UF researchers discovered and named two new species of truffles that were found on the roots of Florida pecan orchards.
Matthew Smith, a UF plant pathology assistant professor, and his team published the research in the scientific journal Mycologia on Tuesday after more than seven years of gathering data. The team developed enough evidence to name the new truffles while they were conducting research on how farmers can sell a different, more profitable truffle species.
One of these species, named Tuber floridanum, was found in the Sugarfoot area of Gainesville, which is near Newberry Road and Southwest 34th Street. It is also known to be found in southern Brazil and Michigan orchards.
The second new species, Tuber brennemanii, was mostly collected in Iowa and Minnesota before being found in pecan orchards in Florida and Georgia.
The two species are small and “don’t have a very desirable smell to them,” said Arthur Grupe, 32, the lead author of the study and a third-year UF doctoral student in the plant pathology department. The truffles aren’t ideal for selling to consumers because of their pungent smell.
There are about five million species of fungi, but only about 110,000 have been named because it takes time to collect enough research to identify them, Smith said.
“You don’t have to go to the Amazon rainforest to see a really high biodiversity,” Smith said. “Even in a place like Gainesville, where people have studied fungi for a long time, totally new things are still found.”
The newly discovered fungi are competitors with the more profitable fungi the team is experimenting with called Tuber lyonii, Smith said. That study focuses on teaching pecan farmers how to put the profitable truffles on the roots of their trees.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education granted the team about $12,000 for the study, Grupe said. Funding has also been given through Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Early Career Seed Funding Grant, The Iowa Science Foundation and additional funds from the university.
“There is a whole hidden world that goes on that is really fundamental on how animals and plants interact in their ecosystem,” Grupe said.