Novel Black Truffle Ideas
Some novel ideas that will make your life as a black truffle farmer easier and more profitable.
The following technique is used to help your black truffle plantation start to produce black truffles earlier, reinforce the black truffle spore (mycelium) under ground and help your truffle trees produce more black truffles. It is usually applied once your trees have been planted for 5 - 7 yrs and the burns / brule have appeared. You water your trees with black truffles that have been dissolved in water. The idea is to dissolve a certain amount of black truffles in water, add that solution to your water storage tank and then irrigate your truffle trees with the mixture. Since I have never used this technique, I dont know how much truffles you would use to a certain amount of water, nor how often you would do this nor what time of year. Please check back periodically as I will make it a priority to find out the exact ratio and all the ins / outs. People swear by this technique but it can take a couple of years to see increased truffle yields.
There is another technique that people swear by. Since the black truffle harvesting season officially ends in Spain the 15th of March (beware the ides of March), many plantation owners stop collecting black truffles around mid February. They leave the last black truffles to ripen and rot underground. The black truffle spore will then impregnate the area with new black truffle spores. In the following years there will be more black truffles in that general area. One thing that I have failed to mention so far is how the truffle spore propagates or gets dispersed over large areas. Seeds from plants, trees, weeds and such are air borne dispersed, the truffle spore has no such advantage. Mushrooms will also disperse their spores wind ward bound. The only way a truffle spore can disperse itself is by being eaten by some rodent / critter and once passed thru its digestive track, be defecated some distance from where it was originally eaten. The black truffle spore is resistant enough to pass thru digestive tracks without suffering harm. If luck is on the truffle spores side, it will be defecated in an ideal spot where it can take hold and restart its life cycle. Unfortunately, this is the exception rather than the rule.
The old timers who used to collect black truffles in the wild used to carry a small sack of compost mixed with minced black truffles. When they removed a black truffle from the ground, they would add a small amount of this mixture to the hole in the ground where the black truffle was and then cover it up. They claimed that in the following years in the surrounding area there would be more black truffles. Some nurseries that sell certified black truffle trees now sell a similar compost. Its similar to the technique of stop harvesting the truffle towards mid February. The ripe black truffle will dissolve underground and leave the area it was in with an abundance of truffle spores to help reproduce more truffles the following years. It's a pity that these old timers are passing away because they have some incredible insight.
Some farmers dont start looking for black truffles on their farms until the 5th or 6th year after planting the trees. Even thou there might have been black truffles to be collected, if you leave the 1st truffles to rot underground, your farm will most likely produce more black truffles the following years. It’s a variation of the above techniques.
The following weed control technique might raise a few eyebrows but it is very effective, if done correctly. Talk to your local sheep herder if you have one in the neighborhood. Make sure they are sheep and not goats, cows or bulls. Dont use goats as they will eat everything - weeds, trees and even the plastic tree protectors. Cows weigh to much and moo alot. Bulls are completely out of the question. Sheep do not care for the taste of the holm oak and will leave them alone. Word of caution! I did find that the same didn't apply to the downy oak, they did munch the few that I have on the lower part of the land. How much damage that was done to the downy oaks is yet to be seen. Only time will tell.
I just had a herd of about 600 sheep on my black truffle farm and the experiment worked great with a few minor drawbacks. My land now looks as if its been freshly mowed. Once again, to avoid compacting the soil, make sure the top soil is relatively dry beforehand. After plowing my black truffle farm this year in Spring, the weeds grew back with a vengeance and I wasnt keen on paying for it to be re-plowed again. Weed whacking / strimming just wasn't really practical on 2.2 acres. If there is food on the ground for the sheep to munch on, they show very little interest in the saplings. More so, most of the saplings are still below the top of the protector this 1st yr. Once on your truffle farm, let the herd naturally spread out and let them do their stuff. Sheep eat an amazing amount of weeds in 3 or 4 hrs. Plus the dung left behind is an added plus. Make sure that the herder is with them at all times so when the weeds get scare they dont turn their attention to your truffle trees or they will start to chew on them.
