Method found for cultivating indigenous white truffle species

03/30/2021 11:01 PM
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CNA photo March 30, 2021
CNA photo March 30, 2021

Taipei, March 30 (CNA) The Taiwan Forestry Research Institute (TFRI) said Tuesday that it had devised a method for cultivating a recently discovered native white truffle species that could allow it to be produced on a commercial scale within a decade.

The TFRI made the announcement at a press conference regarding Tuber lithocarpii, which was first recorded in 2018 by researchers at its Liugui branch in Kaohsiung.

The species is one of five new varieties of truffle -- a kind of underground mushroom that is highly valued for its culinary uses -- that the TFRI's Forest Protection Division has discovered since 2014.

According to the TFRI, Tuber lithocarpii has to be cultivated for around eight years before the fungus produces the edible part of the truffle known as the fruiting body, and 10 years before it can be produced on a large scale.

Lin Chieh-lung (林介龍), a research assistant at the institute, explained that the fungus must first be placed on the roots of trees belonging to the pine or beech families for at least a year, before being moved into a plant growth chamber or tree nursery for a one-month observation period.

Then, he said, cultivators must sterilize the soil before returning the fungus to colonize the tree roots. Once the fungus is established on the tree roots, the roots can be transplanted and left to grow independently until the truffles are ready for harvesting.

The fruiting bodies of every truffle species are different, but they generally range from 0.5 centimeters to several centimeters in diameter, Lin said.

According to the TFRI, another native truffle species, Tuber elevatireticulatum, which was discovered in 2017 near the Xitou Nature Education Area, is already being privately cultivated on 10 hectares of land in Nantou's Yuchi Township.

TFRI Director-General Tseng Yen-hsueh (曾彥學) said the discovery that truffle cultivation is viable could have significant commercial value, as a kilogram of white truffles can sell for around NT$80,000 (US$2,804).

There are believed to be 21 indigenous truffle species in Taiwan, with at least 10 varieties yet to be found, he said.

(By Yang Shu-min and Matthew Mazzetta)

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