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ATGA Validated Seedling Tree
Evaluation Program (AVSTEP)

AVSTEP has been created to provide prospective purchasers of inoculated trees for truffle production with an option to purchase independently evaluated tree seedlings.
The program enables customers of nurseries to have great confidence in the product they are purchasing with respect to root mycorrhization and general plant heath.

Background
Historically, not all batches from nurseries providing the industry with inoculated trees were well colonised truffle host-seedlings. Earlier inoculation processes adopted by some nurseries were non-scientific and rudimentary resulting in inconsistent seedling root colonization. This resulted in many orchards having poor production.

Recognising that inconsistency in inoculated tree quality was impeding the advancement of the industry in Australia, the Australian Truffle Growers Association sought to implement an Australia-wide testing program for truffle-inoculated tree seedlings.
Industry-Led Solution
The advantage of an evaluation process is to provide a level of confidence in the health of the trees, the degree of truffle mycorrhizal colonisation on the roots and the presence of truffle contaminants, such as less-desirable Tuber species or other mycorrhizal fungi.

In the past, if a truffle orchard was unproductive, it has been difficult to determine the most likely cause as vital information may be missing, such as the quality of the seedlings and the quantity of Tuber colonisation on their roots at the time of planting.

Data provided as a consequence of the seedling evaluation process is potentially critical in examining orchard performance retrospectively.
Implementation Process
Under the auspices of AgriFutures Australia, ATGA engaged in extensive consultation and research to examine the key benefits and issues relating to establishing a valuation program in Australia.

ATGA focused on replicating a Spanish program specifically designed for Quercus ilex inoculated seedlings raised for producing Tuber melanosporum, the French black truffle. The program was eventually implemented in 2013 and has been adapted in Australia to include all species of host trees.

The program enables nurseries to take specific orders for the supply of inoculated seedlings that are to be accompanied by data collected and analysed through an independent evaluation process and allows nurseries and prospective purchasers to have greater confidence in their product with respect to mycorrhization and general plant heath.
How the Program Works
The program (AVSTEP) is open to all nurseries and is voluntary.

Based on customer orders, a nursery will produce a “batch” of uniformly raised and inoculated tree seedlings ready for eventual testing and evaluation, generally over a period of 18 months.

A uniform batch of tree seedlings will be produced on the same day, grown in the same glasshouse, produced from the same seed batch, using the same inoculum batch, inoculation procedure and growing medium.

Once the seedlings are ready to be evaluated, an independent technician is engaged by ATGA to randomly select 12 seedlings from the batch using a strict sampling protocol.

These selected representative sample seedlings are taken by the independent technician, labelled, packed, and sent to an independent laboratory where the individual seedlings are evaluated, according to prescribed criteria, including but not limited to:

  • Plant condition and quality – general health and root architecture of the seedlings.
  • Number and percentage of roots colonised by Tuber melanosporum.
  • DNA verification of other Tuber mycorrhizae that may also be present on the root system specifically, T. indicumT. aestivum, T. brumale, T. borchii and T. maculatum.
  • Other mycorrhizal fungi found will be noted but may not be identified.

The AVSTEP evaluation results are aggregated to provide an overall assessment of the batch of trees presented for evaluation by the nursery. Once data is available and the nursery operator is satisfied with the results of the batch, the Association allocates serially numbered labels for identification of all the seedlings remaining within the batch that has passed the evaluation process.

As the evaluation procedure involves the complete destruction of the evaluated seedlings, a randomly selected sample from the same production “batch” has been evaluated, but the labelled trees remaining have NOT been evaluated. Accordingly, there remains a degree of statistical error, which is indicated by the level of confidence (confidence Index) in the test results. Purchasers of trees are advised to read their copy of the batch evaluation report and understand the results.

Data on an evaluated batch can be obtained from the nursery but can also be accessed through the Association. It is important to understand that the purchaser is acquiring tree seedlings derived from a ‘batch’ that has been evaluated based on a representative sample.

The individually labelled trees they purchase are therefore not guaranteed by the nursery nor by the Association, but they have been subjected to the AVSTEP process.

AVSTEP will inform truffle growers that for any AVSTEP labelled trees independent assessment information is available for inspection prior to purchase and a copy of this evaluation information should be a requirement of the purchase agreement between the purchaser and the nursery.
Important Note
AVSTEP is not a guarantee.

It is important that the prospective truffle tree purchasers understand that purchasing a labelled tree seedling from an evaluated batch under AVSTEP is not a guarantee that, once planted, the tree will produce truffles.

There are many aspects of truffle orchard management that affect truffle development and production.

AVSTEP is verification that the batch containing the labelled tree seedling has been both independently, randomly sampled and evaluated, in accordance with the AVSTEP process and that the resultant data is available for the purchaser or their agronomist/consultant.

Guidelines on interpretation of the data will be provided with the results, but prospective purchasers may wish to seek professional advice to ensure accurate interpretation of the report.

Note that this program is to assist nursery seedling producers and truffle tree purchasers to gain knowledge about seedling batches and the evaluation process.
Disclaimer
The Australian Truffle Growers’ Association will not be responsible for the content of any evaluation results provided by the independent technician or testing laboratory. 

Furthermore, purchasers should be aware that once seedlings are planted, the new environment will exert a strong influence over the seedlings ongoing development, and survival of the truffle mycorrhizae. 

Proper site choice, preparation and maintenance of the plantation environment are critical to the ultimate success of a productive truffle orchard.

Neither the program nor the Australian Truffle Growers Association certifies or provides a warranty for the nursery.
Participating Nurseries
These businesses are pleased to provide AVSTEP tagged seedlings
Trufficulture Pty Ltd
PO Box 364, Gembrook, VIC



AVSTEP Inquiry