SONG News Aug/Sept 1998 no. 53
In this Issue...

SONG Members Would Like to Welcome CANGO

It's official SONG and CANGO are now one organization as was voted on at the annual summer meeting. A motion was put forth to accept the membership of CANGO into SONG which was voted on and passed unanimously by the membership present. All that remains is to transfer the names of the CANGO members and the Bank Account of CANGO to SONG.

Elections were held at this meeting and a new president was elected in the person of Paul McCully from Kent County. The position of Vice President is being shared by Chris and Marilynda Cunliffe, never before tried a husband and wife team. This should make for an interesting future race for President. Robert Hambleton is secretary again, and Ernie Grimo is treasurer and newsletter publisher and distribution. James Harvey is a Director again and Bruce Thurston will keep the position of Newsletter Editor.

Continuing the Discussion of Dwarf Nut Trees
John Gordon

During the 1998 meeting of SONG at the RBG we heard words of praise for the Hansen Persian walnut from Hugh McEwan. For example: Hansen is larger than southern pecan, early ripening so nuts can be gathered and eaten "under" the tree. Small lot or peach tree size and young when fruitful, very thin shell for finger cracking and able to reflower after initial flowers have been lost to frost to maintain bearing. (Lest you think Hansen is perfect, ponder it's early flushing and weak vigour after cropping which reduces winter hardiness to make it a lake-front walnut.)

At the NNGA meeting we heard about a similar chestnut in Connecticut, the Lockwood. This chestnut is unusual because though the tree is slow growing it produces large nuts. I was saying that Layeroka chestnut was dwarfed by bearing, but as soon as the Layeroka tree becomes slow growing, it's nuts are small.

There must be a difference between dwarfing and stunting. Laroka tree filbert is likely made small by cropping compared to tree hazels. It will outgrow a back yard even though it puts too much energy into a crop, forgetting to reserve some for a future crop.

The point is that each of these trees are so willing to bear that they run down and are subject to winter injury, disease, and crop failure. The same will happen to dwarf apple trees. You do not grow dwarf apples like standard apples. Dwarf apples are irrigated at the required moisture tension, foliar sprayed to maximum leaf efficiency, and almost limited to peach growing areas.

Exploring for these dwarf nut trees requires the facilities and techniques of a dwarf apple grower. So far we have grown nut trees like standard apple trees.

Figure it this way, never expect something for nothing. The select nut trees will be almost standard size, being paid with sun space and root volume for their ability to crop nuts.

The usual penalty for being a dwarf tree in a standard orchard is death.

At the NNGA meeting Robert Foncannon discussed "dream" Persian walnuts and concluded that Hansen was the best money maker he had.

Chestnut Grading
Paul McCully

We began sizing chestnuts about two years ago, in order to improve the look and quality of the nuts. We began by selling ungraded, but quickly found that customers would pick out the small ones, and try to haggle on the price. I therefore decided to build a sizing drum that would sort the chestnuts into four sizes.

The sizer I built consists of a slowly revolving three foot diameter drum, with three different sections of hole sizes. The first section is 7/8", the second is 1 "(small), and the third section is 1 l/8"(medium). The large nuts roll out the end of the drum. The nuts falling through the 7/8 section are either thrown out or given away. Usually there aren't too many in this grade. Also a lot of dirt, grass, etc. falls through here. The remaining three sizes are what we sell. The small average approximately 60-65 per pound, medium 45-50 per pound, and the large are 35-40 per pound. After sizing, the nuts are visually inspected to remove the badly split nuts.

Another area of grading I experimented with this year, was trying to remove as many "bad" chestnuts as possible. Most of these have internal breakdown problems, and I discovered that the small grade had a higher percentage than the other grades. I experimented with floating a group of small grade chestnuts to see what percentage of the floaters were bad. My data from this experiment was unfortunately lost, however going from memory, approximately 10 percent of the nuts floated, and of this 10 percent approximately half were bad. The nuts that floated were in general ones that had dried up slightly. It is therefore very important to have fresh chestnuts if using this method.

