SONG News Spring 1986 no. 28
In this Issue...

World Class Opportunities in Tree Growing

Few things have changed faster over the last several decades than the eating habits of North Americans. A couple of generations ago the dietary staples, especially in winter time, were bread, potatoes, sauerkraut, salt pork and if you were lucky a few apples. Now people expect a wide variety of choice in basic foodstuffs as well as a generous helping of extraordinary things, such as kiwi fruit, avocados, artichoke hearts, papaya, mango, mandarin oranges, tangeloes, pecans, almonds, macadamias , lychees, pistachios, pomegranate ... and the list grows longer every day. People are demanding more variety in their diets and it seems to be working out well too as they are living longer with each generation.

The December, 1985 edition of Smithsonian Magazine tells it all. Chris Rollins of Homestead, Florida is working with 500 different kinds of new tropical fruit species with the objective of introducing numbers of them into the commercial market as soon as they can be successfully propagated in quantity. Then there is the case of Frieda Caplan of Los Angeles, California who introduced the kiwi fruit to North America. Over a period of the last 24 years, Frieda has introduced more than 200 new and different fruits and vegetables to the California market place. Well! The foregoing says a lot about where agriculture is going in the next decade. How will Ontario keep up to this type of competition? When you look at it, very few new crops have been introduced into the Ontario scene in the last 20 years. Moreover, some previous major money makers such as tobacco are in a state of irreversible decline ... with considerable prospects for extinction. Furthermore, recent statistics show that the net income for the average Ontario farm is less than $3,000.00 per year! Most Ontario farm families have to have an "outside" income in order to live in the style to which they have become accustomed.

It is clear that Ontario requires some new crop opportunities if we are to compete successfully with the rest of the agricultural world. New approaches. New Technology. New Attitudes. The search for new crops must begin now.

  1. Heartnut
    A new crop which has promising potential for Ontario is the heartnut. Never heard of the heartnut? Let me tell you about the key characteristics which may make the heartnut a world class crop for Ontario: Considering the name, the nutrition and the shape, how could the heartnut be anything less than a sure winner?
  2. Pawpaw
    Some people refer to this one as a horticultural orphan ... some call it the Indiana banana or the Michigan banana or even the custard apple. The California Rare Fruit Growers Association devoted a whole yearbook to the discussion of the pawpaw in 1974 and the Californians would be more than pleased to grow the pawpaw ... if it would do well for them. The truth is that the pawpaw is a "semi-tropical" fruit which does best in Carolinian climates like southern Ontario. Many horticulturists in the great lakes area have urged that the pawpaw be promoted commercially. It's time that the job be done ... after all if the Floridians can make a success of growing something referred to as an alligator pear (avocado), the acceptance of the pawpaw by the public should be easy. The pawpaw has a number of interesting features which will make it attractive to growers and consumers: Future Crops for Import Substitution
    While the traditional crops of Ontario are experiencing a continuing state of decline in real income, a considerable interest is developing for the introduction of new crops to substitute for imported foodstuffs. The following are examples of items which could be grown to substitute for materials currently imported into Canada. It is not suggested that Ontario growers could enter into world class competition on these but some tidy profits are waiting for successful northern growers:
  3. Sweet Chestnut
    A considerable quantity of Italian sweet chestnut is imported into Canada each year. It should be welcome news to chestnut hungry Canadians that a higher quality product can be grown right here in Ontario. Chestnuts are a fast growing tree on medium to light soils ... often bearing nuts in as little as 4 years from seed. Trees are healthy and vigorous and can be managed with relatively little chemical spraying. Crops of up to 7000 kilograms per hectare (4000 pounds per acre) per year may be anticipated. Chestnuts will be an attractive pursuit for those who are interested.
  4. Carpathian (English) Walnuts
    This is a food which is familiar to most everyone in Ontario. However, few realize that a more flavourful type of nut can be grown right here in Ontario ... ie. much preferable to the Californian type. Sufficient yields can be achieved to make this one an attractive commercial prospect.
  5. Filberts
    The filbert (hazel) is a favourite food with most everyone. Fresh, Ontario grown filberts cannot be beaten for flavour by any of the imported products. There are some good opportunities for filbert growing along the lakeshore areas of Ontario right from Kingston around to Collingwood and Midland. Yields sufficient to prove this one a money maker can be achieved.
  6. Almonds
    Surprise! Yes, almonds can be grown in Ontario. Preliminary returns in the Niagara Peninsula show that they are hardier and more regular bearing than peaches. In the 1985 season 9 bushels of almonds were harvested from 3 seven year old trees! It is clear that a lot more is possible with almonds in Ontario than anyone ever thought.
  7. Black Walnut
    This item is an important commercial crop in the United States both for timber and nuts. Several times the Hammons Products Company has offered to ship collected black walnuts to their Stockton, Missouri plant for cracking ... all that we have to do is collect the nuts to connect with this opportunity. Then there is the matter of producing black walnut timber for furniture wood and veneer ... one of the most valuable woods in the world. If you have several acres not actively cropped, this could be the long term investment and hedge against inflation for which you have been searching. Some of the big black walnuts logs sell for as much as $15,000 apiece!
  8. Pecans
    Yes, pecans too can be grown in Ontario. They may be the preserve of the more venturesome growers, but already crops of well filled nuts have been produced in the Niagara Peninsula. The same can be done in all of the counties/regions adjacent to the Lake Erie north shore from Niagara Falls to Windsor. There is no lack of commercial opportunity for the first growers who produce pecans in quantity in Ontario.
  9. Persimmon
    Recently it has been shown that Ontario can produce well ripened persimmons to replace that magnificently attractive oriental species which is imported from California. For the time being this will be a "local" crop because the fruit is relatively soft when it is at the peak of flavour. Nevertheless, it is an attractive item for those who like variety in their fruit consumption.


