2021 - Volume #BFS, Issue #21, Page #08
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“World’s Most Valuable Crop” Grown In North Carolina
North Carolina’s Burwell Farms harvested 200 lbs. of Bianchetto truffles from 2 acres of loblolly pine trees earlier this year. Since truffles sell for about $50 an ounce, that’s a gross of around $80,000/acre.
The new truffle-growing effort was so successful that they are selling truffle-inoculated loblolly seedlings and wondering if they can handle the truffle production if it doubles next year, says Richard Franks, Burwell Farms Chief Scientific Officer.
The technology for inoculating trees and the expertise for commercial production were developed over several years. The Loblolly pine has proven to be an effective partner, and is native from Maryland to Texas, with forests in other states as well.
“Inoculation takes 9 to 12 months in greenhouse conditions,” Franks says of the White Spring truffle, Bianchetto (Tuber borchii). The Bianchetto truffle is native to parts of Spain, France, and Italy where it grows in soils with high limestone content, a high pH condition.
“We raise the pH level in our orchard to between 7.3 and 7.5,” Franks says. “Native fungi, which compete with Tuber borchii, cannot tolerate the high pH conditions. Keeping the pH level high allows for the truffle to establish a symbiotic relationship with the loblolly pine trees with little competition from native fungi.” As the orchard matures, the loblolly tree roots grow together forming a bed of inoculated roots allowing truffles to be produced anywhere in the two acres.
Burwell Farms owner, Thomas E. Powell III, had 1,100 inoculated loblolly pines planted in June 2014. The first truffle was found mid-December 2016 and a few were harvested in early 2017. The harvest grew slightly over the next couple of years. “The 2020 harvest surpassed anything anyone thought it would be,” Franks says, noting they didn’t anticipate a harvest this good until another couple of years. As the tree roots grow together, the truffles are growing everywhere in the orchard.
The crown of some truffles appears above the ground, but truffles can be 6 to 8-in. down and are dug out with special truffle-digging knives. The important thing is to only harvest mature truffles - when the inside is a chocolate brown with light-colored veins. For that, Burwell Farms relied on a well-trained dog followed up by a human with a keen sense of smell.
The key is that the dog puts its nose right on the mature truffle. If the area is full of truffles, it can become difficult to pinpoint the mature ones.
Mature truffles can weigh anywhere from 1/4 oz. to 10 oz. Burwell Farms’ harvest of mature truffles is from late-January into early-April.
Burwell also has frozen truffles, check out the Burwell Farms website for prices and availability. Meanwhile, Burwell Farms is taking orders for inoculated seedlings (call for pricing and availability).
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Burwell Farms, P.O. Box 2536, Burlington, N.C. 27216 (ph 336 570-3137; www.burwellfarmsnc.com; burwellfarmsnc@gmail.com).

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2021 - Volume #BFS, Issue #21