NEIKER-Tecnalia and the Black Truffle Association of Alava are promoting the cultivation of this prized fungus and seeking to improve its quality

En el marco del congreso anual que se está celebrando en Gante (Bélgica), la Dra. Eva Ugarte, directora de Innovación y Tecnología de NEIKER, ha sido reconocida con el Distinguished Service Award por la European Federation of Animal Science (EAAP).

The Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development NEIKER-Tecnalia and the Black Truffle Association of Alava are jointly running the ECOTRUF project, designed to promote the cultivation of the black truffle (Tuber melanosporum) and improve its quality. The cultivation of this fungus, greatly valued by top gourmets, has a great potential in rural and forestry development in the province of Alava, and constitutes an excellent complementary activity to upgrade and diversify traditional agricultural and forestry holdings.

The black truffle is in great demand in the sphere of haute cuisine owing to its exceptional organoleptic properties. To obtain the best truffles, they need to be cultivated using higher quality mycorrhizal plants –characterised by a symbiotic relationship between the plant and the fungus producing the truffles–. In this aspect, NEIKER-Tecnalia is collaborating with the Forestry Technology Centre of Catalonia with the aim of monitoring the quality of the mycorrhizal plants that Alavese truffle producers use on their holdings.

Monitoring mycorrhizal plant quality

Monitoring the quality of the mycorrhizal plants is also designed to prevent the introduction of undesirable truffle species that could put an end to the fruit-growing capacity of the land. To ascertain whether the mycorrhizal plants belong to the species Tuber melanosporum, NEIKER-Tecnalia technicians use morphological techniques –study of the physical form of the plant– and molecular techniques –DNA study–.

Map of the truffle areas in the Basque Autonomous Community

The creating of a map of the Basque Country’s possible truffle areas that offer great development potential in the sphere of truffle cultivation is one of the aims currently being worked on within ECOTRUF by NEIKER-Tecnalia (the public body that reports to the Sub-Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Policy of the Government of the Basque Autonomous Community).

Truffles grow in a symbiotic relationship with the roots of trees like oaks, holm oaks and hazelnut trees, among others. The cultivation of them contributes towards preserving bird life and encourages reforestation with autochthonous species suited to the development of this delicious fungus.