Growing Truffles not Trees

My name is John Triegh (pronounced Tree).   I have a small truffière comprising of 36 hazel nut trees and  14 oaks inoculated with Tuber melanosporum, black truffles.  I also have 60 pine nut trees inoculated with Tuber Borchii, both of which have been producing truffles for three years – the black truffle after seven (7) years and the white after four (4) years.

Looking after the developing trees has its own challenges – remembering of course – we are not growing trees but truffles BUT I can’t see a spindly structured tree is a good environment for growing healthy truffles.  Some things are beyond our control (frequently) the first being the inoculation process and second being the health of the seedlings.

Pruning is an area that we have control of – once the trees are established – because I have the different style of trees I’ll look at them separately starting with the easy one – Oaks – no problem uplifting when the lower branches become a nuisance when spraying, mowing, removing acorns and looking for truffles – it is easier on the trees to do this when the branches are small, cutting at a 90 degree angle.

Pinus Pinea is a little bit trickier and letting the branches get a bit bigger aids in keeping down the undergrowth but dogs doing like the prickliness so once the dogs are involved take out the nuisance branches.

Hazel nuts are the most awkward of all here (in the Waikato) suckers and new growth  can be 1-2 meters or more a year – if we were growing for hazel nuts the accepted method is to encourage 2 -4 healthy branches/stems, remove the other sucker growth at ground level – after 2 -3 years let 4 of the new suckers grow – and remove the old branches.  I am not growing for hazel nuts so I initially left five (5) main trunks to develop and removed all suckers growth in AUTUMN.  After two years there were 4 – 6 metres tall at this point I selected the strongest branch/trunks and pruned them back to 2 – 3 metres and removed completely any growth and continued pruning suckers back – this became a chore primarily because of the amount of branches I had to remove.  My next idea was to reduce the pruning back to 2 – 3 and I started spraying the sucker growth and removing new grous or old branches throughout the summer. I now have cut back all but one main branch/trunk and will allow all the suckers to grow and choose 1-2 next autumn to replace it.  If this all sounds a bit complicated it is but these have been MY choices on the aesthetics of the tree and important to ME.

There are several variations used by other growers, so feel free to experiment  – after all we are growing truffieres and not trees!

Written by John Treigh (Waikato)