The world harvest of wild truffles dropped significantly from thousands of tons during the last century while the truffle international market continuously growing. Desert truffles have been known to be edible for human for 3000 years (Chang & Hay 1997). Belonging to the genus Terfezia and Tirmania they are native to Qatar and are adapted to the desert environment. These fungi are also mycorrhizal - they grow in a mutualistic association with the roots of the desert sunflower, Helianthemum spp. locally known as Ragroug. These truffles and associated cultural knowledge constitute a Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) system and have been managed for both food and medicine. Truffles have been growing naturally in Qatar for hundreds of years without a real systematic scientific research in order to increase the truffle crop in its natural habitats and exploring all the ecological parameters which controlling the growth of truffles in Qatari lands. The overall aim of this project is to conduct research that will support the development of a sustainable desert truffle agro-industry in Qatar, capable of restoring Qatar's degraded arid lands. We explored and studied the desert truffle natural habitat and the different environmental conditions to determine the factors that contribute to their existence and affect their growth. This should support the improvement of the truffle harvest quality as well as quantity. The use of the biotechnological techniques (e.g., plant tissue culture) to micropropagate the host plant (Helianthemum spp.) producing large numbers of it and overcoming the extinction problem of this plant caused by desertification and urbanization. Also, to produce large numbers of truffle- inoculated host plants to be used in establishing truffle orchards that is well-maintained and highly productive. Micropropagation of the host plant (Helianthemum) was achieved efficiently. 1000+ plants were produced through tissue culture. Also 1000+ plants were produced through conventional seed germination for comparison purposes. Although, in-vivo inoculation of the plants was successful, yet, we do not consider it cost effective. In-vitro inoculation is being tried currently.


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