The Périgord black truffle (Tuber melanosporum Vittad.) is an ectomycorrhizal fungus forming edible fructifications. The production of T. melanosporum relies mainly on man-made plantations. T. melanosporum is a heterothallic species requiring the meeting of two partners of opposite mating types to fruit. It is common to have productive and non-productive trees in the same orchard. The aim of our study was to assess the distribution of T. melanosporum mating types in soil under productive and non-productive trees to test whether presence or absence of one or two mating types could be an indicator of productivity. To achieve this aim, five orchards were selected in various French regions. Soils were harvested under productive and non-productive Quercus pubescens; soil characteristics and the distribution of the mating types in the soil were investigated. No significant differences between productive and non-productive soils according to soil parameters were detected. The total content of T. melanosporum DNA in the soil was significantly higher under productive trees compared to non-productive trees, and it was positively correlated only with soil available phosphorous. Under productive trees, it was more frequent to find both mating types than under non-productive trees. Soils with only one mating type were more frequent under non-productive trees than under productive ones. Moreover, no mating type was detected in the soil of 22% of the non-productive trees. These results suggest that the detection of T. melanosporum mating types in soil could be a tool to optimise the management of truffle orchards (e.g. by spore inoculation).
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