Selection of the Most Suitable Tree Species for Truffle Cultivation Using Fuzzy VIKOR and Fuzzy AHP: New Paths in Forest Policy Planning

Selection of the Most Suitable Tree Species for Truffle Cultivation Using Fuzzy VIKOR and Fuzzy AHP: New Paths in Forest Policy Planning

Stefanos Tsiaras (Artistotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece) and Athanasios Dragoslis (University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/IJESGT.2020010105

Abstract

Truffle cultivation is considered to be a very profitable agricultural activity; it is however strongly demanding, with a highly uncertain yield. The selection of an appropriate site and host tree species is challenging, because truffles have very specific edaphoclimatic and topographic requirements. The aim of this article is to select the optimum tree species for truffle cultivation in Greece, by examining the most common host tree species under criteria that affect truffle productivity, thus pointing to new paths for forest policy planning. A combination of fuzzy AHP and fuzzy VIKOR was applied in two different scenarios, using equal and different criteria weights. Oak, hornbeam and pine trees were identified as the most suitable tree species for truffle cultivation in Greece. The findings could help mitigate uncertainty and improve productivity. They are also useful in Forest Policy planning, offering incentives for the reforestation of less favoured areas and the conversion of marginal or abandoned agricultural land.
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Background

Truffles and Truffle Cultivation

Truffles are edible mycorrhizal hypogeous fungi that grow on the roots of suitable tree species (Hall & Zambonelli, 2012).They are non-wood products that gained increased popularity in the past years because of their unique taste, distinctive aroma, and their extensive use in high gastronomy (Rubini, Belfiori, Riccioni, & Paolocci, 2012). Truffles are considered as the most expensive of the Edible Ectomycorrhizal Mushrooms -EEMMs for short (Hall & Zambonelli, 2012).They are also valuable in Medicine, because of their antioxidant, antitumor, analgesic and aphrodisiac attributes and the resulting health benefits (Patel, Rauf, Khan, Khalid, & Mubarak, 2017; Pérez-Moreno & Martínez-Reyes, 2014). Truffle cultivation is an agricultural activity that has a long history in Europe dated back to the Renaissance (Zambonelli, Iotti, & Hall, 2015), but during the last decades has gained popularity worldwide (García-Montero, Díaz, Martín-Fernández, & Casermeiro, 2008) and especially in the Southern Hemisphere (Hall & Haslam, 2012; Zambonelli et al., 2015). It is also popular in China, although the scientific research in the country is quite shorter compared with Europe and North America (Wang, 2012). Truffle cultivation is considered to be very profitable for farmers (Reyna & Garcia-Barreda, 2014) ; Samils et al. (2008) proved that it is 5-6 times (at minimum) more profitable compared with other traditional cultivations in southern Europe such as wheat and barley.

On the other hand the cultivation of truffles is strongly demanding and the yield is quite uncertain (Lefevre, 2012). According to Lefevre & Hall (2000) the farmers that cultivate truffles may wait up to twenty (20) years in order to achieve a full production. In some Quercus species an early production of 3-5 years has been recorded, but the average waiting time for the truffle collection from a tree plantation is about 7-10 years (Bonet et al., 2009). Truffle cultivation can heavily fail and the main reason for failure is the absence of modern cultivation techniques; the farmers tend to adopt more empirical methods and they seem to ignore the rational methods (Chevalier & Pargney, 2014).

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