For their earthy scent and intense flavor, truffles are a frequent feature in the world’s finest dishes. Périgord truffles (Tuber melanosporum) often called “black diamonds,” are found in various parts of Europe. With one pound fetching up to 750 Euros ($907.70 U.S. dollars), black truffles are one of the most expensive fungi globally. The lucrative business has scientists researching how truffle cultivation will fare with climate change, reports Katherine Kornei for Eos.
But fear not truffle lovers, new research shows global warming may increase the number of Périgord truffles harvested by 2050 in Central Europe, according to a study published in Scientific Reports in December 2020.
Truffles are finicky. They require specific conditions to grow, and some truffles, like the prized and exorbitant European white truffle, can’t be cultivated through traditional agricultural methods. Even then, truffles grown on plantations, called truffieres, need tree roots to grow. The tasty fungi are naturally found deep within the roots of various trees, like oaks, hazels, spruces, and pines, because of the two organisms share a symbiotic relationship. Truffles will take sugar and water from the roots while feeding soil nutrients back into the tree, reports Alejandra Borunda for National Geographic. Soil pH is another important factor in dictating whether truffle spores will grow into the delicacy.
Using 57 previously published studies on truffles’ best-growing conditions, Tomáš Čejka, a climate change scientist at the Global Change Research Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Brno, and his team studied how warmer conditions increased the range where the truffles could thrive. Čejka and his colleagues found that truffle cultivation under future climate change conditions would be most manageable with drought-tolerant oaks.
Founder of New World Truffieres Inc. and past president of the North American Truffling Society Charles Lefevre, tells Eos that the study's models could be used as a guide to see how climate change may affect truffle growth in other places.
But the researchers’ study was based on parameters within the Czech Republic and did not represent everywhere truffles grow in the world. In France, for example, black truffle cultivation is suffering from high heat and droughts, reports National Geographic. Before the winter harvest, summer rainfall is needed to produce truffles, and France’s pattern of drier summers is leaving truffles both in the wild and on plantations in trouble.
Lefevere hopes researchers will apply their models in the United States and Australia next. Both locations are home to growing truffle production. "Australia is already the fourth-largest producer of Périgord truffles and could potentially overtake Italy in the next few years,” he tells Eos.