SONG News January 2008 no. 80
In this Issue...

Ontario Nut Crops for 2007

The exceptionally dry summer of 2007 created problems for most of the nut crops. Least affected were the heartnut trees which had an excellent crop of slightly smaller nuts than usual. All trees including the heartnuts had premature leaf drop during the peak stress period of August and September. By the end of September, there were gaps in the leaf canopy. Some heartnut trees in dryer locations had nut husks that were shrivelling from loss of moisture. Young heartnut trees suffered the most as their nuts only developed to 50% of normal size

Persian walnuts had a good crop of nuts even though about 10% or more of the crop dropped prematurely in August and early September. The dry conditions held off walnut blight, a bacterial disease that travels through rain drops and splash to new sites of infection. Though there were some blackened nuts, the problem was less than usual. I believe that at least a portion of the crop on both the heartnuts and the Persian walnuts was saved from injury by my neighbour's wind machines which are activated by late spring frost conditions to protect his tender grape varieties. In this way a widespread early to mid April frost period was avoided which otherwise affected nut crops over much of Southern Ontario, westward to Nebraska as well as southward to Oklahoma.

The chestnut and hazelnut crop were also damaged by the drought. Chestnuts need rain hi early to mid September to finish sizing and filling the nuts. Without the water at the appropriate time, the nuts were much smaller than usual, rendering a large part of the crop unsaleable. It was an off-year for the hazels in Niagara and much of Southern Ontario. Trees that had good crops sometimes failed to fill the nuts. The trees themselves managed to survive the drought with little damage. It is surprising that such shallow rooted trees were able to manage in such dry conditions.

In deep soils with moisture access, black walnuts had almost normal crops, though this was an off year for many black walnut trees. It was hard to find more than 50% of the trees with a fair to good crop. This is a crop that is almost completely neglected in Ontario. Not so in Missouri where Hammons Products collects several million pounds of black walnuts from all of the surrounding states through their depots. Each depot has a hulling machine and the farmers and collectors are paid according to the hulled weight. Hammons then shells the walnuts and not only produce an edible nut meat but they also produce ground up shell in a variety of sizes for a multitude of uses. They are unable to meet the demand for either product. This is a commercial opportunity that we are missing in Ontario.

It is difficult to determine how much acreage is planted to nut trees. There are at least 50 serious growers in Ontario with one to 20 acres planted. There are literally thousands of home owners and farmers with one or more nut trees on their property that they are growing for the nuts. It is hoped that Census Canada will act on our recent appeal to have nuts listed in the next census as separate farm commodities and then we will have a more accurate figure.

Research is needed especially for growers in the Norfolk sand areas to determine which nut species and cultivars would work best commercially. The heartnut planting at the Simcoe Research facility is reaching a point where it can yield important information. We need further research in growing hazelnuts and sweet chestnuts. The Norfolk sands are well suited for all three of these species. However, the climate has been a serious problem. Late spring frosts can severely limit the crop. Funding is needed to determine if wind machines or helicopters could be utilized to protect the crop or if there are other methods that would work. There is a heartnut Planting in place at Simcoe Station that sorely needs further research funding to determine the best way to maximize this crop. Equipment needs to be developed to process and crack the nuts.

For hazelnuts, heartnuts and sweet chestnuts, breeding projects are needed to further develop clones best suited for our climates and soils. Trees need to be bred and/or selected for disease resistance. Pest studies need to be initiated and control measures established. Tissue culture studies need to be developed to reproduce superior clones rapidly.

More than 95% of the nuts consumed in Canada are imported. Much of this can be grown in Canada. Ferrero Roche alone imports the equivalent of 5000 acres of hazel nuts each year. Tree nuts are used widely in baking and candy making both commercially and domestically. Without government assistance, nut growing will move ahead very slowly. With help, a great deal can be accomplished.
Ernie Grimo

A Visit to a Pecan farm in Carlsbad New Mexico
Martin Hodgson

On a recent trip through New Mexico I began noticing a lot of nut orchards in and around Carlsbad. On close inspection these proved to be pecans and most of the crop was still up in the trees. It also appeared that the most common large trees in the city are pecans. They are as common as maples are here. They were all loaded with a heavy crop.

