In this Issue...
Magic in May: Spring Field Day
at Filmore R. Park Nut Grove
"It's magic", said Pryce Apedaile as we stood in the bright May sunshine admiring the weeping hawthorne bush at the centre of the Filmore R. Park Nut Grove. Pryce lives next door to the grove and often walks among the trees. He, like others in ECSONG, had long admired the little hawthorne. No more than two metres high, its branches arch out and then down, sweeping the ground in a perfect umbrella form.
The hawthorne is not, of course, a nut tree. But the founders of the nut grove must have seen its potential and decided not to remove it. It now stands as a tiny perfect symbol of the grace and beauty of nature, qualities the gangling teenaged nut trees that surround it will, with our help, one day share.
The trees had plenty of help on May 4th, Spring Field Day, from John Adams, John Sankey, Pryce and me.
John Adams and I planted and labelled several new small trees: a black oak (Quercus velutina) that I had grown for several years in my vegetable garden from an acorn Ted Cormier gave me; a Quercus saulii that Hank Jones had obtained from Bernard Contré; two minuscule white oaks (Quercus alba) donated by the RVCA; and 3 butternuts (Juglans cinerea) grown by John Sankey from seed provided by Sharon Johnson of Osceola Wisconsin. We also planted a row of ten Graham-Winkler hazel seedlings taken from the nursery at Oak Valley. These will form the first side of a future hazel maze, where parents can romp while their children compare the form and productivity of the various hazel cultivars.
The existing hazel hedge appears to be suffering badly from eastern filbert blight. We cut one of the trees to the ground to see whether the bushes might be salvaged by coppicing.
Pryce and John Sankey worked diligently on the English oak at the western edge of the grove. It had been badly damaged in the ice storm in January 1998 and had lost a major limb this past winter. They thinned out excessive growth and selected a new leader. They also cut away the encroaching forest edge to free the ironwood (Ostrya virginiana) and blue beech (Carpinus caroliniana) trees that were being crowded out.
We all helped mulch the pecans, the hazels and the Aesculus trees. The eaves of the Ohio buckeyes were already opening as we worked.
"It's magic," I agreed as Pryce and the others collected their tools and headed home. In four hours, four men had tidied the entire grove for another season.
Note: In June, I planted out three bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) seedlings that I purchased from Kristl Walek at Gardens North in North Gower. She had collected and sown seed from mature plants at the Montreal Botanical Gardens. If they can survive there, they can surely do so on the banks of the Rideau.
Oak Valley Spring Report
The Spring field day was preceded by transplant day on April 27, when black walnuts and swamp white oak were taken from the nursery and sent to Dolman Ridge. These were planted on April 28th finishing just before a blizzard struck. Some stock was also provided to Baxter.
The field day on June 8th 2002, saw general maintenance of the grounds, trees and gardens; repairs to the signage; maintenance to the shelter; woodchip mulch applied to last fall's transplants of oaks and to the possibility canker resistant Wisconsin Butternuts supplied by John Sankey on April 27th. Also a start was made on wild parsnip suppression, limited openings were made in the pine cover to encourage growth of the hardwoods in the east end, and repairs were made to the nursery fencing.
Two teams began the critical process of reviewing the plant stock in the east end, and of the butternut archive as part of John Adam's computer documentation of the site. Irene Broad and Ernie Kerr both attended to share documentation and memories of the plantings. John has found gaps in the early documentation making it difficult to state the species and date of planting of some stock. Does anyone have any notes from this period? Please let us know. John has prepared a report on the status of the archive.
A lot was achieved on this day and the plantation went into summer in fine shape. The frequent rain storms have meant heavy grass and weed growth. There were frequent grass cuttings under the supervision of Scott Baldwin with the assistance of Tory Baldwin. For the third year we have cut the wild parsnip especially along the west boundary and throughout the openings in the pine block and the underplanted small hardwoods have responded very well to better light and ventilation.
In the blistering heat of early July, a crew from South Nation Conservation chipped about 75 per cent of the piles of Manitoba Maple brush, reducing the balance to a manageable proportion, which can be cut by loppers and left to rot in place. While there the crew removed the most westerly elm tree on the site which had succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease.
