Growing Truffles in The Pacific Northwest

 

Oregon Truffle Propagation Notes

Growing Oregon Truffles is a great hobby. Trufflezone encourages experiments with indigenous truffles.  There really is no way to scientifically claim to grow Oregon Truffles because they are naturally occurring and may have been in the soil or on the trees before the experiments were started.

There are various  ways that have been used to inoculate trees with ectomycorrhizal fungi. One method is to apply ectomycorrhizal inoculants at the seedling stage in the green house. The advantage of this is that the trees are already in soil so the fungi has some media for a base. Another method of fungal propagation is to dip bare root seedlings in a solution of ectomycorrhizal inoculants just before planting.

While trees inoculated in these methods may grow Oregon Truffle mycelium, no one at Trufflezone has found any truffles produced in stands of trees propagated using either of these methods.

On properties that we manage, we feel that positive results have been attained by inoculating existing stands of trees that are of the correct age and exhibit favorable conditions for growth with commercially viable fungi.

Growing Foreign Truffles in Oregon

Truffle propagation has been attempted in Europe for millennia with mixed success. Large parts of France and Italy were planted to truffle trees in the late 1800s. These produced fairly well for about 30 years but many of the beds were ruined during the World Wars and not replanted. Experimental plots of European truffles are now spreading across the Globe. Most trials have resulted in failure but there are several successful plantations around the world.  European truffles have now been established in the Northwestern US. Several early attempts to establish colonies by inoculating bare root filbert (hazelnut) trees and importing filbert trees with the soil already inoculated were made but our indigenous fungi are better adapted to the local area and soon (within three years or so) overwhelmed the foreign fungi. "French" Black truffles have now been successfully grown in Oregon and Northern California using a propagation method involving a change of soil ph to reduce competition from indigenous fungi that are used to the acidic nature of our forestlands.

One of the biggest problems with attempting to farm truffles is that they do not fruit in reliable quantities annually. In some years some patches produce nothing while in some years they produce prolifically (and truffle prices plummet). If a farmer had to count on the income from truffles to pay for the farm, the bank would have the farm in a couple of years, if not sooner.

Truffle propagation experiments may be exciting as a hobby but one should not invest their retirement in any unproven venture. The question that anyone interested in investing in a truffle plantation other than as a hobby needs to ask is, "Can you produce anyone that is currently making a living from any truffles that they have grown in the Pacific Northwest?" 

Conclusions

  • There really is no reason to invest in seedling hazelnut trees that will never commercially produce hazelnuts. Oregon has very fine truffles that have grown here in conjunction with local plants for probably thousands of years. If experimentation with Oregon Truffles fails, the property owner at least will be able to harvest the timber to recoup some of the investment.

  • The price for French Black Truffles was at $135 per pound during much of 2006. This is about the same price as Oregon Black Truffles.

Trufflezone advises anyone that is considering truffle propagation in their locale to use the most pungent local truffles in their experiments as these have adapted over the years to local conditions. 

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