I stopped at a nut farm, adjacent to highway 285, on the southern outskirts of the city, owned by Mr. Jerry Calvin. There was a lot of activity around the site at the time, primarily cleaning and sorting of the crop with various types of equipment. The orchard consists of trees from the seedling stage up to old mature specimens.

Mr. Calvani graciously took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to me and show me around his plant. I have always found that nut growers, wherever they are and are always happy to show off their facilities.

In this area they plant seedlings on a 30' X 30 ft. grid and leave this for about 25 years. They then lift out every other tree along the rows to give a 30 X 60 ft. grid. At about 35 years they lift out the others to give a 60 X 60 ft. grid. This leaves them half as many trees as they started out with. The most remarkable thing about this is that they are quite successful in moving these mature trees. Prior to the move though they trim them back to single pole-like configuration with no side branches. The trimmed trees are about 20 ft. high and 6 -8" dia. at the top.

They flood irrigate the fields with water that is close to sea water in salinity, adding approximately 4000 lb. of salt per acre per year. They put on about 4" of water every 2 weeks for a cumulative total of about 6 acre ft per year. This in an area that may not get any rain all year. He told me that tests carried out on the soil or water would indicate that neither was fit for agriculture. The area is very arid for the most part and is at 3100 ft. elevation. They were getting frosts at night when I was there, but the day time temperatures were in the 10 to 15C range. The soil runs about 7.8 to 8.0 pH. They add about 4 lb. of zinc per acre per year. I think that the high alkalinity affects its availability.

They haven't had any diseases show up yet, probably because it is too dry. They do spray once a year for an insect pest. He called it a case borer. They track its growth based on heat units and spray Confirm to control it. This product supposedly doesn't harm beneficial bugs.

Treflan and Roundup are used to control weeds.

It takes about seven years for them to get their first harvest. By ten years the yield is pretty good and a full yield starts at about fifteen years. They get about 2000 lb. per acre yield. Over the last few years they have received about $1.20 US per lb. on average, but are getting about $1.35 per lb. this year.

The cleaned nuts are placed in fabric totes weighing about 1000 lb. each and taken to a local plant for final processing. These totes are slightly less than a cubic yard in size and cost about $10 each. He has access to sugar totes of the same approximate size for about $5 each if anyone is interested.

Mr. Calvani allowed me to take photos of the operation and I had them developed onto a CD. I have copied this disc and will give it to SONG at the winter meeting so that anyone can get copies if they wish.

After the trees are shaken, the nuts are swept into windrows using traditional self propelled sweepers that push the crop and debris off to one side like a hay rake does.

The windrows are collected using a pick up/primary cleaner that is PTO driven. This unit removes some of the sands through screens and lighter debris with fans. Trailing behind it is a collection wagon that has a top rolling screen that tends to carry the long twigs and leaf stalks. The continuous rolling screen has an open bottom the last half allowing the nuts to fall into the hopper while carrying the debris out the back end.

The nuts are unloaded into grain bins that carry them to a secondary cleaner at his plant. The nuts are conveyored up from the grain bin onto another continuous screen set up the same as the one was on the wagon. This removes some more debris. The nuts fall through the screen into a horizontal, 3 ft. dia. 6 ft. long rotary drum that separates more debris and tumbles the nuts to remove loose casings. The drum uses parallel 1" X 1" X 1/8" angle iron as bars spaced about 3/4" apart along the inside of the drum to create the screen. The shape of the drum is formed by three channels, 3" X 1" that have been rolled into a circle, concave side up for the drive belt and roller wheels to run in.