It's a time consuming extra step, the nuts have to be dried afterwards, and you lose some good nuts in the process, but it improved the quality of the small grade to a point that it was difficult to find a bad one. Also, a lot of trash can be removed this way.

Nut Marketing Observations from Fall 1997
By Paul McCully

This past fall at our farm was below average for production of chestnuts and heartnuts, however hazelnut production was good. We continued to see strong demand for chestnuts, from farm customers as well as our wholesale contact. As in other years size is very important, however good quality, especially in the smaller sizes, is equally important. It is true that many experienced chestnut buyers do tolerate small numbers of "bad" chestnuts in the total that they purchase, however maintaining good quality should always be a high priority. This is especially true when selling chestnuts to people who have never eaten them before. A person's opinion of chestnuts can often be determined by their first experience. Chestnuts should be fresh, undamaged, have a good appearance, be weevil free, and have minimal internal breakdown problems, to ensure customer satisfaction and most importantly repeat business. Fortunately weevils have not been a problem for us or most other growers so far.

We kept prices this year the same as in 1996. Large were $3.00 per pound, medium were $2.50 and small were $1.50. These were farm gate prices.

Hazelnuts also sold well. Most were sold from the farm to customers who were also buying chestnuts. All were first cleaned of debris, washed, and sold either fresh or dried at $2.00 per pound. Marketing hazelnuts fresh seems to work very well. Many people like the taste of them this way, and it eliminates drying expenses. Also they are quite a bit heavier. I'm not sure how big the market is for them in this condition, but it certainly represents a "niche" that as far as I know has no competition.

We didn't have many heartnuts this year, and the ones we did have were sold the day of the SONG meeting. There currently is a great deal of curiosity towards heartnut, and everyone who tries them seems to like them. There also seems to be a demand for the shells for craft work.

All in all it wasn't a bad year and hopefully 98 will be even better.

Chestnuts: The Corn That Grows on Trees
The following is from an article found on the internet and although it is American I thought it might be of interest as a lot of what is written applies to our region as well. With the fresh chestnut season almost upon us I hope all of you take the opportunity to try some fresh chestnuts grown in Ontario

Chestnuts provide alternative to cereal grain.

Low-input, high-return. An efficient tree that will thrive on poor soil. A near-miracle health food. Drought resistant. Adaptable from southern Canada to northern Florida - - - isn't it time for many of us to start paying attention to the farmstead and even suburban estate potential in sweet chestnuts (please! - not to be confused with horse chestnuts or water chestnuts!)?

In fact, someone is paying attention. The Citizen Forester Institute is assisting growers throughout the eastern two-thirds of the country in the establishment of both commercial and homestead nut groves. Since 1986, over 600,000 select genetic trees have been planted, totalling the equivalent of approximately 6,000 acres. Nearly all involved believe strongly the eventual commercial plantings of chestnuts (Costarica species} may be many times this level.

What's going on here? Actually, nothing new at all. North America once held the world's largest chestnut industry. Millions upon millions of forest acres from Maine to Georgia and west toward the Mississippi River were once dominated by the native chestnut tree (Castanea dentata). These fierce forest competitors fed not only native peoples and settlers for hundreds of years, but until the early twentieth century, numerous herds of domestic swine and cattle as well. So vast were these forests of chestnuts, that delectable, highly nutritious nuts rained on thousands of square miles each autumn. Efforts to cultivate a domestic industry were hardly needed.

But this vast natural feeding system came to a quick and horrifying end within a single generation. An accidental introduction of a blight fungus (Endothea parasitica) about 1900 culminated in what some scientists label as the worst ecological catastrophe to hit North America: the near total obliteration of the American chestnut as a species. In modern dollars the loss of the highly versatile and valuable timber (one of the most beautiful and decay-resistant woods known) is estimated at over $400 billion. The value of the nut crop on top of the timber value is incalculable.

