Leading the way in Canadian Trufficulture

GROWING TRUFFLES

Duckett Truffieres are Canada’s first producer of Black Perigord Truffle (2007). With only knowledge of which trees host truffle in Europe, agricultural experience, hard work, patience and tenacity, Ducketts have now spent many years incubating, inoculating and growing truffle-hosting trees.

Trufficulture is a new dimension in Canadian agricultural diversification. There is no way to know what effect small variations in microclimate, location and trufficulture methods may have in Canada without years of scientific study.

PREPARING FOR PLANTING

Truffiere Location

Truffles can be produced on a sunny sloping calcareous terrain with good southern exposure and good drainage. To safeguard against competing fungi, land free of other trees is beneficial. Climatic conditions suitable for the growth of T. Melanosporum based on observations made in France and Italy are:

  • Annual rainfall 600-1500 mm
  • Mean daily temperature in summer 17.5 – 22.5C
  • Mean daily temperature in winter 1 degree to 8 degreeC
  • Annual sunshine hours 1900-2800
  • Summer sunshine hours 1200-1800
  • Approximate degree days 900-1900

A majority of British Columbia’s south/western region including southern Vancouver Island fall within these parameters, making B.C. a viable Black Perigord region of Canada.

Site Preparation

  • Cultivate, preferably by plowing, and incorporate lime to ensure a soil pH of 7.5 to 7.9;
  • If it’s a marginally drained location, install weeping tile, and/or ridge;
  • Install drip irrigation. Truffles sever from their host tree in late July, requiring ample water to reach maturity;
  • Ca and Mg need to be high, nitrogen low – recommended 8% organic matter;
  • Protect the site with perimeter fencing and/or ultrasonic emitters to keep out deer;
  • Check soil conditions for contaminates including wireworms and amend prior to planting.

PLANTING THE TRUFFLE ORCHARD (Truffiere)

Purchase seedling trees that have been inoculated with Certified Black Perigord carrying a Phytosanitaire certificate to insure no contaminates were imported with the inoculants. Genetic diversity in the inoculum (not cloned inoculum) will ensure a full spectrum of genetic diversity in the eventual truffle production.

Truffle trees will be more likely to thrive and produce a valuable crop if they are grown from hardy B.C. stock that is fully acclimatized to our seasons.

Important Considerations:

  • Seedling trees require time in holding chambers to establish abundant rootlets well microchorized (preferably 6 months to a year);
  • All seedling trees should be sturdy, healthy, about 40 cm tall and potted in gallon containers;
  • Two year old seedlings are optimal;
  • Seedlings must have protection from sun and wind (protective boots);
  • Plant the entire container of soil with the seedling;
  • Spacing should account for nutrients, sun exposure, moisture, cultivation regime etc;
  • Stake small seedlings for support;
  • Water at constant intervals through the first year dry season;
  • Fertilize to promote healthy plant growth based on the needs described above.

Tree / Truffle Threats:

  • Insects and parasites – aphids caterpillars, truffle fly, wire worms, sowbugs, slugs etc;
  • Birds and wildlife – Deer, ravens, robins and raccoons are known pests in our area;
  • Oak Sudden Death and Filbert Blight – The Federal Health Protocol of Canada guards against plants imported from disease carrying areas such as the USA and prevent importation of these devastating plant diseases.
  • Suilla gigantae, truffle fly – has been eliminated from inoculums used by Duckett Truffieres by phytosanitizing prior to entry into Canada.

CARE & MAINTENANCE of a TRUFFLE ORCHARD

It is critical to maintain a healthy growing arena for plant production and to encourage either bush or tree formation at an early stage. Protective boots should be removed in the second year. Young truffieres need time to develop their tree canopy and root systems.

Nut clearing and leaf removal are necessary because leaf build up acidifies the soil and the presence of debris can aggravate pest and disease issues.

Pruning

As the trees grow it will become necessary to prune the canopy to allow sunlight to penentrate to the soil surface to facilitate truffle production. The amount of pruning required will vary depending on the tree variety, growth and spacing. Ducketts’ oldest plantation, planted closely to speed root mass, is being thinned to allow ample sun zone to encourage fruiting.

Methods of pruning vary and are a personal choice, as long as the root health of the tree is maintained. Coppicing is the trial method of management we have applied to a research area of Hazelnut and Oak. This method encourages new sucker growth from the cut point and can be utilized to remove significant top growth while retaining the root foundation, life and health of the tree.

