Regeneration of native California oak trees with black truffle cultivation

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2024: $25,000.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2026
Grant Recipient: Meristem LLC
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Charlie Chen
Meristem LLC


  • Additional Plants: trees
  • Miscellaneous: mushrooms


  • Crop Production: agroforestry
  • Natural Resources/Environment: afforestation
  • Soil Management: soil microbiology

    Proposal summary:

    California’s native oak population has declined because of long
    drought, goldspotted oak borers and other diseases, negatively
    impacting the local ecosystem. Some species, such as Engelmann
    Oak, have fallen into threatened status.  While many acres
    of agriculture land are left idle due to high cost of farming and
    low produce prices, reforestation is not occurring naturally.
    Seedlings from oak acorns need deliberate effort to survive the
    initial years, including irrigation, protection from wild animals
    and weed control. We design a new agroforest system to bring
    income to farmers and locally produced delicacy to consumers and
    replenish the native oak forest. Our project will test the
    feasibility of introduction of black truffle fungi to roots of
    native oak seedlings and observe their development in local
    soils, which is the first step of setting up truffle cultivation
    with native oak trees. The black truffle fungi will provide
    extended root network for oak trees and help them fend off
    diseases. The black truffles produced from the replanted trees
    will become a high value crop and bring income to farmers,
    thereby making the reforestation effort financially sustainable
    with many benefits to the ecosystem. We will communicate with
    farmers and agriculture professionals nationwide and statewide
    with our results and host outreach activities in our local
    communities. We will also educate students and future farmers
    about the new agroforest system for truffle production.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. to optimize protocol and test the successful colonization of
      black Perigord truffle (Tuber Melanosporum) in the roots of
      native oak seedling after inoculation with truffle spores in the
      greenhouse condition during the first year.
    2. to work out soil amendment and irrigation schedule for
      planting the seedling in the ground and monitor the presence of
      truffle micro in the roots during the second year.
    3. to perform outreach to raise awareness of saving oak forest,
      to introduce a black truffle as a new local commodity among
      farmers, conservationists, chefs and consumers and educate
      students and next generation farmers about the sustainable
      agriculture practice.
    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.