Today, the native chestnut exists as stump sprouts in many areas within its original natural range, with perhaps a scant few hundred seed-bearing trees existing primarily outside the original range. The millions of pounds of fresh chestnut which once found eager market each fall and provided valuable cash and forage crops in countless rural families have been replaced, in very small part, by imported chestnuts.

These imported nuts, (mainly from Italy and France) are considered a very poor substitute to domestic nuts. Nevertheless, the United States annually imports 15-20 million pounds of nuts, worth an estimated $28-40 million.

Fortunately, there is an alternative: improved trees developed primarily from disease resistant genetic resources in Asia. The Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollisimo) for example has a superior nut quality, hardiness, disease resistance, and a growth habit most amenable to orchard culture. The improved hybrids (including some crosses with the original American chestnut) are now the clear choice for the serious grower and plant breeder. The Citizen Forester Institute has evaluated over 30,000 mature strains to date, and has selected about 80 strains for use in current orchard development.

Superior Nutritional Qualities
Nutritionally, chestnuts are receiving wide recognition as something of a health food supreme. Unlike other nuts which are well over 50% fat, chestnuts contain less than 5% fat. Consisting mostly of complex carbohydrates, chestnuts also contain a very high quality protein (10-15% of dried weight).

Francis Moore Lappe, in her book Diet for a Small Planet, ranked the quality of the proteins in chestnuts higher than even the protein found in eggs, and rated chestnuts as exceptional for human nutrition. Though having an exceptional sweet, nutty flavour, chestnuts are more similar in composition to grains. Lappe considers chestnuts superior to even brown rice as a human staple.

High quality nutrition, low in fat, no cholesterol, one-half the calories of other nuts ... surely the chestnut is in line for much wider usage in this day of increasing health concern. Indeed, in countries where a chestnut culture is well established, chestnuts are used commonly as a staple food, much as Americans might use potatoes.

Worldwide, the leading producers are China, Korea, Italy, and France. In Korea, it has been reported that per capita consumption in the chestnut districts is as high as 150 pounds annually. During the darkest days of World War II, many in the Italian countryside lived on nothing but chestnuts for weeks at a time.

Tree Facts
All edible chestnuts are members of Fagaceae, along with the beeches and oaks. They hold both male and female flowers, but are self-infertile and require at least one other tree for successful pollination.

The exceptionally hardy Chinese chestnut has an enormous potential range of cultivation. Blossoming from mid-June to mid-July, it escapes blossom killing frosts and will bear with reliability on most sites affording reasonable air and water drainage. Chestnut trees do not like wet feet, but will do well in heavier soils affording good drainage. Light soils on the slightly acidic side (ph range of 5.0 - 6.8) are preferred, but chestnuts have proven adaptable to an amazing array of locales.

Like some other nut trees, chestnut trees put out a prodigious tap-root (5-15 meters) in their early stages of development. This may help explain their apparent ability to bear reliable crops even in the face of record drought. Certainly, in the face of possible radical changes in weather and climate patterns suggested by a global warming trend, extensive plantings of a tree tolerant of extremes and adaptable to change may make not only good economic sense, but may be a prudent survival strategy as well.

Economic Considerations
Economically, chestnut production is very promising indeed. First nuts on selected strains of C. mollisima typically are harvested in the third or fourth year after planting. Positive cash flow on a cultured planting is projected by years 5-8, and full commercial maturity (30-50 pound of nuts per tree) by years 10-15. The length of productive commercial life of trees will vary according to management practices and goals. Producing trees in advance of 500 years of age and producing over 200 lb. of chestnuts are well known here and in Europe.

