Phase 1: Truffle Orchard Establishment - The Burgundy Truffle as a new sustainable agroforestry crop for the Missouri Ozarks.
[Editor’s Note: To see the full version of this report with photos and appendices, please see the attached PDF version.]
Initial Site Selection:
In the evaluation of a suitable truffle orchard site several criteria are determinate. An important consideration is that the area has been free of tree roots (such as an established pasture) for a period of years so as to reduce potential competition from wild truffle varieties as well as competitive fungi present in the soil growing in symbiotic relationship with tree roots. Other considerations include keeping a minimum of 25 feet away from the tree line also helps minimize potential competition. The type of soil is another very important aspect as this will determine the potential suitability for the truffle to grow successfully and minimize the amount of soil mitigation necessary. In our case at Timber Farms, the Sinks, the selection was narrowed down to two slightly south facing slopes. A preliminary soil test was undertaken which showed similar soil in both locations. [Appendix B: Initial Soil Test Results] The Walnut Knoll field was selected due its suitability for expansion as well as the utility lines running through and pole location that would be suitable for locating an electrical panel for a well.
Fig 1: Site Options – Boyd Luck Field + Walnut Knoll Field
Fig 2: Selected Site – Walnut Knoll Field
Fig 3: Selected Site (view to NW)
Fig 4: Selected Site (view to NE)
The next step was to lay out the boundaries of the orchard within the general site area and perform more detailed soil testing so as to get an actual profile of the area to serve as the basis for the required soil amendment regime. The orchard was laid out in a 50m x 50m square and divided into 3 rows with a soil test site every 10m along the row.
Fig 5: Truffle Orchard Layout
Lime Calculation and Application
Soil tests were taken at each of the quadrants shown in the layout above and temperature and rainfall sensors were placed at each corner of the site. Based on the results of the first comprehensive soil tests [Appendix B: Soil Test Results – 1], Dr. Bruhn recommended 0.7 US tons of lime ("white", low Magnesium) from the Conco Quarries, Springfield (Willard, MO) Stockpile no. 4, because it’s the only source of low magnesium lime with an adequately high "Fineness Factor". If they only sold by the full ton, one ton works fine. In addition, Dr. Bruhn recommended 9.2 US tons of the "red lime" from Skaggs Rock-n-Lime, Stockpile no. 3. Which again if only sold by the full ton, nine tons works fine. The lime characteristics at each quarry were carefully vetted for their chemical composition prior to ordering.
In addition to achieving a soil pH of ___, the objective is to approximate a Ca:Mg ratio of 40:1, which is well within the broad range reported from productive Sweden and French Burgundy truffle soils.
After the application of the lime and after careful consideration of the soil profile, the team realized that more clay was needed throughout the soil mix and it was already present in higher concentration at the 8-12 inch soil level. Rather than disking, or making the plowing implement that was originally envisioned, it was decided that a mold-board plow was the ideal piece of equipment to both mix in the lime deeper into the soil for a more uniform profile but also to mix the lower clay content throughout the soil.
After reviewing the soil tests results from 11/9/11 (Appendix B – Soil Test Results – 2) it became clear that additional lime would be needed due to the deep mixing of the soil. This was also seen as an advantage at this would create a deeper zone of soil with the proper soil characteristics and pH for the truffles. An additional 7 tons of white lime was applied on 12/15/11 along with 1/4 ton of limestone gravel for slow release pH buffering. This was then seeded with rye grass as a ground cover and to add additional organic matter once plowed in.
Lake Weed Harvest
As part of the organic matter supplement to the soil, the best and most cost effective options are to use resources close at hand. What often appears to be a nuisance or “weed” can also be looked at for its positive attributes. In our case, a nearby spring-fed lake has been choking with Milfoil over the last 15 years or more. We had been looking at the lakeweed as a possible oyster mushroom substrate but in several experiments it proved too dense and too nutrient rich to use without excessive supplementation. In the process we had the dried lakeweed analyzed [Appendix C: Lakeweed Analysis] and interestingly enough it contained quite a bit of calcium as a deposit from the spring water and had a carbon to nitrogen ration of 15:1 very similar to horse manure so we quickly realized it could make an excellent fertilizer and compost while at the same time imparting a good deal of organic matter into the soil, which was deficient on our case for purposes of truffle cultivation.
After several trial and error mock ups, we were able to get a used 9 horsepower outboard motor for a large john boat that we had on the property and purchased a Jenson Lake Weed Mower, powered by a marine battery that was the most cost-effective solution to harvesting the lake weed. The first step in the process was then to “mow” an area of the lake with the underwater sickle-type cutter. David Enloe then devised a capture-plow mounted in front of the johnboat which then could be used to corral the cut weed to shore. We then transported the cut weed to the greenhouse which is not used at present during the summer. The lakeweed was spread out on the concrete floor and air-dried. Similar to making hay, the weed was flipped once to thoroughly dry. The dried weed is quite fractious and light weight and was easy to shred in a leaf shredder after which it has the consistency of peat moss and the smell of alfalfa. This has been bagged for later application to the truffle orchard.
