The latest Farm Biosecurity newsletter from the Farm Biosecurity Program (which is a joint initiative of Animal Health Australia (AHA) and Plant Health Australia (PHA)) is online here now.
Of interest to Truffle Growers is the final video in the Program’s ‘Biosecurity Essentials’ series. It’s called Biosecurity practice helps make production perfect
and it features friend of the ATGA Alison Saunders (our contact at RIRDC for many years) and a Hilltops NSW premium quality walnut and chestnut producer. Alison was a speaker at our 2013 Mittagong Conference and AGM.
The video provides a valuable insight into the type of activities you can do, every day, within the structure of your daily farm management routines to enhance biosecurity. If you’re into videos, remember the FarmBiosecurity YouTube Channel . It features lots of people with Akubras who know their stuff.
The latest (Edition 6 – 19 August 2016) newsletter from Plant Health Australia is available online here.
This marks the release of the latest version of the National Plant Biosecurity Status Report by Plant Health Australia (PHA), detailing the pests of concern to plant industries and the environment, as well as the entire system that works to combat them. You’ll find the report here online, in small PDF chapters or as a single large PDF here (9.5Mb) .
Where to start?
A little over 12 months ago my dog Silhouette Luca (an Australian Koolie) and I joined a K9 Nose Works class. Luca had developed reactiveness to some other dog breeds and could be quite anxious thanks to a scare he got from a huge thunderstorm. Nose Works gave us the opportunity to work alone with no other dogs.
I remember sitting in our first class watching K9 nose Works trainer Angela’s, presentations and when she asked if any one has any questions I popped up saying how does one find truffles? Yep the class all laughed!
Luca loved this sniffy game and with each class his confidence grew and he was slow and very methodical, most of the other Koolies were fast and furious.
We moved on from scenting Birch to Anise and finally in level 3 class we added Clove oil. We attended a ‘scent trial’ with ‘Scent Games Australia’ and it was a big experience for him and I.
It was about this time my truffle dream popped back into my head and I went off and did a seminar on growing Hazelnuts and Oak trees for truffle production with the Noel Fitzpatrick and Colin Carter. The dream was ignited again. I also went on a ‘Truffle Tour’ where I took Kyra (as Luca is ‘entire‘ that counted him out) where we visited a lovely winery or 3, watched a Lagotto Romagnolo and its handler demonstrate how his dog finds truffle (they pre buried a truffle into the ground an hour or so before we all arrived for this demonstration) and then had a 3 course meal with truffles, of course.
I did lots of reading and bought some ‘fake’ truffle product from France called Canitruff as the truffle dogs in Europe seemed to be trained on this. It was also coming into Truffle season and I contacted many truffle growers seeking a truffle for me and some for my dog (yep all but one thought I was nuts after they asked what breed of dog I had and were was my truffière?).
The truffle has a very short shelf life and the season is June to August, roughly, in Australia. My truffle arrived and I feed some mates (this has been a yearly ritual for me for a decade).
I sliced up some truffle and started to introduce it to Luca, back to basics I learned in K9 Nose Works! Over time Luca would find the scent over the yard, in trees, inside in all the places I hid it.
Stepping up our training I contacted our Koolie breeder (thanks to Silhouette) and asked if they had any dirt I could play in and spent many weekends driving four hours from home and scenting all over the place with truffle scent.
Through a friend I managed to make contact with a grower an hour away from Canberra. They were more than happy for me to come up and they would do a mock up truffle hunt in the orchard.
You need to understand a couple of huge barriers at this point.
1) Growers do not let people and dogs onto their farms for a multitude of reasons. Most have dogs, there’s the fear of introducing biological contaminants and, it’s a fledgling industry covered in secrecy (tighter than the FBI).
2) It looked like Lagotto Romagnolo were the ‘dog’ of choice.
3) Did I tell you when you say you have a Koolie (they all said “what is that?”) and when I add I don’t own a farm and want to test my training…. they think you’re nuts!
