At the start of this year I visited France to see first hand what is happening on the truffle scene. Leaving the hottest weeks of summer behind I went into the middle of winter and truffle harvest season. In Cahors I met with a truffle consultant to the French government. Then onto Bordeaux where I met with the owner and manager of Agri Truffe, one of the largest growers of truffle infected seedlings, and also growing truffles in his own right.
A handful of my observations:
Cultivate! – This was evident when all the truffles I saw growing in the wild were on roots of trees that had reached soil that had been cultivated (next to vine rows, grass crop and where young trees had been planted under the older trees).
Watering varies largely – There were a large variety of answers to this question. As already suspecting you need to observe and touch the soil to gage when and how much to water. Remember you are watering the truffle not the tree (once you are past the initial establishing of your truffle site).
Let there be light – Though every site I visited varied on pruning techniques (or lack of) and the distances between planting they all had one thing in common. This was that all the set ups allowed a lot of light to penetrate the base of each tree. You need to choose what method suits the way you want to manage your husbandry in the future that also allows for an environment suited for truffle growth.
Dogs to suit – Again there was a lot of variation in the type of dog I saw for harvest as well as techniques. There were labs, langottos, spaniels and cocktails of breeds that I saw all doing a great job in finding the black gold. Some of the handlers use harnesses on their dogs but the majority I saw worked their dogs off the lead. Being that you are half the team it makes sense that you use a dog you like to work with and using a technique the way you and your dog like to work, as it seems a variety of methods work successfully.
Share and learn – I was lucky enough to have contacts that were happy to share there experiences, failures and successes and of course their knowledge when it came to the discussions of truffles and showing me their own sites. They all believe that this is what needs to continue (and has lacked in the past leading to the decrease of production in France) to ensure the success of truffles and furthering the understanding of how to successfully cultivate the black gold.