Walnut tree Commercial Cultivation – How to grow Black and English Walnut for timber or nuts
English and Black walnut trees are often included in lists with the top 5 or 10 most profitable plants to grow. Especially the black walnut is widely cultivated in US for its high quality wood, which can be used in furniture, doors, car interiors and gun industry. Growing black walnut trees for wood (timber) can give a remarkable income after a couple of decades. In many cases, a typical black walnut farmer can have various sources of income as the walnut trees mature. During the first years after the orchard establishment, the farmer can have an income from cereals or other crops that are often cultivated between walnut trees. A few years later, the farmer can start thinning some less productive trees and sell them as wood. About 8-10 years after the orchard settlement, the trees can normally produce nuts and some years later the farmer can start removing great branches or whole trees and sell them again as wood. Keep in mind that only selected categories of plants can be cultivated between walnut trees, as the latter produce substances that are toxic to many plants (tomato, potato, alfalfa, blueberry and many more).
However, these studies declaring that walnut tree is a profitable plant to grow may assume optimum climate conditions for walnut trees, and these conditions cannot be found anywhere. Consequently, location is maybe the most important parameter when growing walnut trees for profit. The tree thrives in certain climate conditions and types of soil, and deviating significantly from these requirements will cost the grower in terms of production. Secondly, walnut trees do not produce a very good yield of nuts until the 25th or 30th year, even with high quality management from experienced growers. A grower has to be patient and of course proactive to carry the costs of the first years without expecting remarkable income, if none of the previous apply (cereals intercropping, tree thinning etc.). To this, you have to add that the walnut tree (as many other fruit trees) has an inherent tendency towards Alternate Bearing (the tree produces a very good yield in one year and a low –if not zero- yield in the following year). As a rule of thumb, a walnut tree will give good yield only during 2 or 3 years per every 5 years period.
In general, growing English or Black walnuts for nuts, wood or both are governed by roughly the same rules and principals, apart from Planting (planting distances and number of trees per hectare). We can say that Propagation, Pollination, Irrigation, Fertilization, Pruning and Pest Control are very important for the quantity and quality of production and represent the majority of costs. Finally, harvesting of nuts is a labor intensive procedure when carried out by hand. In organized walnut orchards in US, harvesting is made via big shaking tractors that attach to the trees and shake the branches, so that the fruits can fall to the ground, where they are collected and sorted.
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3.) Starting a Walnut Orchard
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