Climate change threatens French truffle, scientists say

Nov 27, 2012
Black truffles from France Perigord region, 2010. Scientists said they had proof that climate change was hitting the Perigord black truffle, a delight of gourmets around the world.

Scientists said on Tuesday they had proof that climate change was hitting the Perigord black truffle, a delight of gourmets around the world.

Trufflers have long suspected that global warming is affecting Tuber melanosporum—dubbed "the black diamond" on account of its colour and extraordinary price—in its in southwestern France, Spain and Italy.

A century ago, French trufflers notched up a harvest that, according to legend, reached 1,000 tonnes in a year.

In the 1960s, truffle yields were still 200-300 tonnes annually.

But in recent years, they have been a meagre 25 tonnes or so, prompting retail prices to rocket to as high as 2,000 euros ($2,500) a kilo.

In a letter to the journal Nature , Swiss scientists said they now had clear data that drier summers were to blame, as this affected the oak and hazelnut trees on which the prized fungi grows, a process known as symbiosis.

The team found that harvests in France's Perigord and in Spain's Aragon region fell at roughly the same pace from 1970-2006, and this trend was in line with an overall decline in summer rainfall.

in northern Italy's Piedmont and Umbria also retreated, but not as badly as in France and Spain, and this correlated with relatively higher levels of summer rain in those regions.

Harvesting of the , also called the Mediterranean truffle, is restricted to the months between November and February.

However, the success of the yield depends on the summer's weather, explained Ulf Buentgen and Simon Egli from the Swiss Federal Research Institute, or WSL.

Truffles thrive in wet and cold conditions and hate dryness and heat.

"Given the -host asssociation, we postulate that competition for summer ... might be a critical factor for truffle fruit body production, particularly in semi-arid environments," they said.

Their theory, they added, is borne out by research in Spain, which found that oak tree growth depends overwhelmingly on rain between May and July.

The letter suggests that the future for the black truffle may lie in Germany and Switzerland if temperatures in southern Europe climb by at least 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) this century, as many climate simulations predict.

Forest systems north of the Alps will be slightly warmer but not drier, according to these computer models, which could make them a more suitable home for both natural and cultivated truffles.

The prediction coincides with a remarkable surge in fungi in Switzerland and Germany, including the paler but less perfumed Burgundy truffle (Tuber aestivum).

Explore further: Manatees could lose their endangered species status

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists scent breakthrough in truffle trafficking

Mar 28, 2010

One of Europe's gastronomic jewels, the fabled black Perigord truffle, has been genetically unravelled, a feat that could doom fakers who pass off inferior truffles as the real thing, scientists said on Sunday.

Scientists reveal the sex wars of the truffle grounds

Oct 25, 2010

They are one of the most highly prized delicacies in the culinary world, but now scientists have discovered that black truffles are locked in a gender war for reproduction. The research, published in New Ph ...

Recommended for you

Genetically tracking farmed fish escaping into the wild

11 hours ago

European sea product consumption is on the rise. With overfishing being a threat to the natural balance of the ocean, the alternative is to turn to aquaculture, the industrial production of fish and seafood. ...

France fights back Asian hornet invader

14 hours ago

They slipped into southwest France 10 years ago in a pottery shipment from China and have since invaded more than half the country, which is fighting back with drones, poisoned rods and even chickens.

Tide turns for shark fin in China

14 hours ago

A sprawling market floor in Guangzhou was once a prime location for shark fin, one of China's most expensive delicacies. But now it lies deserted, thanks to a ban from official banquet tables and a celebrity-driven ...

Manatees could lose their endangered species status

Aug 19, 2014

About 2,500 manatees have perished in Florida over the last four years, heightening tension between conservationists and property owners as federal officials prepare to decide whether to down-list the creature to threatened ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Bookbinder
not rated yet Nov 27, 2012
Why can't they be cultivated? Why can't the trees be irrigated?