I have seen variations of this type of a drum cleaner at all the nut processing plants I have visited in California (for walnuts) and BC (for hazelnuts). He showed me the drum he had used for the last ten years. It was 2 ft. in dia, by 4 ft. long and use expanded metal as a screen.

The nuts pass into his processing building from the drum via another conveyor. They pass through a water bath that removes any remaining rocks, then through a grinder type device that forces them between large expanded metal rollers that scour the husks further. From here they pass through an air lift of sorts that pulls off any of the remaining light debris. This might be good for our heartnuts.

Final sorting is by hand on a conveyor. Any nuts that still have a husk are cast out and dumped into the field to fester for a few weeks, after that they are re-processed and sold as seconds at about $0.65 a lb.

So if you get a chance visit this farm or others like it in the New Mexico area.

Presidents Note

I would like to thank all of the members who showed up for this years fall meeting and to say a special thanks to Martin and Pat Hodgson for the excellent meeting they put together. We had about 60 some odd people turn out for this meeting which is more than we have had for a long time. Martin showed us that we can grow nuts in Ontario quite successfully and using Martin's numbers we could even make some money at this venture. So please come to the Feb. 5 72008 meeting to find out even more useful information.
Bruce w. Thurston

Size Matters for Nut Trees

Trees that produce larger nuts may have a better chance of fending off hungry rodents, according to a new study. As part of his doctoral research, biologist Patrick Jansen of Wageningen University investigated the fate of nuts after they fell to the ground in the rainforest of French Guyana.

Jansen scattered thousands of nuts that he marked and numbered with a flourescent thread that stuck out of the ground. He used video cameras to watch as animals removed the nuts and then tracked if they were eaten or grew into a seedling.

Acouchies, large guinea-pig-like rodents, took the majority of nuts for their various food stores, he found. The "scatter hoarding" rodents tended to bury the larger nuts further from the tree - up to 100 metres away. What's more, the squirrels often forget the larger nuts, giving the seeds a chance to successfully germinate. But bigger is better only up to a point. If the seeds become too large, they become difficult for the animals to manipulate, Jensen found.

He found the tree canopy mostly regenerated from scattered seed caches. The exception was in the well-lit gaps between trees, but heavily infested seeds tended to establish there. "Regeneration need not be at immediate risk in managed forests where scatter hoarding rodents are scarcer, where light availability tends to be greater," Jensen wrote.

Chestnut Observations in Norfolk County 2007
Dolf Wynia

American native chestnuts made up as much as 40% of the Natural Forests of some areas in Norfolk County. The deep sandy, slightly acidic soils underlain with 'clay lenses' which maintain raised groundwater levels are also suitable for cultivated hybrid chestnuts. In my view chestnuts would constitute another niche crop in the county so I started a small 2-acre orchard in 1990. Ontario imports many millions of pounds of chestnuts from the Mediterranean countries and the Far East, particularly China. At the same time there are a lot of people from those countries now living in Ontario and individuals amongst them are keen customers.

My plantings in 1991 consisted of 25%, 142Q cultivars from Ernie Grimo's nursery in Niagara on the Lake and the remainder seedling stock from Layeroka and Mahogany parents grown by Doug Campbell. The out planting coincided with an outbreak of Gypsy Moth, which demolished the first flush of leaves. Mortality was high due to Gypsy Moth, drought and chestnut blight, which seemed to be especially fatal early in the second growing season of the grafted trees. After several years I installed a drip irrigation system especially for the young trees. I have a hunch that the grafting procedures either introduces the disease or renders the young trees incapable of fighting off the infection since many replacement trees that I planted suffered the same fate. t seems most of the maturing seedling trees are able to fight off blight infection so far.

