Australian Truffle Pest & Disease Newsletter

What happens in the orchard when you’re not there?

A time-lapse camera was set up in a truffle orchard, with a light designed to be activated after sunset, to observe invertebrate activity when we’re not looking, particularly at night.

The footage included here was taken in a section of orchard where there was minimal management undertaken for invertebrate pests so numbers are likely to be at the high end of the scale.  In the footage you’ll notice an immature truffle breaching the surface, this was dug up from elsewhere in the orchard and placed within the camera field of view

The camera takes one frame every minute and you will see the date and time stamp along the bottom of each frame. The video moves quickly through the daylight hours when there is very little activity and slows for the overnight footage. There was a light set up with the camera that comes on at night so that we can still see what’s going on.

The main invertebrates you will see in the footage are slaters and beetles with the occasional Portuguese millipede.  The footage was taken in March when truffles are immature; the feeding damage in the video is obvious from the white areas on the immature truffle.

This footage is not representative of what would be happening in a normal situation. We also exposed a piece of truffle in nearby part of the orchard away from the camera and light set-up. This piece of truffle did not have any feeding damage on it in the same period. The invertebrates are attracted to the light, intensifying their numbers and their potential to find the truffle to eat it. In a normal situation you won’t be getting the hordes of hungry invertebrates as seen here attacking one truffle placed on the orchard floor. Having said they if they are in your orchard they will still be wandering around at night but less likely to encounter truffles in situ.

Why worry about invertebrates?

So why do we need to worry about seeing something like this in a truffle orchard? It’s not just us that like to eat truffle, invertebrates like those in the video enjoy them too.

It’s not only the direct loss of product through feeding that is a concern and ultimately costing producers money. Invertebrates will feed on truffle when it is still immature and growing and keep on eating them throughout the summer and autumn into winter. The damage they cause is likely to leave the truffles more prone to rot, so instead of just a few chew marks that can be trimmed out that initial insect damage can potentially lead to the loss of a whole truffle. When it does remain as some isolated feeding on the truffle then that truffle is downgraded in class and depending on how much has to be trimmed the price received per gram can drop quite dramatically. Then of course there is the extra cost of extra time involved in the cleaning and grading of truffle with any imperfections. Even if you are doing this work yourself and not paying someone else, harvest is a busy time of year and time is money.

Get to know your orchard and what, if any, pests you have and whether they at high enough levels to be of concern.