When 1st entering thru the gate, the sheep have a tendency to group and stamped abit. Try to avoid this if possible if you have truffle trees planted near the entrance gate. Let them enter naturally. Try to get the herd to spread out as quickly as possible. The main problem I had was that the herders dogs kept on rounding the sheep up or stampeding them. Dogs will be dogs. Once settled in, the sheep grazed, they didnt show any interests in any of the truffle trees and did what they do best. I did have a couple of tree protectors moved when the dogs did their thing but I highly doubt any major damage was done to the truffle tree. The herder agreed to leave the unruly K - 9´s at home next time, problem solved. All in all, unless some more experienced truffle farmer can give me a good reason not to do this, I will be repeating this form of weed control in the future. Once the trees grow over the top of the protector or after you have removed the protectors, this type of weed control might not be ideal as the sheep might show interest in the truffle trees and start chewing on them. I will address that problem when I come to it. To top it off, the herder was so grateful to have a new pasture to graze his sheep in, hes promised me a free lamb for the Bar - B - Q.
4 Legged Automated Weed Eaters
If you live on your black truffle farm, you might consider buying some sheep and let them graze occasionally. When they are out grazing, they should always be under control so they dont turn their attention to your truffle trees. I wouldnt recommend the idea of letting them free roaming 24 / 7. I even contemplated the idea of buying a couple of miniature deer to let graze on my land. But since the deer would be able to jump my 1 meter high fence easily, I discarded it. You would need at least a 2 meter high fence to keep them in. Since I dont live on my truffle farm and only check on things once every week or two, free roaming sheep would be to much work to keep in control. Always remember to only let the sheep out when the top soil is pretty dry to avoid compacting the soil.
Heres an idea to further deter wild boar from trying to get into your black truffle farm. I havent tried it yet but I thought to spray the bottom of the fence with some long lasting, horrible smelling substance (non toxic of course). They sell nowadays imitation predator urine which I will be planning to use in the near future. All animals have a genetic panic button that says run when they come into contact with a carnivore or its scent. Wild boar are tenacious head strong critters. When they smell the black truffles, they will go to any lengths to get them. I continuously find new wild boar tracks around the outside of my fence where they circle my land looking for a way to get in. What interests them is the smell of the black truffle spore inoculation on the truffle tree roots. That is how sensitive the wild boars scent of smell is.
I plan on planting my 2.5 hectares (7 acres approx.) with black truffle trees from 2 different nurseries this year, alternating the truffle trees along the rows. The reason for this is to diversify the black truffle spore that the black truffle trees are inoculated with.
I dont have electricity on my truffle farm, so I will be looking into some type of renewable energy source in the not so distant future to run my irrigation system. As there are a lot of thefts on unattended farms nowadays, a portable generator to produce electricity might not be a good idea, as you would probably have to set it up, take it down and lug it home with you every time you needed it. They can be quite heavy. There are excellent gasoline powered water pumps to run your irrigation system on the market now and they might offer a simpler solution to this problem. They are also quite manageable and not too heavy.
Pros - A wind mill can produce more than enough renewable energy that you will need if you live in a windy area. Can be relatively inexpensive, low maintenance and can even be home made. There are a array of companies that can sell you what you need if you want to buy one. I dont think thieves would show too much interest in these.
Cons - No wind, no juice. Check with your local weather station, airport or see if a web page exists in your area to tell you if a wind mill is feasible in your area. There exists a web page here in Spain now that you punch in your latitude / longitude and it will tell you if your area qualifies for a wind mill. Also, if there is too much wind, a wind mill will shut down because of it producing too much electricity for its circuits to handle.
Pros - Technology has advanced and is advancing rapidly every year in this field. Panels usually come with a guarantee of 25 yrs for a certain output. Can be home made relatively cheaply or there is a wide range of products on the market. Contrary to popular belief, even on cloudy days they produce a lot of electricity. There have been thefts here in Spain of solar panels but basically they are stealing a white elephant. Something of value but very hard to resell.
Cons - If its too hot out or the sun is shining to hard, say at mid day, solar panels actually over heat and produce less electricity. An inventive guy in my town who has a 1 hectare solar panel farm, tried to cool his panels down by having water run over the frontal glass to lessen the loss of production. He set up a thermostat and a automated irrigation system to kick in when needed. The draw back was that our water has a high calcium content and when the system kicked in, the water boiled and covered his panels with a thin film of calcium. He then had the added chore of cleaning roughly 80 panels of the calcium film. He could have solved the problem of the calcium by adding a water filter system but he told me it wasnt cost effective. All in all, his idea was brilliant but unfortunately it didn’t work.
Lightening strikes are something people tend to forget when setting up pieces of metal in the middle of nowhere that tend to draw lightening in a thunderstorm. One lightening strike will fry all your electrical components so take it into consideration if contemplating either a wind mill or solar panels.
The above are just a few pointers to take into consideration if considering the renewable energy idea for your black truffle farm.