Although a number of species in the truffle genus Tuber are harvested for huma consumption, the Périgord Black truffle (Tuber melanosporum) and the Piedmont white truffle (T. magnatum) dominate the truffle trade.The black truffle, which is native to calcareous soils in southern Europe, is the underground fruiting body of T. melanosporum, an ascomycete fungus that forms ectomycorrhizal associations with the roots of various host plants. Tuber melanosporum and some of its relatives apparently produce chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants around its host, creating a vegetation-free area around the soil in which it and its host are growing. Streiblova et al. (2012) reviewed the current state of knowledge on the production of volatile secondary metabolites emitted in the course of the truffle life cycle.
Truffle prices range into the hundreds (or even thousands) of Euros per kilogram. The high demand for black truffles has led to intensive efforts at cultivation. The life cycle and ecology of this species is complex, but significant progress has been made in "truffle farming". Nevertheless, commercial production does not come close to meeting demand. Many growers hope that the recently released 125 megabase haploid genome sequence for this species will provide new opportunities to achieve a deeper understanding of the biology of this truffle that will in turn allow progress in commercially viable cultivation techniques.
(Martin et al. 2010)
- Martin, F., A. Kohler, C. Murat, et al. 2010. Périgord black truffle genome uncovers evolutionary origins and mechanisms of symbiosis. Nature 464(7291): 1033-1038.
- Streiblová, E., H. Gryndlerová, and M. Gryndler, 2012. Truffle brûlé : an efficient fungal life strategy. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 80: 1-8.