An HRDC youth employment crew under the guidance of South Nation Conservation is expected in late August or September to help with some of the maintenance and perhaps with tree location verification on John Adams' impressive computerized map. (A copy of the map is now included in the back of the sign at the main gate. Look for it.)
No new trees will be planted at the site until John Adams' review of the tree stock from Ernie Kerr's surveys is completed and the computer map updated. A screen of hazels is being planted around the mound of stone in the south-west corner. Three were planted this summer from stock started by Brian Henderson from hazel seed harvested around the Truscott Nursery. Others will be transplanted from the Nursery later this fall.
I ask members bent on pruning dead stock not to remove this material until John Adams can document it for the map and data base. One short stump of what may have been a buartnut was found to have what appears to be a fungus similar to butternut canker. As the upper portion of this tree was probably discarded somewhere on the site we have lost the documentation which could verify the cause of death. It may also serve as a source to spread the possible contagion to other trees.
Also when dead stock was removed, stakes with tags and labels have been discarded among the weeds. At least one such stake was taken from the archive. This complicates our attempts to build a documented data base and record the progress of trees in our scientific studies. Occasionally root stock will recover and sprout and without stakes the grass cutters cannot see the new sprouts among the grasses.
Please seek advice before removing dead stock and stakes, also before discarding this material or other cuttings. Casual piles of brush may harbour disease. Further they make it extremely hard to cut parsnip and other weeds by scythe or trimmer.
This is my final report as acting coordinator for Oak Valley. I thank you all for your support and ask you to support Kim McInnis as she takes over the reins.
Dolman Ridge Spring Report
Last year, our spring field day featured 5 cm of rain followed by thundershowers. This year, 28 April was howling wind, temperature heading below zero and snow squalls by noon! Not to worry, though - we ECSONGers are tough people: John Adams and son Jamie, Peter Carr, Murray Inch, Sergei Ponamarenko, Roman Popadiouk and George Truscott joined me in planting a hectare of swamp white oak seedlings, and some black walnut and bitternut hickory. Roman's dog Topi 'helped' by carrying off tree seedlings at irregular intervals - we think we found them all. But, we did quit when the falling snow got so thick we couldn't see each other any more ...
Then, on 1 May, a bus full of students from Blossom Park Public School, led by vice-principal Julie Morris who is on the Ottawa Stewardship Council, arrived to plant out the walnuts that they had started from seed as grade 4's two years ago. This new grove is in honour of our First People, who planted walnut, butternut and shagbark hickory throughout so much of our area. We received a first hand account of the beliefs that kept our land healthy for the 8000 years between the retreat of the Champlain Sea and the arrival of Europeans from Paul Skanks, a Mohawk elder - he kept us all enthralled for over an hour.
Then we got down to planting, putting a pinch of tobacco with each seedling in the traditional Mohawk way. In a non-traditional way, we installed a square yard of modern roofing felt around each seedling to keep the competition down. Ken Farr had planned to talk about trees and their ecology, but with 73 seedlings to plant, and less than an hour left for the job, neither of us had time to do anything but show the kids how to dig up seedlings properly and where to put them!
Along the way, we flushed a woodcock brooding eggs. A student stood guard by the nest so no one would step on it by mistake. The next day, knowing to the inch where to look to penetrate its camouflage, I got a photo for my on-line bird book. Four young appear to have fledged successfully 8 days later.
Our second field day was 11 May - the Dolman weather jinx was broken: gorgeous blue sky, 15C, perfect for working! John and Jamie Adams, Peter Carr, Sandy Graham, George Truscott and Larry Wade joined me in putting tar paper ground covers around 69 swamp white oaks and making the Nut Tree Trail more walkable up the steep slope between the lowland and highland plantations. A break for lunch, then we got down to digging out some of the mower- demolishing stumps along the trail. John Adams demonstrated his 'pogo stick' technique with a spade - sail about three feet up into the air, then come down with both feet onto a sharp spade. Even 3" roots didn't stand a chance! The day ended with a visit to the Korean nut pines, which John is planning to propagate by grafting to white pines around his land. A fair crop of cones is evident on about half the trees.