In a report by the Michigan Department of Commerce and the Michigan Nut Grower's Association, production levels on seedling trees are projected at 3,000 pounds per acre of canopy. In Korea, with grafted trees on good sites, reports of four metric tons (8800 pounds) per acre are noted. Future yields of 10,000 pounds or more per acre may be achievable. In 1995, domestic growers in the United States were receiving as high as $5.00 per pound for selected grades with $ 1.20-1.50 per wholesale pound an average return. Production costs may vary greatly depending on site and management practices, but $0.20 per pound or less seems easily attainable.

Chestnuts Play Leading Role in Building a Sustainable Agriculture
The field of low-input, sustainable agriculture (LISA) is receiving rapidly increasing attention and research funding in this and other industrialized countries. Since 1987, over $3million in US Department of Agriculture and private research funds have gone into various aspects of research into commercial chestnut production alone.

In short, the scientific agricultural community recognizes the need to create a positive energy equation in our agricultural systems. Highly mechanized systems of annual agriculture (corn, soybeans, wheat, etc.) require extensive annual cultivation, massive inputs of artificial fertilizers from non-renewable resources, pesticides, fossil water (irrigation), and enormous capital inputs. The prevailing energy equations of modern agriculture are not sustainable in the long run. More calories of energy are put in than are harvested.

"Perennial" crops such as trees and shrubs may show us ways to shift our collective thinking about agriculture in the future toward a positive energy equation: a net caloric gain for our efforts. Chestnuts fit the bill in outstanding fashion: a quality, balanced nutrition in a single food; no economically threatening pests requiring expensive and potentially unhealthy pesticides; able to produce on soils with low fertility; and reliably productive even in the face of drought and a changing climate.

In a chestnut grove, energy to harvest is perhaps the greatest single input. While a healthy individual could reasonably hand-harvest several hundred pounds or more per day, chestnut trees are also ideally suited to mechanical shaker and sweeper systems. Large commercial blocks are already scheduled for shaker harvest in Michigan and Ohio.

Dr. J. Russell Smith, emeritus professor of economic geography at Columbia University, called chestnuts "The corn that grows on trees". In his landmark work, Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture, he called for shifts in agricultural production using chestnuts and permanent planting of other tree crops on highly erodible hill ground not suited to the plow, citing the cost of three bushels of topsoil on average to produce one bushel of corn, he recognized early that the vitality of a civilization rested irrevocably upon the long-term health of its agricultural capital: the soil.

While some new plantings are occurring on the west coast and small productive stands are being planted and harvested on homesteads in at least 24 eastern states, it is in northern Michigan where the majority of new commercial planting has occurred to date. According to a grower and field consultant, "Michigan is especially well suited for rapid development. The state has ideal soils naturally low in pH, adequate climate and attractive land prices.

"But above all, we have an extensive body of intelligent experienced growers with the motivation to innovate. There are literally generations' worth of tree-growing knowledge in fruit growers who have suffered a long downtrend in commercial fruit production. Our region desperately needs new tree crops," he says. "I think many people will be surprised at how quickly chestnuts will move up the ladder of economically important tree crops in the next 10-20 years."

Why all the optimism? One answer is the wide diversity of potential uses for chestnuts. They can be consumed fresh in salads, stir-fries, soups, creams, and numerous main dishes. Roasted, they are an American classic and traditional holiday treat. But in processed form such as dried and ground into flour for distinctive pastry, pasta, and breads, or canned in light syrups and vacuum packs, the potential for consumer-pleasing combinations is infinite. A breakfast cereal component? A natural! But look also for candies, pâté, as stuffing and stew components, and marinated gourmet treats to name only a few possibilities.

Product development research is well underway. Early consumer tests indicate ready and enthusiastic acceptance by the American consumer. Although worldwide demand for chestnuts exceeds the demand for walnuts or almonds, the absence of a domestic industry after the disastrous loss of the native chestnut has seen chestnuts fade from common use in North America.

