Black Truffle Land Preparation
A bull dozer with spikes on the back is absolutely imperative in preparing the land for planting about a year before actually planting your black truffle trees. The spikes should be about a 1 meter long, which is basically the standard. The main reason is to break up the compacted sub soil that repeated plowing has created. It also aerates the soil. Make sure the bulldozer crisscrosses, plows 1st one way, then cross ways. This is also one of the most important steps in preparing a black truffle farm / plantation, dont let any one tell you different. Once the bulldozer has finished its work, let the land stand for 6 - 8 weeks as is, before plowing. If it rains during that time, all the better. If you will be fencing your land, make sure that the bulldozer spikes the perimeter of the land to be fenced. The spiked / loosened soil makes digging / hammering the fence posts into the ground a lot easier.
Its always a good idea to plant barley, wheat or malt for a year or 2 on the land of the proposed black truffle farm before planting your trees. This helps to clean the soil of competing micro organisms. There are many trees that harbor competing micro organisms. You have to know which you have in your area. Sometimes these trees cant be removed for whatever reason, so you have to have a counter plan. People wont be too fond of you if you take the liberty in cutting down a neighbors tree that might be affecting you. Usually digging a trench with a back hoe about one meter deep is sufficient to isolate the offending tree. Other people use a pipe laying digger. This looks like a giant chain saw but you cut into the land to a depth of about 1 meter. Your objective here is to have it cut the roots of the offending culprits. Do a couple of cuts into the soil near the offending tree or trees parallel to each other. This should be done if possible before you have the bulldozer spike your land. People usually try to leave a 10 meter wide gap between any offending trees and their black truffle trees.
You will need to fence the land as wild boar love black truffles as do the 2 legged truffle stealing mid night poachers. Wild boar can smell the truffle spore inoculation on the roots of the trees and will rip them up. Fresh saplings are no match to withstand an onslaught by determined wild boars. In most parts of Spain, they will only fence the land once the trees start to produce black truffles but in the province of Huesca, Spain you fence the land before you plant you truffle trees. It seems that the wild boar population here surpasses the human population. Find out what type of fence the other black truffle farmers are using. Avoid chain link fencing as the wild boar makes mince meat of it in seconds. You will be installing a gate to access your farm, leave enough room that tractors and such can maneuver with out a problem. I ran barbed wire along the bottom of the fence to further deter boars sticking their snouts under the fence to try to lift it up. The barbed wire is held in place by plastic tie downs. The best solution to stop boars from digging under the fence is if you can cement the bottom of the fence into the ground. Or take a metal rebar, bend 1 end like a candy cane, hook that onto the bottom of the fence and then cement the other end into the ground.
Fencing & Barbed Wire Along Bottom
The black truffle prefers a high alkaline soil Ph 7.0 - 8.5. Rocky, low clay content, some sand doesnt hurt, well establish decomposed organic material and well draining. A very important factor that you must take into consideration, is that water doesnt accumulate or stand on your land after it rains. This will eventually drown the black truffle spore if it does. Trees and plants need to go thru wet and dry cycles. Your land should not have an inclination of more than 5º - 7º roughly. To see if your soil or land qualifies initially, there are some simple test you can do. Take sulfuric acid or similar and pour/spray a small amount on the ground where you want to establish the farm. If there is a reaction and the acid boils / foams, so far so good. The reaction when acid mixes with alkaloids is foam basically. Do this in a number of different areas of the proposed farm. Take care, a small amount of acid goes a long way, you dont need to be throwing gallons of the stuff around. A word of caution: Acid burns your skin and eyes. Have fresh water available as accidents do happen. If you’re the clumsy type, rubber gloves might be a cheap and good investment. Another home made test consists of distilled water and ph testing strips. In a clean plastic container add some distilled water and about 10 grams of soil. Take care not to stir with your fingers as the acidity of your skin might change the results. Swirling the container is usually enough to dissolve the soil. Wait about ten minutes and add the ph strip for the specified time listed on the instructions. Compare to its color code and get the results. Even thou this procedure is very rudimentary, it can be very informative indicating what your soil ph balance is.
Do this in various locations on your land. If all indications are good, you will need to take a soil sample and have it analyzed in a proper laboratory that does soil samples, per their instructions. High Ph soil can impede root absorption of certain trace elements, so a foliar analisys is recommended once the trees are 4 - 6 yrs old. But, if you see that in certain areas of the black truffle farm, some trees seem to be doing poorly, look scraggy or have poor health, by all means do a foliar analysis even thou the trees are young. A soil analisys will tell you what condition and type of soil you have a but a foliar analisys will tell you if a tree is receiving or not the nutrients that are imperitive for its proper growth. Ideal soil Ph is said to be around 7.9 for a black truffle farm. But if you are in the 7.0 to 8.5 range, dont fret about it. One thing to mention is that the higher the Ph of the soil, up to 8.5, is that you have less competing micro organisms trying to hijack your host tree roots. Its sort of a under ground invisible guerrilla germ warfare to see who dominates the tree roots. Hopefully, the resistant Tuber Melanosporum spore is the conquerer or at least the dominanting force under ground. All types of soil preparation is possible to qualify your land for a successful black truffle farm.
In the wild, the black truffle is usually found starting around 500 meters above sea level ( asl ) to about 1,500 asl and well inland from the sea or ocean. But, there is alot of debate about what the ideal altitude is for a black truffle farm. I have been on a black truffle farm just south of Barcelona, in plain view of the Mediterranean sea at about 100 meters asl. When I was there some years ago, it wasnt producing any truffles yet but the burns were well established and looked promising. It had been planted 5 years previously, with no irrigation system. There is alot debate about if sea or salt spray in the air has a negative effect on a black truffle plantation. In some parts of Australia and region, they have established black truffle farms just 10 meters or so asl which are producing black truffles just fine.
Marking off the land
You should know before hand how many trees you will be planting. Calculate 250 - 400 trees per hectare ( 2.2 Acres approx. ) depending on the shape of your land. Take into consideration which direction of the compass your land is orientated and plan your rows according to its orientation. Alway try for a Southern orientation in the Northern hemisphere. Get someone who has experience in helping you is good advice because your rows will be nice and straight. Its not as easy as it looks. As you can see by the photos my rows are pretty straight even thou it was the 1st time I ever attempted it. Its a rather complicated procedure to explain here in short. You mark the land with wooden stakes that you later attach the tree protector to.