Some hardwood forest acreage is finding a secondary revenue stream: growing truffles, the pricey (at $800 a pound) high-end mushroom coveted by cooks.

Truffles thrive on the roots of live oaks and filbert trees, and can deliver $45,000 per acre in added income, says the North American Truffle Growers Assn. Sapling trees are inoculated with the truffle spores to begin the cultivation process.

In Asheville, NC, a four-day National Truffle Fest opened yesterday, and this morning featured a  panel discussion for growers moderated by Jane Smith, president of the NATGA. 

In a recap on the truffle industry, Smith says there are now more than 125 truffle orchards planted in the U.S., ranging in size from 25 acres with over 12,000 inoculated truffle trees planted to smaller half acre orchards. The majority of these trees have been supplied by Franklin Garland of Garland Truffles Inc. of Hillsborough, NC, www.garlandtruffles.com and several of the orchards are already in commercial production.

Garland pioneered the industry by being the first to plant truffle fungus Tuber melanosporum infected trees in the North America in 1979. The first commercial crop was produced in 1992. Due to demand for inoculated trees, Garland established a nursery selling the sapdlings in 1998. His current production is about 30,000 inoculated plants per year. 

 
 A truffle grove, courtesy of NATGA.

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