My personal project this summer was a flora of the trail - a list of everything I could identify of the plant kingdom, with locations and flowering time. Well, I've identified 175 species, but it didn't come as easily as expected - by 16 June, rubber boots weren't enough to walk the trail, I had to put on waders to negotiate water 3' deep! Anyway, see the results on the web site.
In late August, the NCC managed to persuade one of their mowers to negotiate the Nut Tree Trail! They did a flawless job - not a single tree was dinged, even in the tight spots I haven't trimmed yet. Really, though, we need some improvements on the rise from lowland to ridge - these will hopefully be done next spring field day.
Lavant Shagbark Update
We have now mapped the trees over about 80% of the site: 578 of them. 71 are double trunk, 11 triple trunk, and two 5-trunked. Most are 15-25 cm DBH, the largest is just over 50 cm. The largest trees are all at lower elevations, but there are healthy trees growing on the tops of the highest and driest outcrops. Jim Ronson, Len Collett, George Truscott and I were the survey team. The map is on the website.
Ted Mosquin took core samples from a selection of the trees so we could study the growth and age distribution of the site. All the trees are very close to the same age. It seems that there was either a fire or a clearcut in the 1880's and that the resulting site conditions strongly favoured shagbark regeneration. There is evidence that shagbarks were also selected over other species, ironwood in particular, by human intervention approximately 15 years ago.
On 25 August, a group of us searched the Lavant site for nuts and seedlings - Jim Ronson, Len Collett, Ted Mosquin, John & Jamie Adams and me, plus two students working with the Big Rideau Lake Association. There are a few nuts on several of the trees next to the French Line near the township boundary. There is a good crop only at one location: about 200 nuts on three trees on the bush road 230 m below the base of the main grove. As you would expect, that was where the grove's red squirrels were! At the base of the main group of trees, there is a double tree with 50, and one with 15. We found 6 fresh nuts on the ground, which John Adams will attempt to germinate despite the low chances of their being mature this early. Ted also made a flora of the main grove, which should be on the web site soon.
We also looked for young seedlings, proof that natural regeneration of the grove is occurring, and we found about 30 scattered throughout the site. And then, we found a great site - about 100 trees roughly 15 years old in a 30x40 m patch where fertile soil had accumulated in a patch of valley. (Last year, we found a similar site well to the east, near the township line.) We also found one location where some 29-year old shagbarks had been cut down, and 12 young shoots are already 2-3 cm in diameter. So, if we can keep the loggers at bay, the future of the grove seems assured.
Ferrers Clark Memorial Grove
This group of five trees, planted on the NRC Montreal Road campus last year with ECSONG assistance, continues to do well. The two black walnuts and two buartnuts have spent the two growing seasons regrowing roots. The Chinese chestnut had a spot of scab fungus (Venturia spp) until early summer, but is now OK.
The NRC people obviously cherish these trees! They are a lesson to all of us of the value of trees for those who wish to remember those who have built the world we see.
Pests at Oak Valley
Generally growth of the trees has been very good this summer despite the stress of last summer's drought.
The survey of the Butternut Archive of canker resistant grafts and trees was carried out by John Sankey and Larry Wade on 8 June. This was reviewed by John Adams and me and a report compiled by John Adams. There are four rows of trees, two of them grafts. There is a lack of stock source and planting information for row four and possibly for row three. Does anyone have any of this information in their heads? Overall the rate of success appears low.
The nut pine grafts and plantings situation is also discouraging. The stock especially the four to six foot stock appears severely stressed this month by temperature, moisture and perhaps other problems. Some of the grafts appear to have died and the plants reverted to the root stock. (ie. there are noticeable differences in the needles, and cone set in one case is the lengthy white pine type). We hope to do a thorough review of the stock in the near future.
Two varieties of tent caterpillars have appeared. The infestation is light but there is concern about a spread next year. They were found in the open west field.
The first variety are small brown worms in obvious tents on the oak trees. The site is localised on one or two branches and the enveloped leaves have turned brown. Most are within reach so the tents could be broken and the mass of worms removed.