It's clear that some exciting opportunities are available to Ontario growers to produce tree crops in world class competition or for import replacement. This ties into the Ontario Crop Introduction and Expansion Program which was announced in the fall of 1985. This government supported program will supply up to two-thirds of the costs of setting up new crops to a total of $100,000 per crop. Eligible costs for the program include:

This is a magnificent opportunity for tree growers to initiate new crops which will make a significant contribution to the Ontario economy and also make tidy sums for Ontario growers. These opportunities will be especially interesting to current or former tobacco growers of the north shore of Lake Erie who have been searching for crop replacements.

All who are interested in discussing these prospects should come to the summer SONG Meeting at the Grimo Nut Nursery, Lakeshore Road (between Firelanes 5 and 6, south side of road) Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, telephone: 416-935-9773. The date is: Saturday, July 26, 1986 starting at 12:00 noon. Bring your picnic lunch and be prepared to discuss new economic horizons for tree growing in Ontario.

Those who can't make the summer meeting will have another chance to get in on these growing opportunities at the fall SONG meeting, Saturday, October 18, 1986 starting at 12:00 Noon at the Horticultural Research Institute of Ontario, Vineland Station. Again bring your picnic lunch and be prepared to discuss industry launching subjects such as: varietal selections, production of nursery stock, growing technology for orchard production, harvesting methods, processing production and last but not least the marketing of products.

From Brick Works to Demonstration Garden

Residents around the Metropolitan Toronto area may be familiar with the issue of converting a 40 acre brickworks property into an urban development project or a garden park. The brickworks is located in the flood plain of the Don Valley ... no doubt a location similar to the George Corsan nut tree planting which is located in the Mimico Creek flood plain. If you would like to lend your support to this property becoming a demonstration garden and therefore in part, a nut tree planting, get in touch with: James B. Harvey, 33 Alphonse Crescent, Mississauga ON L5M 1A4

Letters to the Editor

I have four black walnut trees which are huge and probably more than 150 years old. If any of the nut growers want to share in the trailer loads of nuts which are produced each fall, simply get in touch with me.
H. Phelan, 45 Nancy Street, Bolton ON

I have planted a number of nut trees in a field which was summer followed the year before. The nut tree plantings include 32 chestnut trees, 140 filberts, 20 Carpathian walnuts, 100 heartnuts and 100 northern pecans. Also I'm trying some hardy kiwi fruit and so far they have been doing quite well but it will be a few more years to see exactly what they will- do. My orchard has created great interest in the local area since no other nut growing has been tried here.
Richard Walker, Tofield AB TOB 400

The five strains of northern pecan which were growing at the Ministry of Natural Resources Nursery at Maple, Ontario have been transplanted (spring, 1984) to the grounds of Seneca College in the area of Metropolitan Toronto.
H. Cedric Larsson, R.R.#1, Palgrave ON LON 1PO

Provided by SONG. Feel free to copy with a credit.