Fig 6: Lake Weed Processing
Fig 7: Lake Weed Plow
Fig 8: Mowing Lakeweed with Jenson Mower Fig 9: Used Evinrude Outboard Motor
Fig 8: Lakeweed Drying Fig 8: Shredded Lakeweed
With the deep plowing using the moldboard plow to mix in the clay below 12 inches, the amount of lime originally calculated was not sufficient to reduce the pH to the desired range. The effect of plowing in the weed grass to add organic matter also had an effect of lowering the pH but has helped raise the organic matter somewhat. The additional lime added on 12/12/11 should raise the pH to the required level and also buffer a greater volume of soil benefiting truffle formation. Keeping the soil at the proper pH will be one of the most important aspects of the project.
WORK PLAN FOR 2012
The first task for spring 2012 will be to take soil tests as soon as the ground thaws to verify final pH levels ready for planting. Based on the results the soil will be finally amended as needed. This will essentially complete Phase I of the Truffle Orchard establishment.
Based on research during a recent trip to France and Sweden, Johann Bruhn has recommended using chipped spent shiitake logs as a soil amendment to increase the soil organic matter and cation exchange. The shredded lake weed will be used as a surface compost rather than a soil amendment and will be part of an organic management trial. One of the key elements in the approach has been to use organic amendment techniques throughout the process as well as locally available “waste” materials as opposed to shipping in materials or using petroleum based products.
On 10/29/11, Mary Hendrickson, from University of Missouri, Columbia, and David English a prospective truffle grower with a farm near Columbia, Missouri came down to the farm with Dr. Johann Bruhn along with a group of his research students looking at the interdisciplinary effect of truffle cultivation in the State of Missouri including the economic, eco-tourist, agricultural and agroforestry benefits.
Fig 8: Tour of Indoor Shiitake Production
Fig 8: Tour of Outdoor Shiitake Production
Fig 8: Truffle Orchard Orientation
Fig 8: Digging up the Temperature Sensors
Fig 8: Preparing new holes Fig 8: Placing new sensors and getting soil samples
On 1/21/12, two reporters, Anna Boiko-Weyrauch and photographer Sam Gause from the Columbian-Missourian came down to the farm with Dr. Johann Bruhn to write an article on the potential and current status of growing truffles not only at Timber Farms the Sinks but also at other sites across the state. The article “Missouri Farmers lay Groundwork for Truffle Market” appeared in print on 02/09/12 along with an online component below:
Phase 1: Truffle Project Open House – Summer 2012
Per the SARE grant proposal, an on-farm open house and truffle production seminar will be conducted (with the participation of Dr. Bruhn and advertisement by The Center for Agroforestry at the University of Missouri) to: 1) tour the prototype truffle orchard site; 2) look at the test results for the soil before and after amendments; and 3) look at next steps for the establishment of a truffle orchard. Posters will be prepared to show the soil sampling procedures and soil test results, soil amendment procedure, lake-weed harvesting, processing, composting and application, and eventual layout of the truffle orchard.
Plans for Phase 2 of the truffle orchard establishment will also be presented at the open house as a collection of photographs and diagrams describing fencing and irrigation, seedling production, planting bed preparation and planting. Phase 2 will entail setting up a drip irrigation system, fencing around the orchard, inoculating and planting the truffle tree seedlings and maintaining weed control without chemicals. Dr. Bruhn will be on hand to answer questions, and his new booklet (currently in preparation) will be distributed, entitled “Agroforestry in Action: Burgundy Truffle Cultivation in an Agroforestry Practice in Missouri”.
The potential of Burgundy Truffles as a specialty crop in the Missouri Ozarks will be discussed as well as its potential for agro-tourism.
Representatives of the following entities will be invited to the open house:
• Top of the Ozarks RC and D
• Lincoln University Extension
• MU Extension
• Missouri Farmers Union
• NRCS, Eminence, Missouri Office
• Soils and Water Conservation, Eminence Missouri Office
• Missouri Department of Conservation, Forestry Division, Eminence Missouri Office
• The Center for Agroforestry, University of Missouri, Columbia Missouri
• Regional Commerce and Development, Houston, Missouri
• Missouri Division of Economic Development, Tourism
Appendix A: Data
• Farm Soil Map
• Weather Data – Eminence
• Rainfall Record – Farm Data Appendix B: Soil Test Results
• Initial Soil Test Results
• • Soil Test Results – 1
• o Soil Temperature Readings
• Soil Test Results – 2
• • Soil Test Results – 3 (not yet measured) Appendix C:
• • Lakeweed Analysis
• Raw Materials and Biochar Appendix D:
• Costs to Date Appendix E:
• Project Schedule
Soil Type Definition Soil type at truffle orchard is 73295 Taterhill Silt Loam Parent material is loamy slope alluvium. Depth to a root restrictive layer is greater than 60 inches. The natural drainage class is “well drained”.
Rain Fall Record
Soil Test Results
Soil Test Results
Non-degraded white oak sawdust Biochar from non-degraded white oak sawdust Biochar from spent oyster mushroom (Pleurotus sp.) substrate
Dried flailed milfoil
Biochar from dried flailed milfoil