4) Farmers with truffle dogs help other farmers without dogs!
Many emails later and lengthy conversations, plus my friend’s hard work (unknown to me) in the background I get an email offering me and the dogs access to their Southern Tablelands truffière at Bredbo, NSW.
The 2nd of July sees Luca and Kyra compete in the first Victorian K9 Nose Works Odour Recognition Trials (ORTs). I, yes I, failed them! My nerves got to me and we didn’t pass as I called it too early with both dogs – I was shattered with myself.
3rd July we left for Canberra with doubt all in my head after I so messed up the ORTrials!
On the 4th July (AKA Koolie Independence Day) we drive 1.5 hours from Canberra to the truffière. Minus 1.5 degrees at 10.30am, heavy fog and ice everywhere, but no rain. I meet the owners, we chat and were offered coffee and headed to truffière with coffee and dogs in hand.
There was no guarantee there would be any ready truffles as the Lagotto’s had been over it the day before.
I was asked what dog did I wish to start with and said Luca. Coffee still in hand and Luca’s leash in the other off we go. (Silhouette Kyra is also on the scent however, not to the level of Luca).
There are a variety of trees 25+ in long rows (I think) and I don’t know how many rows all up. The first row Luca picks up a scent and heads to the tree. I am told ‘yep we pulled one out of their yesterday’. He does this another 3 times (by this time truffier Barbara can see he has sound ability) 4-5 rows in he is on scent again. This time Barb didn’t say ‘oh we pulled one out of there yesterday’, Barb coached me ‘let him smell, there is something there see him sniffing’ Luca looks at me (his signal to me he has found the scent) and I know he has something!
Barb said, ‘Ok time to dig, don’t move him away’ as Luca starts to lightly paw the ground. Both humans put human noses to ground to smell for the truffle and start to move the loose top covering of soil, Luca drops onto his belly and shoves his nose through 4 digging hands and Barb says ‘dig where his nose is’ and she lets me dig.
At the tip of Luca’s nose, I see what could be (remember I have only seen them cleaned up and ready to eat – not insitu) the very tip of a truffle, he had shown us exactly where the truffle was growing.
Barb produces her speciality ‘digging up truffle tool’ and hands it to me saying this may be easier than your fingers, I take the dessert spoon (yep a dessert spoon) from her and scratch ever so gently around the edge, scared as hell I may damage the truffle. I lay it down and resume using my fingers until a huge truffle is exposed and soon in my hands,
free from the ground.
It’s at this point I forget everything in the exhilaration of what has happened! Thankfully Barb brings me out of this and says ‘let him smell it and treat him’! This reward went on for some time and then Luca started licking my face in favour of chicken treats, Barb said ‘let him, he did this for you, you are his reward, he did this for you let him lick you all he likes’
Luca found an 85gm (uncleaned weight) truffle and as far as I know made history as the first Australian Koolie in the world to do such.
Luca and I hope you enjoyed our adventures, and it also reinforces and proves the diversity of the Australian Koolie breed. Anything is possible! Dream BIG
Karyn is an Associate Member of the ATGA (it costs just $200 a year to join) and she has said that she’s happy to help new growers who are just testing their maturing truffle paddocks to give her dogs more practice. Members will see from her story that there a lots of things that the ATGA do, which could have helped her learning process and taken away some of those ‘secrecy’ concerns.
We will update this list over the next few weeks. There’s the usual warning. The ATGA cannot verify these individuals and companies, so you will need to do your own due diligence.
Dear Association , we are The House of Fine Foods Ltd Hong Kong, we would be very interesting have your products for our market in Hong Kong and Macau where we do have a sister company The House of Caviar. We are already well established on our market as we are operating since 20 years, and be one of a leader in fine foods importer & distributor. under our clients portfolio we have restaurants, supermarket, hotels, we do already sell quite an amount of Italian,French fresh truffle now we are would like expand our offer into a Australian truffle. As I did try make a research but came out not so much, you might have some supplier (small or big ) we don’t mind, that would like start this cooperation. Looking forward your kindly reply, Best Mauro Pusterla
Can you connect me with a truffle exporter in Australia, I know the perigord season has just started over there , I am interested in importing direct from the farms to the USA . You can also reach me at 305-764-1495. Thanks, Jeff.
