Enthusiasts could soon be dining on cloned truffles after French scientists announced plans to reproduce the luxury fungi in the laboratory.

The move to artificially produce the Perigord ‘black diamond’ truffles comes in response to a major decline in their availability in the wild. At the industry’s height, France produced more than 1,000 tonnes a year – a rate that has fallen to less than 50 tonnes in recent times.

Under the three-year programme between truffle company Delpeyrat, food transport outfit STEF-TFE and the Corrèze region of France, cloned truffles will be grown in test tubes before being planted and left to mature.

So-called ‘truffle king’ Jacques Pebeyre told the Financial Times: “We are in peril – there's no doubt of that. There are fewer and fewer people willing to produce truffles. Young people prefer cereals.”

He added: “I am not against helping nature. We need to know how good these truffles will be. In the end, it all depends on that.”

Black truffles are traditionally worth up to £850 per kilogram.