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Any success in black cherry / black walnut agroforestry plantation?

 
Evan McDivitt
Posts: 9
Location: Elkland, PA
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Has anyone had success incorporating black cherry and black walnut (both widely spaced) as timber trees, mixed in with some sort of agroforestry / agricultural crop production? Just wondering if there are any lessons learned? Do widely spaced timber trees actually grow up to produce a high-quality sawtimber tree? Even if they are pruned?
 
Tristan Vitali
Posts: 297
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
34
cat dog duck food preservation forest garden fungi solar trees
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I'm interested in this one as well. I'm planning (eventually) to set up a sort of guild involving walnut, black cherry and hickory, plus an extensive assortment of food production in the various layers below this spreading overstory. My main concern is for food production, but plan to use the walnut and cherry mostly for high value timber. Due to the juglone, it's tough to do much growing without careful pre-planning when you're wanting a few walnuts and hickory for nut production, leaving you a bit restricted on what you CAN put in the immediate vicinity - as far as I know, the absolute safest bet for things to grow near walnuts is more walnuts, so might as well get some bang for your buck.

I'll be watching for any answers on this one - thanks for asking the exact question I would have if I'd thought of it first
 
kirk dillon
Posts: 58
Location: Maple City Michigan
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There are "other" things that will grow around Walnuts (like Mulberry) that are immune or resistant to juglone. Search Walnut Guilds here on Permies, there's a lot of info out there. Basically, you just need a juglone resistant "buffer" zone around the walnut.
I am looking for a property in northern Michigan with mature walnut, oak, maple, and hickory trees already on it. I'm not a young man but I'll plant them if I need to. Walnuts, maple syrup, acorns, and smoking wood along with all the other possible wood products. Blend in the rest of a diverse food forest and hopefully, I'll be set for life.........
 
Tristan Vitali
Posts: 297
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
34
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kirk dillon wrote: There are "other" things that will grow around Walnuts (like Mulberry) that are immune or resistant to juglone. Search Walnut Guilds here on Permies, there's a lot of info out there. Basically, you just need a juglone resistant "buffer" zone around the walnut.
I am looking for a property in northern Michigan with mature walnut, oak, maple, and hickory trees already on it. I'm not a young man but I'll plant them if I need to. Walnuts, maple syrup, acorns, and smoking wood along with all the other possible wood products. Blend in the rest of a diverse food forest and hopefully, I'll be set for life.........


Oh, I fully agree with you - tons of different things can be planted in around walnuts. I'm just referring to overstory type trees with food/utility purposes. I'm working with over 13 acres and want to divide out the acreage to something like "themed forests" - walnuts being the more restricting feature puts them as setting the tone for the 3 acres or so going to this specific forest. Here's my current "general plan" for the guild/forest that contains over 40 different species with at least some juglone tolerance, plus some edible/medicinal fungi, that should work in something like harmony to fill the various forest and edge niches:

overstory: Butternut [nuts, fungus, timber], Black Walnut [nuts, fungus, timber], Hickory [nuts, fungus, timber], Black Cherry [fruit, fungus, timber], American Beech [fungus, firewood, wildlife forage]
understory: American Hazelnut [nuts, fungus, living fence], Staghorn Sumac [berries, forage/fodder], Serviceberry [berries, forage/fodder],
Mulberry [berry, forage/fodder], Eastern Hemlock [wildlife forage, bedding/cover, timber, heat traps/windbreaks/microclimate], Pear (bartlett) [fruit],
black locust [nitrogen fixer, forage/fodder, timber], Black Willow [timber, living fence, forage/fodder]
vines: Greenbriar [edible shoots/tips, forage/fodder, living fence], Dog Rose [pollinators, hips, living fence], Wild Seeded (Fox) Grapes [grapes, food], Morning Glory [pollinators]
shrubs: Elderberry [berries, forage/fodder], Hibiscus/Mallow [pollinators, forage/fodder, medicinal], Bladdernut [nuts, forage/fodder],
Currants [berries, forage/fodder], Goumi Berry (Elaeagnus) [nitrogen fixer, berries, forage/fodder]
herbaceous: Pole Beans, Winter Squash, Melons, Perennial Sunflower, St John's Wort, Echinacea
ground cover: Peppermint [medicinal, bug control, biomass], Lambs Ear [toilet paper, biomass],
Sweet Woodruff[medicinal, tea, biomass], Lobelia [medicinal], Viola [edible], Comfrey [nutrient accumulator]
roots: Beets, Carrots and Parsnips, Onions/Garlic, Wild Ginger, Giant Solomon's Seal, Gentian, Daylilies, Jerusalem Artichoke, Hosta, Ginseng
fungus: Oysters and Shittake, Lions Mane on Beech, Reishi on Hemlock