I am writing to follow up on our phone conversation earlier this morning.
As we discussed, we are one of Australia’s largest importers, distributors and retailers of truffles and fresh mushrooms.
We service most of NSW’s high end restaurants and hotels, and also have distribution in Victoria, Queensland & WA. We have a market for both the highest grade, as well as the lower grades.
Our retail store in Darling Point (Gourmet Life) is one of only a few locations in the country!!, where consumers can have the full truffle experience, with a wide selection available for them to smell and select for themselves. We pride ourselves on being the only store in the country for offering this service throughout the year.
During the northern hemisphere season, we offer Italian & Croatian White and French & Spanish Black, and in the winter we source a large number of truffles from primarily Tasmania and WA.
While we have had limited access to NSW truffles over the last few years, we are keen to source many more from the finest producers in NSW and even Victoria.
I am hoping that you can assist us in finding trufferies across the state who are looking for access to the premium market and have their product displayed in our store. We are very keen to work with these boutique producers to promote their product, and ensure the local truffle industry remains strong.
So how do you find out?
While we’ve advanced our knowledge of much of the cycle of truffle production, how much to water and when to add it remains maddeningly untested.
Ian Hall et al in their book Taming the Truffle which has been regularly reprinted since its publication in 2007 and which has set many of the ‘growing’ ground rules both here and in New Zealand, say …
One might have thought that our lack of knowledge of what triggers the fruiting of edible ectomycorrihizal mushrooms and the factors controlling the size of harvest would have spawned a rash of field-based research, at least for the species that can be cultivated. However, publications on this topic are rare, so it remains a fertile area of research for someone with 20 years to spare – and the research funding to go with it. Hopefully, with irrigation becoming more popular in European truffières based on some spectacular experimental results and with irrigation being almost mandatory in the drier parts of of Australia and New Zealand, more reliable information on how much water should be applied and when will become available over the next decade.
Sorry Ian, but ten years on we still haven’t done more than confirm that we need to make sure the trees are watered in spring and summer when the truffles are forming. The Truffle and Wine Company in WA shared their extensive experiments in watering, driven by the concern that they were causing truffle rot by over watering (Harry Eslick author 2012 RIRDC report PDF). Their yields were mostly reporting the quantity of unusable truffle. I’m sure they are keeping on going data. Many individual growers have been keeping records for their own use, but the idea of sharing those or taking part in wide field-based research, for whatever reasons hasn’t happened.
What could this research be like?
Perhaps it starts with something like this.
Before the 2015 Conference in Queanbeyan, Wayne Haslam approached MEA (Measurement Engineering Australia) an Adelaide-based company, to demonstrate their soil moisture monitoring products at the field day. There’s a video of Sonia van Wegen’s presentation “Getting truffle irrigation right” in the media page from the 2015 Conference.
In a generous contribution to the ATGA members and to further the industry knowledge, MEA agreed to leave the sensors at Blue Frog Truffles for a year, and Wayne Haslam agreed to make the web interface open to members, so they could see in real time what soil moisture and soil temperature was like for the Sutton truffière. Details of how to access that data on the Green Brain website is here.
Wayne explains the method used and the feedback that he’s been getting (and after winter, he’ll share the details of any production increases based on the changed watering regime.)
“On the Greenbrain, the irrigation applied is shown in green lines as mm and the blue lines are rainfall in mm. I have been entering both of these. You can also alter period of the graph shown by going to the green stripe on the right hand menu and adjusting the duration shown. You see more of a pattern with longer periods (options are 1, 3 and 6 months).
