An outreach tool for Jeanine Davis in the Department of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University to share information from her agricultural research and extension programs on organic farming, medicinal herbs, hops, truffles, and other alternative crops.
Our truffle growers rely on research and production information from Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. But conditions in the Southeastern US are quite different from those other production areas. Our truffle growers have access to relatively scant region appropriate research and experience.
The growers identified several research needs that we are trying to address with this project. They want a reliable, practical, and cost effective method to test established orchards for the presence of the particular truffle they want to produce. They would like this verified by an impartial third party. And without this information, a grower could spend many years caring for an orchard that will never produce.
The objectives of our project are to determine if Tuber melanosporum is present in the soil. To look for the presence of other fungi and truffles. To determine if we can reliably use microscopic analysis once DNA analysis has confirmed identification. If microscopic analysis is reliable, we will teach growers how to do it.
We collected samples from seven orchards in late fall and early winter. Two of the orchards have produced truffles. Four of the orchards are expected to produce soon. And one was a newly planted orchard.
The roots were separated from the soil and observed under magnification, evaluated for a variety of characteristics, and photographed.
An example of filbert roots under magnification.
DNA analysis is now being conducted.
The area close to the trees where little vegetation is growing is known as brule and indicates that the truffle mycorrhizae have colonized the area.
Field days are held in the truffle orchard to teach people about the truffle industry, our industry, and the challenges and opportunities for growing truffles in North Carolina.
One of the filbert truffle orchards at the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville, NC in late April.
We have two filbert truffle orchards at the research station. The one on the left was planted in 2010 and the one on the right was planted in 2013.
Drip-irrigation tubing runs along both sides of the tree row.
If the truffle mycorrhizae is present and becomes well-established, a "brule" appears around the base of the tree. The truffles release volatile compounds that act like natural herbicides. So the brule is a bare area that develops under the trees. This is a good sign that you actually have truffles growing there!