Pioneers, including Ducketts families, annually harvested their woodlots by this method, managing healthy stands of birch, poplar, aspen, hazelnut and willow for decades. The pruned materials were utilized in their lifestyle for building material, railings, furniture, carvings, baskets and various craft pieces.

Signs of Truffle Growth

The estimated time to the first truffle harvest is 5-9 years, as for most fruiting trees.

When the truffle begins to ripen it gives off gases that kill overburden to insure its survival resulting in a “burnt” or “burl” area. This natural organic weed control under the canopy of truffle producing trees eliminates weeds competing for water and nutrients.

Cracked soil may also indicate a growing truffle colony.

TRUFFLE HARVEST

T. Melanosporum are known to produce in Europe from December through to March, the period called “Cavage”, the harvest months. In Canada the truffle harvest seasons will be established through time. Duckett Truffieres harvested Canada’s first truffle in late December, 2007, and on into January.

The Canadian “cavage” has, since 2007, been January to March. When the trees and infection are well established and varying conditions and corresponding harvests have been documented over a period of years it will become possible to predict when the truffles will be mature. To control conditions for the early harvest versus later is going to be a challenge!

Yields

Yields will vary with location, management, the age of the truffiere, weather and other factors. Truffle yields in well established mature truffle plantations have reached as high as 60kg per hectare with some markets commanding over $4500 per kg. When hazelnut trees are used for the truffle tree host stock there is also a secondary harvest of the hazel nuts.

Truffle Harvest Methods

Pigs were traditionally used, with no training, but they ate a lot of truffles. Now dogs bred and trained for truffle hunting are used extensively. Duckett Truffieres raise Lagotto Romagnolo truffle dogs, which originated in the Romagna region of Northern Italy in the 1300s. The first Canadian litter from working truffle Lagottos were born at Duckett Truffieres in 2008.

Electronic detectors are also becoming available.

Once the ripe truffles are located using any of the above methods, the “VIRGIN HUNT” begins. The name “virgin hunt” was given to the hunt for the elusive truffle due to its release of the pheromone androstenol and its precursor, the steroid androstenone that is said to elevate a woman’s mood.

A gossamer web, called the Hartig Net, is developed by the truffle fungus to take moisture and minerals from the earth and infuse the soil with antibiotics, protecting the tree from disease-causing organisms. To disrupt this process in its earliest stage may cause fruiting time to be late or cease. The use of well trained truffle dogs is important to reduce the disruption of these mycorrhizal relationships. It is critical not to disturb the Hartig Net in search of the truffles because next years spores could be disrupted or destroyed. Care and precision in digging are important for the long-term productivity of the truffiere.

When Ducketts saw the burle of dying vegetation it was time to get truffle hunting dogs. Weeks later Duckett Truffieres had the first successful Canadian truffle hunt using trained Lagotto Romagnolo truffle dogs. With our breakthrough success in truffle production and the use of Lagottos we now are pleased to breed, raise and train top quality Lagotto Romagnolo Dogs in Canada.

RECOMMENDED READING

We have had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Ian Hall, global truffle expert. For more detailed trufficulture information we recommend his book “Taming the Truffle – The History, Lore, and Science of the Ultimate Mushroom.” It is one of the most complete and comprehesive documentations on truffle cultivation ever written. Another book we recommend is “The Truffle Book” by Gareth Renowden (Limestone Hills Publishing).

Click the title of either book to go to the publisher’s page.

MARKETING

In the Perigord Region of France, truffle harvesters met daily in cafes and bistros to discuss truffle prices and meet with buyers. Many buyers represent the value-added sector, keeping truffles available in preserved forms year-round. Ducketts have produced Canada’s first value-added truffle products on Vancouver Island.

We are confident that discriminating tastes in Canada’s finest restaurants and private kitchens will generate an ample market faster than Canadian truffieres can produce! Anxious potential buyers are waiting for fresh and value-added Canadian truffles.

In our determination to produce only the best quality we find the markets coming to us! Contact us by phone/fax at 250-586-5133 or email Duckett Truffieres.

THE ULTIMATE JOY OF HARVEST

EARTHY. NUTTY, RICH, FULL, AROMATIC BEYOND COMPREHENSION, MYSTIC SECRET MASTERPIECE OF NATURE, WILD AND DEEP IS NOW PRODUCED IN BRITISH COLUMBIA AT DUCKETT TRUFFIERES.