As well as the remote probes, there is also a Gdot placed at 200mm depth in the gully, which shows 7 yellow dots for the wettest condition (soil suction <10Kpa) and one yellow dot (soil suction 60-100Kpa) This is visual and I usually don’t water until the Gdot gets down to two dots (soil suction 20-40Kpa).
(Wayne explains the Gdot operation in the video below).
I have no idea what is the ideal moisture content for mycelium, and everyone I have asked doesn’t seem to know, and I realise the best moisture content will vary with the soil type. That is why there are two probes in the Back Block section, with the North probe one being in gravelly light clay and the South probe in light sandy loam. If you do a screen print of each and compare them you will see the difference. They are over 20 metres apart across the soil change boundary.
I irrigate at night and can only do 2 stations over 8 hours and I have 8 stations, so that’s 4 day cycles at the driest time. Electricity is expensive (off peak rates cheaper at night) and I don’t want to over water. I know from last year’s experience that I didn’t irrigate nearly enough (given the poor truffle result and their depth) and this year the climate has been similarly dry and I have watered a lot, but still left it a little on the dry side, I think. Experience in WA showed huge rot levels resulting form over watering, as you probably know. I water the Back Block 10mm per session as there is more runoff and the trees are bigger and the Gully at 7.5mm due to smaller trees and the contour structure holds the moisture better.
Finally the 100 mm temperatures are interesting (just click on the temperature) and you can see that on the three probes, 2 in the Back Block and 1 in the Gully. It is now dropping on all the sites with daily fluctuations of 5 degrees, summer had a daily temperature up to 26C. The end of April usually sees a marked weather change so we can expect colder weather from here on.”
(In an update on the 12 of June, Wayne reported “Ground temperatures at Blue Frog Truffles down to less than 5 degrees over night! Maybe winter is here?”)
Background on watering
Water and the wild truffle
As we’ve moved to farmed production of truffles, we brought along the knowledge of how truffles (especially black) grow in the wild in the Mediterranean Basin regions of Italy, France and Spain. That has, until now, dictated where we’ve chosen to plant in Australia. Regions with warm summers with late spring and autumn rain (or irrigation) and cold winters. In Europe areas with summer thunderstorms also seemed productive.
In recent years, when spring and summers were hot and dry, and where the soil dried up to 20 cm deep, (which is where they find truffle in deep open soils), wild truffle production almost ceased. Areas however that had summer rain had only a slightly reduced output of truffle production. This has been a pattern that has continued up to the last winter season 2015-16 when in Spain, wild truffle was not available in commercial quantities and their harvesting period was shortened dramatically. It is clearly the lack of water, as irrigated truffiéres in the same regions who were watering to 30 cm deep (mostly because their re-innoculating trenches and ‘wells’ were at that depth), produced good crops.
The Spanish experience - translated for Australia
With thanks to Marcos Morcillo’s trufflefarming blog
The truffle is a fungus suited to low water conditions, as shown by its tolerance to dry spells. In the summer in can tolerate 25-28 days without rain, depending on the soil type. Poor soil that is dry and porous facilitates the development of the long, branching roots beneficial to truffles. This water stress, in turn, promotes the production of lignins and tannins, which can be used later by the truffle mycelium.
A comparison of the statistics of precipitation and truffle production shows there to be a correlation between good production and precipitation rates of the order of 150 millimetres between January and February. They also show that each stage of the truffle’s development has its own water needs:
In the Southern hemisphere, between November and December, irrigation to maintain the soil’s water reserves is only necessary if the winter has been very dry. Too much rain in this period seems harmful to the formation of truffle primordia. Some studies note that a few dry weeks at the end of November are beneficial.
January seems to be the most sensitive month, both in terms of absence and excess of water. If the soil is already damp, a mulch may be sufficient.Water requirements in February do not appear to be decisive in limiting truffle growth. A month of February without rain, and even up to the middle of March does not seem to be harmful. If it rains in January mulching may be sufficient. Conversely, abundant watering (30-50 millimetres) is necessary after a dry January.
