The first truffle farms started arround 1856 in France. The first truffle trees were planted there in the early nineteenth century by Joseph Talon in woods of a French village in the Luberon Valley. At that time, this area was already well known for truffle-hunting. Talon's strategy was to use the truffle spores found in the area to infect new saplings. The technique worked but didn't produce relevant results.
However, in 1868 when the phylloxera, an insect that feeds on grapevine roots, devastated France's vineyards, countrymen in search of a new crop mimicked Talon and planted oak forests, marking the beginning of the truffle golden age in France . In the 20th century, two world wars and the population shift to towns devastated the French truffle production. Then, in the 1970's, French scientists patented a method to encourage the fungus and tree roots to live together symbiotically; the exact method remains a secret.
Growers say that the secret is to plant the trees in alkaline soil, in areas with periodic doses of heavy rain where temperatures do not drop below 21ºC. The environmental factors affecting the tree and the truffle must also be controlled carefully including temperature, light, moisture, nutrients and soil aeration. All these factors also contribute to the difficulty of its search.
When and why truffles proliferate remains a mystery. From Tuberturol we'll tell you a secret, our secret.
Source: THE NEW YORK TIMES Cultivating a Mystique By JANE BLACK