Truffle-Hardwood Orchard Development: A New Agro-Forestry Product for Indiana

Project Overview

FNC22-1334
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2022: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 01/15/2024
Grant Recipient: Koko Earth Farms, LLC
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Mimi Kokoska
Koko Earth Farms, LLC

Commodities

No commodities identified

Practices

No practices identified

Proposal summary:

To our knowledge, a sustainable truffle orchard has never been established in Indiana. Truffles are highly prized for their umami aroma and flavor. A supply of fresh truffles would improve market opportunities, soil health, food systems and quality of life, culinary and gastronomic experiences, agroforestry and tourism in the region. Five acres of cropland in Parke County, Indiana was set aside to establish a Truffle-Hardwood Orchard in 2022.

Burgundy truffle inoculated oak seedlings (New World Truffles, Oregon) were selected for Indiana’s climate, its market value and vigor. Dr. Charles Lefevre, New World Truffles, our mycologist partner is experienced in successful establishment of truffle orchards.

Truffles are subterranean fungi that have critical functions in ecosystems. They recycle nutrients, improve soil texture and structure, nourish and network trees, and support wildlife food webs. Culinary truffles offer other ecological benefits. In Oregon, Douglas fir plantations on former pastureland, produced valuable truffles while improving habitat for struggling salmon, and provided carbon offsets reducing atmospheric CO2.

Wild truffles (Michigan truffle) found in cold climates underscore the promise of truffle cultivation in the Midwest and specifically in Indiana. The burgundy truffle was selected because of the significant experience and success with its cultivation in cold climates.

Project objectives from proposal:

1. Identify the truffle and symbiotic tree species ideal for cultivation of truffles in Indiana or similar regional conditions
2. Evaluate the soil texture, condition and health for supporting truffles and hardwoods
3. Establish the soil improvements necessary to support truffle and hardwood plantings
4. Develop the plan for water, weather and pest mitigation
5. Design the orchard planting and maintenance plan
6. Confirm viability of truffle fungi and oak saplings in the laboratory and prior to planting
7. Create educational materials and communications of the project experience and results for omnichannels (e.g. virtual, online powerpoint or pdf, youtube videos, face-to-face field days or conferences, etc…)

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.