Of the 142Q, about 15% survived and they have been producing 20 to 30 pounds of nuts each per year for the last 7 or 8 years. Many of the seedlings also died, particularly in the central portion of the grove. Over the years I have restocked the vacancies with some grafted varieties and some self produced seedlings of the most promising parents in the grove. I have done some field grafting with almost no success. I have selected one tree as particularly promising with respect to nut size, yield, resistance to blight, vigour and hardiness and hope to test it in future plantings through grafting. The chestnuts produced by this tree should have no trouble competing with the imported supplies.

Most of the seedling trees which were established in 1991 and survived, are now in full production and I have noted a trend that not only the quantity but also the quality, and size is increasing every year on each tree. The grafted trees, while producing well in earlier years are slowing down as their productivity increases.

The entire grove now consists of about 25 mature producing trees (out of about 200 spaced 20'x 20'). Total production this year was about 1100 pounds of saleable nuts. The largest size 1+178th minimum diameter, were sold for $2.50 per pound while those less than % " went for $.75 per pound, all for resale on farmers markets. Thus I earned about $2000.00 before marketing costs, basically from the equivalent of 1A of an acre. This year was by far the best and biggest crop so the future will be interesting.

Now that at least some trees are producing, the biggest effort is in the harvesting in late September-October and mowing the grass several times during the summer. I do about $200.00 worth of fertilizing per year but have not had to do any pest control other than removing blight infested trees and branches. Deer, raccoons, squirrels and mice can be a nuisance. There is a lot of damage to the trunks of the trees, which I suspect to be winter sunscald damage but which can also be partial rejection of the graft union. The damage invariably becomes infected with secondary fungus.

At my stage in life I really have no wishes when it comes to assistance in chestnut production or promotion. I believe it would be worthwhile to monitor the growth of the trees so that when at some time in the probably distant future when the Chinese and European producers will want to keep their crops at home, there is at least some information as to how chestnuts might do as a crop in Southern Ontario. There is some production in Michigan on similar soils as are prevalent in Norfolk County.

Summary of the Nut Crop in Middleton Twp, Norfolk County, 2007
Martin Hodgson

The major concern to growing any crop in the Norfolk area in 2007 was the lack of rainfall. At Courtland a total of 41 mm (1.6") was received in July and 62 mm (2.44") in August. Most came in light showers of 6 mm or less that barely penetrated into the soil. Locally the corn spiked early and even the maples were showing signs of leaf burn off.

The hazelnut trees exhibited no signs of stress and those trees predisposed to good yields came through quite well. The hazelnuts only reach full size in mid July and fill from then to early Sept. This was surprising due to the 10 day long heavy freeze that occurred in early April right when the hazels were in mid-pollenization.

It is estimated that ten year old orchards would have yielded about 1200 to 1500 lb. of dry nuts per acre this year. For over 4000 acres, this would have amounted to 5.4 million pounds at a value of nearly $5 million based on the global price for nuts at $0.90 per lb. Incidentally, corn grown on the same land with 100 bu. per acre return at $4 per bu. would have returned only $1.6 million and 75% of that would have been eaten up with input costs.

The chestnuts, persimmons, and kiwi grapes all produced a large crop this year. The chestnuts may have been slightly smaller in some cases, but the one tree in the orchard that routinely produces a heavy crop seemed unaffected.

The heartnuts started out well with a moderate amount of nuts forming on the trees in May, however they all disappeared by July either due to drought or predators. The same occurred in the Cambridge area.

Carpathian walnuts do not grow well in my area and those that do have never produced a nut due to insect problems. Established trees south of Simcoe returned a reduced yield with smaller nuts this year.

Conclusions: What this year showed is that hazelnuts passed the test for this area at least as a potentially viable and profitable crop even under adverse weather conditions. It will take a joint effort between business and government to get this crop going. It will take 750,000 trees to cover the minimum of 4,000 acres of land and approximately $12 million to establish them. It takes 3-4 years to grow the trees and a lot of up front cash. No one will do this until the demand is there.

Chestnuts and kiwi grapes also show potential, there may be a more difficult route to market or the latter while the former have survivability problems.

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