Black Walnut Book
Black Walnut: The History, Use and Unrealized Potential of a Unique American Renewable Resource, by Bob Chenoweth. 334 pp. $25 includes shipping and handling. (New members joining in 2022 will receive a free copy of the book)
I want to grow walnut trees, where do I start?
First off, you need to figure out if your site is a good walnut site. Black walnut is very sensitive to site conditions and will grow poorly if the soil is not suitable. Contact a forester or the NRCS to determine more information on your soils. If your site is suitable, refer to the information on this website, attend field days, and talk to other landowners and foresters to do your homework. Once you have an idea of the best way to proceed, jump in! The best time to plant trees was 20 years ago – the next best time is now! One final step - join the Walnut Council to network with landowners who love to grow walnut trees.
I heard I can have black walnut trees ready for harvest in 30 to 40 years. Is that true?
There have been many genetic gains in black walnut growth and productivity over the last several years, but unfortunately we have not reached that point yet. Expect to have merchantable trees in 60-80 years. With continued genetic improvement we should see that number fall.
I have heard that black walnut trees are worth thousands of dollars.
Occasionally a specific very high quality, usually very large tree does sell for thousands. This is an unusual situation and takes decades (and a lot of luck) to develop. Only a small percentage of trees are of high enough quality to command those good prices. That being said, black walnut is consistently higher valued in the US and overseas so usually has higher returns compared to other species. If you have the right site and intend to grow trees, black walnut is a great choice.
When is the best time to plant trees?
The best time for planting trees is dependent on what type of tree is being planted. Most bare-root seedlings should be planted in the spring. It is dependent on weather conditions and location, March to mid- May is the ideal time in most of the Midwest. Containerized seedlings can be planted in either spring or fall for most species.
How do I grow trees from seeds?
Starting trees from seed requires knowing the germination requirements for the species you wish to grow. Most native tree seeds require treatments to break seed dormancy before the seed will germinate. These are done naturally by weather cycles, moisture, sunlight, and wildlife in the forest environment. When we collect seeds, we will have to simulate these natural events to germinate the seeds successfully.
For black walnut, collect walnuts after they fall to the ground. Remove the husks and place the nuts in water. Those nuts that float on the water are not viable and can be discarded. The good, viable nuts will sink to the bottom. Sow walnuts in the fall or stratify (store in a chilled moist environment) the nuts at 34 to 41 degrees F for 90 to 120 days and plant in the spring. Walnuts should be planted 1 to 2 inches deep.
The Woody Plant Seed Manual, a US Forest Service publication available at https://www.fs.usda.gov/nsl/nsl_wpsm.html gives detailed germination and nursery culture instructions by genus and species of trees.
I would like to know if agroforestry is right for my farm. How do I go about finding out?
The Missouri Center for Agroforestry has a new agroforestry Training Manual. Section 2 of the manual introduces "Planning for Agroforestry," and Appendix 5 of the manual has a detailed planning workbook. These sections, combined with other sections of the training manual, will help you to determine if agroforestry is right for your farm.
Is it possible to sell good trees that are growing in my yard?
Many trees planted for shade are open grown and have fast growth. They are usually not desirable quality and may contain metal. They may be damaged around the base by lawn mowers and weed whips, and may have wounds on the trunk caused by improper pruning. This damage usually results in localized decay and discoloration of the wood. In addition, it is not always economically worthwhile for a sawyer to make a trip for a small number of trees. Because of these problems, receiving payment for these trees may be tough.
That being said, there are some things to try. Check with equipment manufacturers; some keep a list of individuals who do custom sawing. Check online on your yellow pages for small sawmills or custom sawyers. Also contact local custom woodworkers or woodworking clubs. They may know of a custom sawyer in the area or they may be interested in the wood. Check with local foresters, district foresters, extension educators, and others associated with the growing and management of timber. They will usually know who can help.
I want to sell my trees. Where can I find out what they are worth?
The value of trees as timber varies by species, quality, size, accessibility, and current market conditions. Values can change significantly as market conditions change. Individual trees also vary greatly in terms of their quality for the production of lumber or veneer. It is not possible to appraise timber without using a professional forester who inspects your timber and estimates its market value. These professionals can also assist you with managing and marketing your timber. Check with your state forester for a referral to a local consulting forester.
Where can I find a buyer for my timber?
Your local state forester will have listings of timber buyers active in your area or check with a consulting forester.
I have sold timber. Where can I get help filing taxes on the sale?
The best source of up-to-date information is the National Timber Tax Website. Timber income is always taxable, but it usually qualifies as a long-term capital gain taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income like wages and salary. You may also be able to offset part of your revenue with a depletion allowance. Tax issues should be considered throughout your woodland management. Don't wait until a harvest to check up on your tax situation. Many consulting foresters have timber tax experience.