From mid- March to mid-April statistics show irrigation to be indispensable if it has not rained. In this period there do not appear to be any problems due to excess water, so irrigation of 25-50 millimetres every 10-20 days would be suitable.
As of mid-April excess water does seems to affect the production of truffles. An excessively dry autumn may also delay the start of the season and result in a mediocre gathering season.
In a recent study of our own, we quantified the mycelium of black truffle with molecular techniques. Measured at 40cm and 100cm out from the tree trunk, we found that at 40cm the quantity of mycelium was 8 mg/g of soil, but at 1 meter is was reduced 1000 times to 0.008 mg/g!
Marcos also has some suggestion for irrigation systems in the early years – see the full post here.
Trees balance shoot and root growth with hormones
Auxins (plant hormones) produced in the twig’s terminal buds stimulate root growth. Gibberellins (plant hormones) produced in the root tip stimulate canopy growth.
The tree balances root growth versus canopy growth by these hormones.
Soil factors that limit root growth will in turn influence canopy growth.
Storm damage or excessive pruning may reduce auxins, slowing root growth. Following storm damage, trees often put on heavy growth of water sprouts due to a low auxins/high gibberellins ratio (coupled with unobserved, limited root growth). This is followed by a decline in the canopy caused by the reduced root growth.
Author: David Whiting Colorado State University Extension
Feedback from other growers. Colin Carter has installed an MEA system and will be taking part in monitoring data collection. Timeless Hill Estate in WA has an installation as well. Andres Haas (Black Cat Truffles) also shared this comment.
I bought one of the Gdot systems as an easy reckoner after seeing it in action on your truffière. It has been of some use, but marginal. It was quite a dry summer in Vic and after watering for 90 mins it would register 1 or 2 dots most of the time. This would go down to 0 dots over 5 days and I would water a day later. As the summer extended, it was drier still and no dots showed even after watering. It would be great if it was more sensitive still.
Thinking that it wasn’t working, I poured water on the sensor spot – cranked right up very quickly.
FYI – top of sensor block buried at around 10cm, 30cm in from sprinkler radius. 45 l/ph sprinklers, tabs still on. We can’t water much more than that.
A seal of approval from Marcos Morcillo
Hi Wayne and Fred,
Apologize for the delay, I just wanted to have enough time to see it calmly.
Thanks a lot Wayne for sharing me your link for your data loggers. We have been using them for some researches here but not really on commercial orchards. They give lots of good information on how effective waterings and rains are, how deep they arrive, so to manage “watering windows” more efficiently, depending on how deep you want your truffles to fruit.
The correlation of all these data during different seasons, in different areas with different soil textures and finally yields will show amazing new information.
I remember Wayne you send me a few years ago lots of data of your 2 different blocks, that I will recheck again, where I´ve seen you put a sensor in each one.
I do think this should be the future, not just eye observation a few days after each irrigation…
Marcos Morcillo Serra
Director – Micologia Forestal & Aplicada
Note the taproot. Only oaks grown from seed/acorn will develop a tap root.
The Victorian Truffles Special Interest group came from a list of Victorian growers collected at an ATGA conference where growers expressed interest in being part of a group that met regularly, but many didn’t want to join the Association (which at the time might have been less attractive as we had a sliding scale of membership based on your tree numbers).
So we set up a mailing list on the Association server and Andres Haas has managed it since.
It’s a list of 67 names, some of whom are current ATGA members (for comparison there are 78 members in Victoria at this time, and 60 of those whose member ship has expired. Hint Hint). A current ATGA representative always gives a report on the work of the Association, for this meeting it was President Peter Stahle.
