 to 7 years.
The advantage, however, is that, once started, the cultivation of truffles guarantees you a fairly stable income for many years: at the eleventh year of production, you reach the peak of production that lasts up to 80 years.
10 tips for growing truffles
Let’s find out then what are the tips and suggestions to follow to succeed in the cultivation of truffles.
1) Choose the right place
One of the fundamental requirements to start a successful truffle farming is to verify the presence of the truffle in the neighboring territories spontaneously. The areas bordering on those areas where the truffle is born and grows spontaneously are more productive than the new areas.
2) Choose the type of truffle based on the terrain
The right environmental conditions are essential to determine the quality level and the choice of truffle will be a direct consequence of the quality and type of soil. For this reason, it is important to perform soil analysis (a science that studies the composition of the soil) during the start-up phase. The analysis will be carried out in specialized laboratories and the results analyzed with a specialized agronomist. In general, the most suitable soil for truffle cultivation is calcareous, with a ph of around 8, with excellent drainage, ventilated with a good presence of biological activity.
3) Perform soil tillage
After having verified the feasibility of truffle cultivation based on the results of the preliminary study of the soil, then proceed to its processing, which will have to be carried out during the summer period. It will consist of removing all types of plants present but without going too deep to avoid damage or alter the soil ecosystem.
4) Choose the right plants
Once the soil is ready, proceed with planting the young trees with the fungus already attached to the root of the plant, which will turn into a truffle. There are specialized companies that market this type of plants and guide the choice of the truffle and symbiont plant to be grown. This depends on the area where the truffle is, the type of soil and climatic conditions. Also, the number of plants to be purchased will depend on the type of plants and the space available.
5) Plant the saplings correctly
Plant the trees in November /December, or in February / March, in a soil that is soft, neither dry nor wet, protecting them with a net or, if the dimensions of the soil allow it, with a Mini Serra built with 60 cm tubes. By opting for the construction of a Mini Greenhouse, there will be greater energy savings, in terms of water needed for plant irrigation as it increases the water reserve in the soil and improves the environment where plants grow.
6) Take care of the truffle ground in the right way
Once you have planted the micronized trees, you need to carry out a series of cultivation processes to guarantee the conservation and improvement of the truffle ground over time, among which the most important are:
- irrigation of the soil (which must be constant and continuous to maintain the humid and fresh climatic conditions necessary for the growth of the truffle, but without stagnant water that could cause the plants to rot)
- pruning (to be carried out during the period of vegetative rest, in December/January, and only of the branches that arise at the base of the plants to ensure greater ventilation)
- fight against pests (using biological insects or natural remedies; insecticides and chemicals could ruin the fungus-plant symbiotic balance).
7) Pay attention to the initial phase of starting cultivation
For cultivation, the use of manual tools is preferred over machines, especially in the initial start-up phase of the truffle plant. This phase is always very delicate in that If any weed affects the growth of the truffle it throws away all the efforts made up to this point. That is why it is important to carefully control the terrain and do a thorough and precise job. To do this work you can use toothed tools, such as forks and pitchforks, to move the soil up to a maximum depth of 10 cm.
8) Identify the so-called “pianello”
When the truffle starts to grow, you notice around the plant an area devoid of vegetation called pianello. This area must be constantly monitored and protected, to give room for truffle growth. Remember to use the right fertilizer with organic compost, to correct any soil deficiencies. The pianelli are formed during truffle growth, which releases toxic chemicals to other plants. This is a real “war” where plants compete for light, water, and nutrients. The pianelli can be of various dimensions, from a few centimeters up to several meters from where nothing grows, not even a blade of grass!
9) Protect cultivation from attacks by wild boars and ferocious truffle eaters.
The methods to protect the truffles from these wild animals that act especially at night are different: from optical and acoustic bollards to ultrasound emitters, to electrified fencing systems. To set up an electric fence, it is also necessary to pay attention to the power of the system (which must not exceed 3500 volts) so that the fence does not become dangerous for people, animals, and the surrounding environment.
If, on the other hand, you do not have a very large terrain to defend and you do not want to use potentially dangerous systems with a significant visual impact on the environment, you can try to protect the truffle ground with a simple, cheap and 100% natural system ie the chili. Wild boar, like all wild mammals, has a highly developed sense of smell that it uses to look for food, but also to sniff out dangerous situations. Sprinkling every 10 days or so, abundant amounts of chili powder (the spiciest that you find on the market) along the entire perimeter of your soil, you will not only drive away wild boar but also insects and other small rodents. If you add chopped garlic to the chili pepper, you can repeat the operation less often, since the smell of garlic persists for a very long time.
10) Have good truffle dogs.
The most used dog breeds are the Bracco, the Pointer, and the Lagotto Romagnolo, Although in theory almost all dog breeds could be used for truffle hunting, the important thing is that the dog is well trained and has a good relationship with his master. An intelligent dog that enjoys the search for truffles, tireless and motivated is the ideal truffle dog despite the breed it belongs to.
Whatever the breed of dog you choose, you have to train dogs in search of truffles from an early age, gradually and with fun and stimulating prize-winning game techniques, which let them recognize the smell of truffles and prepare the body for long hours research in the woods. Truffle dog training is important. The success or failure of your truffle hunting depends on the dog. For this reason, it is good to inquire before beginning the training, with specific manuals and, in the case of dogs that show signs of difficulty in learning, you can turn to expert trainers.