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Secret to growing truffles is in the soil -

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Secret to growing truffles is in the soil

The World Today - Monday, 28 April , 2008 12:56:00

Reporter: Felicity Ogilvie

ELEANOR HALL: A farmer in Tasmania says he has finally discovered the secret of growing truffles.

The black truffle variety that Tim Terry grows in northern Tasmania comes from France. But for
years, his truffles refused to thrive no matter how hard he tried to replicate the French growing
conditions.

Then he looked at the problem from a different angle, as he told our reporter, Felicity Ogilvie,
when she visited his Truffle farm in Deloraine.

TIM TERRY: Look, we're just beside a tree here that's got a little bit of aroma. There's a truffle
here that we can see, it's pushing the ground up quite strongly. The best way I think for you to
get a handle on the truffle is why don't you get down there on your hands and knees and have a
smell, and you tell me what you think it smells like.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Okay.

Hmm, I can actually smell it, it smells quite sweet and almost nutty. Is that how most people think
it smells?

TIM TERRY: Um, yeah look, that's not a bad analogy.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The black truffle looks like a potato, but it's worth a lot more.

Restaurants in Melbourne and Europe pay up to $3000 a kilo for the black truffles that grow on Tim
Terry's farm.

There are 80 hectares of oak trees on his plantation, but until recently truffles would only grow
under a few of the trees.

TIM TERRY: Things weren't in balance. Now we've applied a lot of lime to the soil here and to get
it, to be calcareous like the French and the Italian truffle growing regions and by putting on so
much calcium, it's put things out of balance, so we have to get everything back into balance again,
so mother nature's happy.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The new soil management system has been developed by Ted Mikhail at his Melbourne
Laboratory.

TED MIKHAIL: Forget about the French soil, forget about the French system, we are having now our
own system in Australia, could cover the whole world in black truffles.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Because truffles are worth a lot of money, Mr Mikhail is keeping his formula
secret. An agronomist, Larry Palmer, used the formula to change the soil on Tim Terry's farm. While
the details of the formula are secret, Mr Palmer reveals it does contain things like fish oil.

LARRY PALMER: Generally speaking, it's the mineral content as well as the microbial status. You
know, how they interact and what the balance between those are.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Mr Terry says the soil treatments worked. Truffles are now growing under trees
that had never produced truffles before.

TIM TERRY: Since we've applied this technology to where we are standing, we've found over 150 new
trees just in this little section that we're standing in now that we can see that have got truffles
under them, let alone the ones we can't see.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Tim Terry will know exactly how many truffles he's got when the fungi is dug up.
The truffles usually become ready to eat between June and August.

ELEANOR HALL: Felicity Ogilvie reporting on the secret to truffle growing.