The Farm Log for the Year 2007
Farming can either be low risk with low return or it can be a
high risk undertaking with little chance of recovery of the investment
in time and money. The Washington Chestnut Company Farm is a high risk
undertakeing because there are so few others are entering into the commercial
chestnut production in the United States. This year we are proceeding with
planting about 3 acres of chestnut trees.
Winter/Early Spring 2007
This year we selected trees from two different nurseries. For the second
year in a row we have selected
Burnt Ridge Nursery as our our primary provider of trees. The other nursery
is Fowler Nurseries in Newcastle,
California. Fowler Nurseries has been working with chestnut trees since the
1950's. Commercial growers have counted on Fowler Nurseries for consistant
quality in nursery bred trees.
At the end of last year's log several suggestions for new growers was
presented. One of those is so important it should be made again: Chestnut
trees will not tollorate water saturated soil. This is so important there
is now a web page dedicated to the subject:
Here is an example of a soil saturated with water to the point that water
is present in the hole. This soil is too wet for most types of chestnut trees.
The nearby chestnut tree with the blue plastic protector has died. The small
hole in this picture was created when a pine tree that had been blown over
by a wind storm was pulled out of the ground.
When the chestnut tree was planted in the spring of 2006 the soil was not this wet.
The area was known to be wetter than surounding soils. The experts were
telling us chestnut trees will not tollorate clay soils. What we should have
been told is "Chestnut trees do not perform well in most clay soils, but
if the soil become saturated with water the tree is at risk of dying.". There
are exceptions to this rule but most growers will confirm this finding.
The new chestnut trees for planting this year arrived the last week of
March and the first week of April. We started planting new trees into
the orchard on March 29th. These trees are being planted in some our
best "sandy loam" soils. Some of the trees are being planted in a
type soil that transissions between the mineral soil (sandy loam) and
peat soil. Of the 250+ trees planted 17 are planted in peat soil where
winter flooding is common. Usually the nearby lake water level is
is present over the soil in the months
of November through Feburary for up to a week or two. This year March
was very wet. We recieved about 5" of rain when in a near normal year
it will rain about 2". The result was high water covering soils where
we are planting new chestnut trees.
Soil ammendments were applied to the soils around the trees in mid-March.
Ammendments included boron, copper, dolmite lime, urea, potassium sulfate,
and ammonia nitrate. The process of determining the amount of each and the
how and when was very labor intensive. Overall the experts were of little help.
The local agronomy companies don't what to give time to a small time
chestnut farmer since they have very big customers with big fields of corn,
grass for forage, and berries. Of the ammendments only the boron could kill
trees if applied at to high of rate. Nitrogen in the form of urea and
ammonia nitrate can burn tree roots in the first year after transplanting.
With soil and leaf analysis in hand we turned to information we could find
from the internet and from the Western Chestnut Growers Association quarterly
news letters from previous years. In a pioneer industry such as commercial
chestnut production, one must be a true pioneer and figure things out for
June was mostly cloudy, cool and wetter than normal. The effects on the
trees appears to only cause slow growth. We lost about 5% of the newly
planted trees. Most of these losses can be related to inadequate root
structures on the new trees.
Experience with last years trees has demonstrated chestnut trees do not
tolerate clay soils. Two Colossal trees planted this year in heavy soil
were moved to peat soil the last week of June. The failure rate of newly
planted chestnut trees in the peat soil is very low. Of the 75 trees planted,
only one failed. By moving the two trees from the heavy soil to the peat
soil, we are hoping to demonstrate the compatibility of chestnut trees
in peat soil. A week after the moved the trees are starting to show new
There are some more suprsies this year. There appear to be two varieties
of chestnut trees tolerent of wet spring soils. In the sprint of 2006, 5
Precoce Migoule and 10 marival trees were planted in the orchard. All of
these trees survived and are doing well. Nearly all the Colossal layered
trees died the first year. None of the marival layered trees died. The
Precoce Migoule seedlings did have two trees die just after being planted.
These deaths can be attributed to weak plants at the time of transplanting.
These two chestnut varieties, marival and Precoce Migoule appear to be
tolerent of wet soil but will not perform in heavy soils. If you want to
grow nuts in heavy soil then chestnuts are not a good choice, you could
The bloom of the chestnuts started the first week of July. Some of the trees
in bloom have ants harvesting the pollen. We went to the local Ace Hardware
store and bought a product called Tanglefoot. We applied it to the base
of the trees with ants. We failed to remove an alternate path to the tree
so the ants were still getting to the blooms. The alternate path has been
removed and we hope the problem is solved.
July 11, today was the hotest day since record keeping on weather has
been kept. The high today was 101 degrees F. at the farm. Bellingham airport
sits on the edge of Bellingham Bay so it remains much cooler than the areas
8 or more miles away from the water. The official high temperature at the
airport was 94 degrees, matching the warmest day ever recorded there.
In the past 20 years the hottest
most people remember was about 92 degrees F. Chestnut trees can take the heat.
Some of the trees curled their leaves to help reduce transpiration of water.
The soil still has lots of moisture 2-3" below the surface so there is no
concern about lack of available moisture. There could be some concern for
chestnut blight but the humidity was below 50%. Here in the Pacific
Northwest when it gets very hot it also gets very dry. So chestnut blight is
normally not a concern.
Leaf Analysis of Chestnut Leafs
This year we took leaf samples from two different fields based on the soil
types the trees are growing in. The samples were taken on August 21, 2007 and
sent to the lab for analysis. Here are the results of the analysis.
Leaf Analysis of Chestnut Leaf Samples - Mineral Soils
|Nitrogen (NO3) ||3.16%|
|Zinc ||60 ppm|
|Manganesse ||1138 ppm|
|Iron ||231 ppm|
|Copper ||10 ppm|
|Boron ||41 ppm|
Leaf Analysis of Chestnut Leaf Sample - Organic/Peat Soil
|Nitrogen (NO3) ||2.69%|
|Zinc ||46 ppm|
|Manganesse ||476 ppm|
|Iron ||150 ppm|
|Copper ||9 ppm|
|Boron ||46 ppm|
When these results are compared with the soil sample analysis there
is a lack of correlation. With the peat soil, the expectations were
that the nitrogen levels in the tree leafs would be higher than the
leafs from the minerial based soil. Some background information can be helpful.
The trees in the minerial based soil received about 1/2 of nitrogen per tree.
The trees in the peat soil did not receive any nitrogen soil ammendments.
Ammending the soil with nitrogen appeared to provide more available
nitrogen than if the soil already contains sufficient nitrogen but may
not have been as available. The root zone of a tree is very important
when considering ammending the soil. Here is a short discussion of the
root zone and root clusers of trees.
When growth patterns are compared one soil condition not present in
any of these analysis is soil moisture. There is a chestnut tree in
minerial based soil, possibly because of a near by spring, that is performing
much better than other trees 40' away. The grass around the tree is lush
with green. The trees in the peat soil are performing just as well and
they have a constant soil moisture that provides the trees with as
much water as they want without the need for providing supplemental water.