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Weed management and irrigation are key treatments in emerging black truffle (Tuber melanosporum) cultivation

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Interest in conversion of marginal agricultural lands to small oak woodlands for the production of black truffles (Tuber melanosporum Vittad.) is increasing in the native black truffle areas of France, Spain and Italy as well as suitable or amended sites throughout the world due to high economic returns for gastronomically valuable truffles. Successful long-term management of a perennial plantation replacing an annual crop requires understanding the system in all phases of the life cycle, and in the case of truffles this involves understanding the interactive growth of the aboveground host and the belowground symbiotic ectomycorrhizal fungus whose fruitbody is the desired truffle. Here we focus on the pre-production phase, 4 years after establishing the truffle-oak plantation and prior to truffle production. We tested the influence of weed control, irrigation and fertilizer, each at 3 levels, on plant growth and ectomycorrhizal proliferation in three truffle-oaks plantations in northeast Spain. Results show that adequate weed control improves root and shoot dry weight while fertilizer and irrigation treatments did not influence plant growth. The low dose of irrigation (50% of the estimated water deficit for the site) and glyphosate weed control both increased total root tips/plant and T. melanosporum colonized tips (ectomycorrhizae) by approximately two-fold, compared to control treatments. Distribution of the ectomycorrhizae within the soil profile was significantly influenced by the low dose irrigation treatment, with increases observed in the 10–20 cm and the 20–30 cm deep layers compared to the control and high irrigation treatments. Four years after planting, T. melanosporum remained the dominant fungal symbiont, despite the presence of 14 other ectomycorrhizal morphotypes from these sites.

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This project was supported in part by the Departament d’Agricultura, Alimentació i Acció Rural and the Departament de Medi Ambient i Habitatge of the Generalitat de Catalunya, and the European Union INTERREG III-A SILVAPYR 2006 project. We wish to thank the owners of the truffle-oak plantations for their collaboration, providing the land and assistance with maintaining the plantations.

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Correspondence to A. Olivera.

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Olivera, A., Fischer, C.R., Bonet, J.A. et al. Weed management and irrigation are key treatments in emerging black truffle (Tuber melanosporum) cultivation. New Forests 42, 227–239 (2011).

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