A significant aside to Dr Brenneman’s pecan program is work on pecan truffles (Tuber lyonii), which he discovered in Georgia in the late 1980s.
Brenneman is collaborating with Dr. Matthew Smith at UFL and Dr. Rytas Vilgalys at Duke to better understand the biology of these fascinating fungi.
One focal point is to develop a method for inoculating pecan trees with the fungus so that, in the future, they will produce truffles consistently. In fact, the only time this has been done to date (actually producing truffles from inoculated trees) was in Brenneman’s small research orchard in Tifton. The trees were inoculated in 2001 and harvested the first truffles in 2012.
There is great interest in pecan truffles from a culinary standpoint, and they are currently harvested on a very limited basis in Georgia. The market price has been $200-$300, illustrating their potential as a cash crop for pecan growers. There is also a fledgling industry training truffle dogs to help harvest them.