It’s a ‘special’ group for lots of reasons and the get-togethers have a warmth and sharing of information that I know the other States envy, and a lot of it is driven by convenors Sue Daly and Andres and Lynette Haas of Black Cat Truffles. They try and meet in a different truffière location each time and the hosts share their property with a tour of the paddock and facilities. After the meeting and sharing of current problems, ideas and yields or hoped for there’s always a BYO lunch break, and plenty of time to talk with other growers. The meeting minutes are shared with the group by email.
We’ve had a couple of meeting reports in past newsletters and there’s a video of the May 2015 visit to Noel Fitzpatrick’s Jumbunna truffiere in Gippsland here (YouTube) 3 mins approx.
Sunday June 5 the meeting was at Jenny and Mike McAuley’s Red Hill Truffles. When we arrived the hill was surrounded in mist and enough rain to make it dreary. Inside the attractive visitors centre it was warm and the meeting was a lively discussion of the growers expectations for the season, a frank sharing of prices they were getting last year and the issues of dealing with dealers, local and from WA. Nigel Wood outlined the Truffle Melbourne program which this year will be held at the Prahran Market on 18-19 of June and at Red Hill on 16-17 July. The rain stopped, and after lunch we walked through the trees and Thomas marked a few that on careful uncovering consensus said ‘wait a bit’, next week Jenny had orders so was leaving them in the ground till then.
One tip that was shared, was how in Tasmania, Tamar Valley (who harvest a lot) keep their truffles refrigerated in a box of soil from the truffière until they can wash and grade them. This preserves the aroma (and some said they reckoned it was enhanced when they tried it) but as we know, keeping a truffle in a jar always has a concentration of the smell when opened.
Andres shared another tip that works when you’re selling direct at a market for example where the truffles are being examined and uncovered all the time. He grates a small amount of truffle into a jar and when the jaded customer says ‘they don’t have much smell’ whips out the jar to assault their membranes. Works every time he reckons.
After lunch when the rain had stopped, Jenny (and truffle dog Thomas) lead us through the truffière
A section of the extensive new plantings, aestivum, borchii and more melansporum
You can join the VTSIG group by emailing Andres.
The long title of the lecture that this video records is ‘New findings on the life cycle of black truffle and their relevance in the management of plantations’. And if you felt you were missing the research behind the earlier videos on the site, if you listen carefully to Dr. Xavier Parladé from the IRTA you’ll get the overview of the current science that Micofora’s Marcos Morcillo calls ‘disruptive’. It covers DNA, mating types, mycelium testing as an indicator of truffle growth, what research is next, and a short summary of how to apply the current research in practice.
Dr. Parladé has shared this presentation with the Association members and the following is one of the slides from his summary. Of the management practices suggested to recover infertile patches in the truffière, only the first two are viable, although there have been some successful Italian experiments in creating trees with one mating type. Adding truffle back to the paddock comes with that proviso ‘Not low quality sporocarps*!’
Returning less than perfect truffle spores back to the soil will only perpetuate the problems of large, misshapen, low quality truffle.
*That’s the term for the fruiting body, the truffle.
Another video (12 mins) from the Barcelona Truffle Tour, about another buyer we visited , Conservas Coll from just outside Barcelona.
As we arrived there was a local truffle hunter selling his plastic shopping bag of wild truffle, 200 grams with dirt on, and he was paid EUR 300. This lead nicely into a discussion of grading the various varieties, often melanosporum, aestivum and brumale (there’s a lot of brumale) and the prices they get. Marcos says that the year on year average price is EUR 420, that’s $650 a kilo. The charts in the recent Laumont post show that the price can rise to EUR 650 ($1000 AUD) with seasonal demand. We then walked to a nearby wild area where truffles had been found up to two years ago but no longer (in spite of expanding brûlés).
- May 2018 newsletter
- A time for reflection
- How hot?
- 2017 ATGA Members Pests and Diseases Roadshow
- June Newsletter online
- NSW ATGA Members Grading workshop
- Great Southern Truffles Services for 2017
- Plant Health Australia Photo Competition
- Shock for importer of Tuber magnatum into Western Australia.
- Conference highlights – a captain’s pick