FLORA TODESCOResearch on truffles at the INRAE ​​in NANCY: from the genome to the management of the truffle plantation

ABSTRACT

The truffle is both highly appreciated by gastronomy for its organoleptic qualities, but also by scientists for its complex biology. The truffle,  a symbiotic ectomycorrhizal and hypogeal fungus, develops underground  in connection with a host tree. At the Tree-Microorganisms interactions laboratory at the INRAE of Nancy, we are trying to understand the evolution of different fungal species according to their lifestyle, including the different species of truffles belonging to the genus Tuber. DNA sequencing has made it possible to understand the evolution of this fungus and to develop molecular tools to study its biological functions. INRAE ​​has been invested in truffle research for more than 50 years, starting in the 1970s, with the development of the production process for mycorrhizal plants with truffles under controlled conditions. Truffle cultivation is thus a cultural practice consisting of planting mycorrhized young trees, which have been inoculated with the truffle in their roots. As this agroecological crop does not require chemical inputs, it represents a diversification opportunity for farmers, often too little known, and a lever with great potential for regional development and tourism. Therefore, the interest in truffles is growing, and the willingness to invest is very present. This sector is currently undergoing rapid change, with a desire for professionalisation, but faces several obstacles. In this context, and thanks to the results of the various research projects and experiments carried out successfully on truffles at INRAE ​​in Nancy, the company WETRUF was created by two researchers to promote the innovations resulting from research, and to support the truffle industry to promote, professionalize, and develop truffle culture in France as well as abroad.

BIOGRAPHY

Originally from the North-East of France, Flora Todesco did her graduate studies in Biology and Biotechnologies in the cities of Metz and Nancy. It was during her end-of-studies internship in 2015 that she discovered the field of truffles with Claude Murat, Research Engineer at INRAE ​​Grand-Est. There, she studied the biology and ecology of the truffle, more precisely the genetic diversity of the black truffle Tuber melanosporum, as well as its sexual reproduction through the analysis of the types of sexual compatibility of truffles. She joined INRAE ​​Grand-Est in 2017 where she worked as Assistant Engineer alongside Claude Murat until 2019. During those 3 years, she was responsible for the experiments carried out within the framework of a national experimental project called CULTURTRUF, which aimed to study the effects of cultivation techniques and climate on the dynamics of the truffle mycelium in the soil, with a focus on Tuber melanosporum (Perigord truffle) and Tuber aestivum (Summer truffle).

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