Psychologically, however, chestnuts have been imbedded in the collective psyche, with a latent potential for demand perhaps unequalled in any other new food. Whom among us does not break into song or whistle at the line in the holiday tune, "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...". In truth, a majority of contemporary Americans have never tasted a chestnut, but everybody has heard of them in a warm, friendly, emotionally nurturing melody. Eagerness to sample that first chestnut is almost universal. Surprised satisfaction and eagerness for a second nut is the rule.

Chestnut development specialists are quick to point out the current early state of development of a domestic chestnut industry. Most of what is to be known about chestnut orcharding and product development is still in the future. But with efforts already in place, and scheduled research and development increasing, we will close most of the knowledge gap in the next 5-10 years.

Meanwhile, are chestnuts a candidate for serious small scale production? Most growers certainly think so, for what is known about chestnuts is easily enough to justify plantings at this stage. The tree is more widely adaptable than any other known seed bearing tree, it can grow well in almost every region, yields are economically very attractive, and marketing is assured.
Article reproduced from www.traverse.com/earthkeepers/ corn.html

Members Win Awards at NNGA

At the banquet of the NNGA's 89th annual meeting, the prestigious Service Award was presented to Douglas Campbell for his many years of dedicated and outstanding service to NNGA. The award was also in special recognition for his work on NNGA's very popular show and tell session.

Doug has served as note taker since 1991. He has served as Show and Tell moderator, resolutions committee chairperson, Site Search committee chairperson , Secretary of NNGA and perpetual and unofficial optimist. Doug inhales maybes and exhales yes we can. He inhales could we and exhales see no reason why we can't. Who hasn't heard him say "that is an excellent idea", "Be that as it may", "But have you considered" and after any of these opening phrases, you can expect good ideas, and a fresh idea for the subject at hand, or a positive thought.

He has been the producer and creator of innumerable and to the point questions for our speakers. Doug has been and remains one of the foremost promoters of NNGA and nut culture in general.

Doug operates a nursery and plant breeding business called Campberry Farms in the Niagara area. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of cultivars, locations of ortet trees, antidotes and statistics. NNGA is indeed indebted to Doug for his many years of dedicated and outstanding service.

Ernie & Marion
At the same meeting the Prestigious Merit Award was presented to Ernie and Marion Grimo for outstanding contribution to Nut Culture. This year the Merit Award was presented, for the first time ever, to a husband and wife team.

Through Ernie's efforts, the auction has become a very popular addition to the NNGA's Annual Meeting. Proceeds from the auction have increased each year and as a result of this increase, NNGA is able to fund more research through NNGA's Research Grant Fund. Ernie has also been in charge of the Trade Show Exhibits and this year the number of exhibits topped 31, a ten year high! Ernie, along with his wife Marion, own and operate Grimo Nut Nursery, at Niagara-on-the Lake, Ontario, Canada. Many nut tree plantings and orchards have been established throughout the Canada as well as the United States as a result of Ernie's and Marion's efforts.

Marion has been a constant, consistent, and persistent advocate of spouses programs at our annual meetings. Due to her tireless efforts, the quality, quantity, and variety of spouse's tours and activities has dramatically increased. NNGA spouses, guests and children have enjoyed arts and crafts, show and tell sessions, shop till you drop shopping excursions, bird carving demonstrations, boat and dinner cruises, and historical tours due to Marion's efforts.

NNGA is indeed fortunate to have as members such a dedicated couple as Ernie and Marion Grimo.

This was sent to me by Tucker Hill from the NNGA.
I would like to also extend from myself and the membership of SONG a congratulations to Doug, Ernie and Marion for their time, energy, innovation, tireless efforts, and for all of their contributions to SONG and CANGO and the advances they have personally made to nut growing in Ontario.

Pecan
The word Pecan comes from an North American Indian word that means "a hard shell to crack". The Ojibway word was Pagan, the Cree and Algonquian, Pagann. The term referred not only to pecans but to the more hard shells of hickory & walnut.

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