The larger more common furry striped caterpillars have appeared on black walnuts and stripped large parts of the upper branches of about six trees, plus one of the Wisconsin butternuts. They appear to have overwintered within the tree protectors at the base of some of the trees and simply advanced up the trunks to feed. They are hard to reach and may require treatment if they expand next summer. On fall field day the protectors should be checked to determine if they contain new nests of eggs.
There are also serious leaf blights appearing on some of the walnuts and the butternut archive trees.
A forest tech from South Nation Conservation has observed what may be a serious viral infection on one of the oaks. The leaves die from the tips to the centre of the leaf, the green changing to a ruddy brown colour. The week of August 13th two further oaks elsewhere in the plantation were observed with the same condition.
Wayne Ingram from MNR has been invited to visit and provide advice. Initial instructions for reaching the plantation were not complete. I invited him to advise us when he is in the area and will provide more complete instructions and a personal guide.
I mentioned in the spring field day report, the death of a buartnut and possible fungal problems. A large black walnut (15 to 20 feet) among the pines, and which died in 2001, has on closer inspection what appear to be small black fungal pockets on the trunk.
We would like to have Mr. Ingram review all of the above problems and identify what steps are necessary to protect the afflicted and all stock at the plantation. Do any of the other plantations have similar problems?
Finally, nut supply is very limited this year. The weather was not supportive during flowering and set was very low. The exception is the catalpas which have many pods. Two or three hazels have some nuts while their numerous neighbours have none.
Several oaks have sprouted in the mowed areas this month indicating the squirrels were active last fall.
Nut Tree Agroforestry: intercropping the young
A number of studies in the mid-USA have concluded that the optimal economics there for growing black walnut are realised with an initial spacing of about 10' in the row and 40' row spacing. By maturity, 3/4 of the trees have been removed selectively, leaving about 30 mature trees per acre. The trees are pruned for an 8' or 12' clear trunk for timber, then a full crown for nut production. (Garrett & Jones, Annual Report Northern Nut Growers Association 84:47-58 1993 & references therein) An intercrop is grown on the space between rows until the trees need it.
What is the best intercrop? To be best for the trees, it should require annual cultivation for weed control, but not after mid-August when the trees should start settling in for winter. It should not require the same food elements as the trees, and should make its growth later than when the trees make their most vigorous growth.
The source for the following is the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) cost estimates for 2002 exclusive of labour and land rental, and their province-wide average crop values over 1981-1997 converted to 2002 dollars. Costs of labour capable of being done by a farmer-owner are excluded. Acreages are for a fully planted acre. When used as an intercrop with walnut, the percentage of orchard area that can be intercropped begins at about 80% for the first year and decreases to zero at about 20 years.
Legumes are not planted until trees are at the height of their growth, and they don't begin to draw significantly on soil moisture and nutrients until trees have finished their spring growth. White bean and soy are the most planted in Ontario. They add nitrogen to the soil during growth, and the root systems are left in the soil to add humus for the trees. White beans cost about $230/acre to produce and yield $460 - net $230; soy costs about $170/acre and yields $370 - net $200. The total Ontario acreage planted in beans declined from 110,000 acres in 1981 to 60,000 in 1997, whereas that of soy climbed from 690,000 acres to 2,300,000 acres, making it second only to hay as Ontario's largest field crop. Clearly, Ontario farmers are finding soy a most useful crop overall.
Winter (soft) wheat costs $190 and yields $310 - net $120. Garrett & Jones consider it the best intercrop for the first 10-12 years of a walnut plantation, and state that it can occupy more land area during early plantation years, than warm season crops such as soy. But it is much less profitable here than soy according to OMAFRA data.
Grain corn (stalks left standing over the winter) is promoted by some as a nurse crop as well as intercrop. However, it requires its nourishment exactly when the young trees need it, and there are risks to the trees involved with the quantity of nitrogen and herbicide required by corn. Costs are $290/acre, yields $460 - net $170.
Acorn squash or pumpkin are other intercrops to consider, as they draw most nutrients late in the season, will use all the sunny portion of an orchard, and can be marketed wholesale or roadside (do it yourself). However, the trees must be higher than 2' or the vines will cover them. And, squash field crop area in Ontario is so low that OMAFRA doesn't keep statistics on it.
