, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 373-380
Date: 15 Jan 2013

Using common mycorrhizal networks for controlled inoculation of Quercus spp. with Tuber melanosporum: the nurse plant method

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Abstract

The high cost and restricted availability of black truffle spore inoculum for controlled mycorrhiza formation of host trees produced for truffle orchards worldwide encourage the search for more efficient and sustainable inoculation methods that can be applied globally. In this study, we evaluated the potential of the nurse plant method for the controlled inoculation of Quercus cerris and Quercus robur with Tuber melanosporum by mycorrhizal networks in pot cultures. Pine bark compost, adjusted to pH 7.8 by liming, was used as substrate for all assays. Initially, Q. robur seedlings were inoculated with truffle spores and cultured for 12 months. After this period, the plants presenting 74 % mycorrhizal fine roots were transferred to larger containers. Nurse plants were used for two treatments of two different nursling species: five sterilized acorns or five 45-day-old, axenically grown Q. robur or Q. cerris seedlings, planted in containers around the nurse plant. After 6 months, colonized nursling plant root tips showed that mycorrhiza formation by T. melanosporum was higher than 45 % in the seedlings tested, with the most successful nursling combination being Q. cerris seedlings, reaching 81 % colonization. Bulk identification of T. melanosporum mycorrhizae was based on morphological and anatomical features and confirmed by sequencing of the internal transcribed spacer region of the ribosomal DNA of selected root tips. Our results show that the nurse plant method yields attractive rates of mycorrhiza formation by the Périgord black truffle and suggest that establishing and maintaining common mycorrhizal networks in pot cultures enables sustained use of the initial spore inoculum.