The prestigious and exclusive Italian white truffle will now be permitted to be produced in France - farmed under controlled conditions - in an agriculture innovation that has been dubbed “a world first”.
Until now, the prized tubers - full name Tuber magnatum Pico - have usually been picked in “wild” conditions in Italy; and truffles grown in France have been limited to the black and Bourgogne varieties.
White truffles can cost five times as much as their black truffle equivalents, currently selling at between €1,500-€5,000 per kilo, versus €500-€1,000 per kilo for the black variety.
The official decision to allow farming of the white truffles in France comes after a successful two-year trial in which several of the truffles were grown at a plantation in the southwest of the country.
They were grown after several “mycorrhizal” trees were planted at the site. These trees carry the mycelium of the fungus on their roots, allowing the truffles to grow. The success of the farm now means that the “Italian” truffles can now be produced in a controlled manner in France, farmers say.
White truffles are normally found in Italy and central Europe, but - in contrast to black truffles - have rarely been farmed, adding to their rarity and ensuing demand.
The innovation has been spearheaded by French truffle and mushroom specialists Robin nurseries, in partnership with agriculture research institute, l’Institut national de recherche pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et l’environnement (Inrae).
Bruno Robin, president of Robin nurseries, said at a press conference this week: “This is the first time that the Tuber magnatum have been picked in a farm outside of the [usual] geographic origin of this truffle.”
Claude Murat, research director at Inrae, said that a study published in the journal Mycorrhiza “shows that farming of white truffle is possible”.
#OurNewPaper in #Mycorrhiza— UMR IAM (@UMR_IAM) February 16, 2021
First production of Italian white #Truffle (Tuber magnatum Pico) ascocarps in an orchard outside its natural range distribution in Francehttps://t.co/A84VuBW6JU@ClaudeMurat07 @c54_b @BeaccoPauline @FloraTodesco pic.twitter.com/BV75K5udH3
Michel Tournayre, president of French truffle growers’ group la Fédération française des trufficulteurs said: “This is a big step forward for us. It gives a wider perspective on the development of truffle growing in France.”
Robin now hopes to sell “several thousand” of the tree plants, which can - if planted and cared for correctly - produce white truffles in the coming years.
France currently produces around 30 tonnes of truffles per year.
Joël Giraud, junior minister for rural affairs and former MP in the Hautes-Alpes, said that the farming innovation was “quite extraordinary, and could even save the truffle, which is threatened by global warming”.