Last issue included a report that feeder steers bought at 600 lb in April gain 1˝ lb/day when grazed between nut tree rows until early August. The value of final timber will be reduced by the damage done by stock rubbing against the bark. The alternative of an electric fence not only adds another direct cost, but then requires that the protected area be mowed. Using 2002 slaughter steer prices of $112/cwt in April and $98 in August, you will barely break even here using that method. (Sources: Saskatchewan Cattle Marketing Report, February, 2002; Alberta Agricultural Marketing Manual - February, 1999)
Dennis Martin, OMAFRA specialist on beef, confirms this, noting (private communication): "Last year  lots of cattle purchased in the spring and sold in the fall had a spread of only $125 per head or less ... Typical gains are 250 lb, average pasture costs 35˘ per pound of gain".
So, the bottom line seems to be that the best intercrop here for a walnut orchard is soy.
There is another reason to want to ensure an early cash crop from your walnut plantation: municipal taxes. If you are a 'working farm' in Ontario, you pay only 25% of the taxes of a non-farm. A working farm is provincially defined as a contiguous property in receipt of $7000 gross for produce each year.
There is an Ontario Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program that offers the same result, but it is useless for nut orchards - it requires the planting of 400 seedlings per acre and the maintenance in perpetuity of 100 trees per acre (over 8" DBH) - far too many for sensible nut production. And, a government approved forester has to review your site every 5 years, at your cost.
So, when planning your walnut orchard, make sure that you can meet the $7000 per year farm target for your whole property.
Oak Valley and Trillium Funding
Oak Valley applied for provincial funding to implement its business plan. It was not successful.
The cited reasons were:
a) lack of community support;
b) failure to provide separation of financial controls to manage the three year grant sought.
Trillium staff indicated that the application was well documented, but expressed concern whether a volunteer organization could carry out a serious public education program with recreation components at Oak Valley. They also noted that the review committee were concerned with limited municipal and South Nation Conservation support.
The Township has approached Oak Valley about providing trees for public parks in Chesterville and Winchester, so there is a possibility of expanding this into an advisory/consultative role with public recognition for ECSONG involvement. South Nation is looking at a fund raising program and there may be an opportunity for ECSONG to partner with them in this activity.
The critical issue however was financial accountability. Volunteer groups such as ECSONG must have an independent financial partner which is a non-profit corporation and/or a registered charity. As president of the Five County Trail Association, which is both, I arranged to partner with ECSONG on the application. When Rob died, I stepped in to act as interim coordinator for Oak Valley. During Trillium Staff discussions with ECSONG members, I was identified as the plantation coordinator and the required separation of responsibilities disappeared. Kim McInnis has agreed to take over as coordinator and I will stand aside, addressing that problem at least in part.
There are several lessons here for ECSONG. If any of your projects seek public funding from Trillium or other sources, there is money out there. It may take several efforts before you gain success. The project and strategy will have to be sharply focussed and limited in scope and amount. And, formal financial control is critical.
Since it was first discovered in 1995, Sudden Oak Death has had a devastating impact on the west coast, sending plant health scientists scrambling to find a way to control it. The disease has already killed tens of thousands of oaks along the coast of California, infected a growing number of other plant species, and, according to the U.S. Forest Service, has altered California's forest ecosystem for years to come.
"This is an organism that has the potential to impact entire plant communities," says Matteo Garbelotto, a plant pathologist at the University of California, Berkeley and a researcher on Sudden Oak Death. "The way this pathogen appears to be spreading is quite atypical for an organism belonging to the genus Phytophthora: this microbe has an aerial component and uses a range of alternate hosts to infest forest stands."
While oak trees are the disease's most obvious victims, scientists have discovered that the disease is infecting a growing list of other plant species as well. Unlike the oaks however, these plants do not die as a result of their exposure, but become hosts, helping the disease to spread.
As a result, many of these host plants become substantially weakened, making them more susceptible to other diseases and upsetting the natural balance of the ecosystems in which they live. Susceptible plant species are present throughout the continent.
There is now a federal quarantine restricting the trade of known carriers and requiring strict inspection and monitoring of plant shipments from infected areas. So, skip buying from California nurseries for now.
Provided by ECSONG. Feel free to copy with a credit.