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AVSTEP

ATGA Validated Seedling Tree Evaluation Program
The Australian Truffle Growers’ Association Inc. (ATGA)

Validated Seedling Tree Evaluation Program (AVSTEP)

For French Black Truffle (Tuber melanosporum) 

For a list of participating Nurseries, see below.

BACKGROUND
Not all nurseries and not all tree batches from any nursery will always provide well colonised truffle host-seedlings. Without evaluating the seedlings for truffle colonisation, prospective buyers will have a truffle-host tree orchard, but may not produce truffles. Until recently, prospective truffle producers purchasing oak or hazelnut tree seedlings, inoculated with the French black truffle (Tuber melanosporum), have not been able to have the trees independently evaluated prior to purchase. The advantage of such an evaluation is to providea level of confidence on the health of the trees, on the degree of truffle mycorrhizal colonisation on the roots and on the presence of truffle contaminants, such as less-desirable Tuber species, or other mycorrhizal fungi. In the past, if a truffle orchard was unproductive, it has been difficult to determine the most likely cause, as vital information may be missing, such as the quality of the seedlings and the quantity of Tuber colonisation on their roots at the time of planting.
In order to assist prospective truffle-inoculated tree buyers, the Australian Truffle Growers Association (ATGA) developed and implemented an Australia-wide testing program for truffle-inoculated tree seedlings. The program, specifically for inoculated seedlings raised for producing the French black truffle, is broadly based on a similar program that is well established in Spain, under a government initiative to support truffle growing. The Spanish evaluation process was specifically developed for Quercus ilex (holm or holly oak) and has been adapted in Australia across all species of host trees.
Under the auspices of AgriFutures Australia, the Association engaged in extensive consultation and research to examine the key issues relating to establishing such a program in Australia, and it was implemented in 2013. The program enables nurseries to take specific orders for the supply of inoculated seedlings that are to be accompanied by data collected and analysed through an independent evaluation process, and allows nurseries and prospective purchasers to have greater confidence in their product with respect to mycorrhization and general plant heath.
The program (AVSTEP) is open to all nurseries and is voluntary. Those nurseries participating in the program, are listed below.

Nurseries wishing to participate in the program can contact the Association at avstep@trufflegrowers.com.au or download and complete the forms below and return to avstep@trufflegrowers.com.au

HOW THE AVSTEP EVALUATION PROCESS IS IMPLEMENTED
Depending upon orders, a nursery will produce a “batch” of uniformly raised and treated seedlings ready for testing and evaluation. A uniform batch, of maybe 500 or more tree seedlings, will be produced on the same day, grown in the same glasshouse, produced from the same seed batch, using the same inoculum batch, inoculation procedure and growing medium. Once the seedlings are ready to be evaluated, an independent technician is engaged by ATGA to randomly select 12 seedlings from the batch using a strict sampling protocol. These selected representative sample seedlings are taken by the independent technician, labelled, packed and sent to an independent laboratory where the individual seedlings are evaluated, according to prescribed criteria, including:
• plant condition and quality – general health and root architecture of the seedlings,
• the number and percentage of roots colonised by Tuber melanosporum
• DNA verification of other Tuber mycorrhizae, specifically: T. indicum, T. aestivum, T. brumale, T. borchii and T. maculatum,
• other mycorrhizal fungi found will be noted, but may not be identified. 

The AVSTEP evaluation results are aggregated to provide an overall assessment of the batch of trees, presented for evaluation by the nursery. Once data are available, and the nursery operator is satisfied with the results of the batch, the Association allocates serially numbered labels for identification of all the seedlings remaining within the batch that has passed the evaluation process. Data on an evaluated batch can be obtained from the nursery, but can also be accessed through the Association. It is important to understand that the purchaser is acquiring tree seedlings derived from a batch that has been evaluated. The individually labelled trees they purchase are therefore not guaranteed by the nursery nor by the Association but they have been subjected to the AVSTEP process.

AVSTEP will inform truffle growers that for any AVSTEP labelled trees independent assessment information is available for inspection prior to purchase and a copy of this evaluation information should be a requirement of the purchase agreement between the purchaser and the nursery.

OF PARTICULAR IMPORTANCE
It is important that the prospective truffle tree purchasers understand that purchasing a labelled tree seedling from an evaluated batch under AVSTEP is not a guarantee that, once planted, the tree will produce truffles* as there are many aspects of truffle orchard management that affect truffle development and production. AVSTEP is verification that the batch containing the labelled tree seedling has been both independently, randomly sampled and evaluated, in accordance with the AVSTEP process and that the resultant data are available for the purchaser or their agronomist/consultant. Guidelines on interpretation of the data will be provided with the results, but prospective purchasers may wish to seek professional advice to ensure accurate interpretation of the report. Note that this program is to assist nursery seedling producers and truffle tree purchaser to gain knowledge about seedling batches and the evaluation process. The Australian Truffle Growers’ Association will not be responsible for the content of any evaluation results provided by the independent technician or testing laboratory. Furthermore, purchasers should be aware that once seedlings are planted, the new environment will exert a strong influence over the seedlings ongoing development, and survival of the truffle mycorrhizae. Proper site choice, preparation and maintenance of the plantation environment are critical to the ultimate success of a productive truffle orchard. Neither the program nor the Association certifies or provides a warranty for the nursery per se.

* As the evaluation procedure involves the complete destruction of the evaluated seedlings, a randomly selected sample from the same production “batch” has been evaluated, but the labelled trees remaining have NOT been evaluated. Accordingly, there remains a degree of statistical error, which is indicated by the level of confidence (confidence Index) in the test results. Purchasers of trees are advised to read their copy of the batch evaluation report and understand the results
.
Nurseries participating in the tree evaluation program to date are: 

Trufficulture Pty Ltd
PO Box 364, Gembrook, VIC
Phone: (03) 5968 1092

Pottinger Truffles Australia 
62 Kemp Road Pemberton WA  6260 
Phone: 0458 760 229 
contact:: Dave
To complete the nursery agreement 
download the PDF form here
NURSERY AGREEMENT
To view the final collection protocols download the PDF here
FINAL COLLECTION PROTOCOLS
To view the verification label information click here
AVSTEP VERIFICATION LABEL
LEGAL NOTICE: By accessing this webpage you understand, agree and undertake that your accessing or use of this website and any material, data or information on it and/or your participation in AVSTEP including any processes, services or materials (the “use or participation”) is made available and provided to you at your own risk. All materials, information, data and any service is provided to you “as is” and ATGA expressly disclaims to the maximum extent permitted at law all warranties of any kind, implied or express, including but not limited to the warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, and non-infringement arising in connection with the use or participation. By entering into, continuing or resuming the use or participation you agree to release and indemnify ATGA and its officers, employees, agents and others acting under its control from and against all claims and liability in relation to AVSTEP. In no event shall ATGA be liable to any person for any loss or damage suffered, directly or indirectly, as a result of the use of this webpage or any AVSTEP process, service or material.