Like I said, careful pre-planning to make sure you don't put something in that's going to need pampering - why grow what wants to die and kill what wants to live, right? I'm just wondering, like OP, if this is still a good way to get decent dimensional lumber, veneer, etc or if planting out with the forest layers and widely spaced, intercropped overstory trees like this might lead to lesser quality in the finished product. I'm not sure it would change my mind about going this route, but at least I'd know what to expect 20-40 years down the line
 
Evan McDivitt
Posts: 9
Location: Elkland, PA
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Regarding the quality of timber in widely spaced trees, the lower boles (the first 16 or so feet of the timber tree from stump up) will have a lot of sunlight shining on them if they are widely spaced. In hardwoods like black cherry and walnut, they will produce many epicormic sprouts in such a high-sun environment. These sprouts will become branches low on the tree. Since you will want the first 16 + feet to be free of branches (if you are growing trees for lumber / veneer), you will have to prune them early on. There's been a lot of research in silviculture on pruning trees. I learned if you look at a trees total canopy (or live crown) and look at the live crown ratio (in percent). This live crown ratio is the percent of the tree's total height that is in canopy. If you figure out a tree's live crown ratio, you can safely prune back 20% of its crown as long as you don't go below a total live crown ratio of 40%. So, if a young walnut is ten feet tall and has a canopy that encompasses six of those ten feet, you could prune the lowest two feet of branches resulting in a ten foot tree having a canopy that encompasses four of those ten feet. This is just a rule of thumb I learned in forestry school - I'm sure it doesn't always work so pretty in reality. Since hardwoods grow so slow, you could even just prune back the lower branches every 5 years or so to give the tree enough leaves to continually promote height growth and not outward growth. Also important, secure that first 16 feet of clear bole as quickly as possible without harming the tree's vigor. If you can secure a clear 16 to 20 ft bole as soon as possible then you will be on your way to hopefully producing some quality veneer trees.
 
Tristan Vitali
Posts: 297
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Evan McDivitt wrote:If you figure out a tree's live crown ratio, you can safely prune back 20% of its crown as long as you don't go below a total live crown ratio of 40%. So, if a young walnut is ten feet tall and has a canopy that encompasses six of those ten feet, you could prune the lowest two feet of branches resulting in a ten foot tree having a canopy that encompasses four of those ten feet.


Awesome info - just one question for clarification: You're talking about the vertical height ratio/percentage with this, correct? So in your example, a ten foot tall tree should have at least the top 4 feet as canopy / branches (40%), a 20 foot tall tree would then need to have at least the top 8 feet in canopy, and a 100 foot tall tree would need the top 40 feet as canopy. And the no more than 20% pruning rule would be same, in this vertical height percentage (so 2 feet for the ten foot tree, 4 feet for the 20 foot tree, 20 feet for a 100 foot tree).

Do I have that correct?

Thanks for the answer on this - it's exactly the type of info I was hoping for Now if I could only get a backhoe already to build those earthworks and get the trees planted!
 
Evan McDivitt
Posts: 9
Location: Elkland, PA
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Yes the live crown ratio is crown length (the vertical part) to total tree height (http://dictionaryofforestry.org/dict/term/live_crown_ratio). The live crown is: "of a standing tree the vertical distance from the tip of the leader to the base of the crown, measured to the lowest live whorl (upper crown length) or to the lowest live branch, excluding epicormics (lower crown length) or to a point halfway between (mean crown length) - {from http://dictionaryofforestry.org/dict/term/crown_length_(live_crown) }

So, you have it correct the way you described your math! So, in a ten foot tall black walnut tree, you'd measure from the tip of the leader way up high down to the lowest live branch (you're talking about the original branches as the tree was developing). Epicormic branches are a shoot arising spontaneously from an adventitious or dormant bud on the stem of a woody plant often following exposure to increased light levels or fire so disregard them in measuring the live crown ratio. If after measuring your ten foot tall tree (down to the lowest live branch) you found you had 8 feet of live crown, your live crown ratio would be 8 / 10 *100 = 80 percent. As a rule of thumb you could safely remove the lowest 20% which would be from the lowest live branch up 2ft. along the stem.

As a general rule of thumb I think you'd be safe doing it this way. I think pruning works best in younger trees. If you had a 100 foot tree, chances are the lower branches would be getting pretty large and even with pruning along the "veneer" part of the tree, the quality of the butt log would be in pretty poor shape. Although if you DID prune the lowest 20% of the 100 foot tree, I don't think it would be enough stress to kill the tree. However, if you are growing a black walnut / black cherry plantation starting with young seedlings, you have the best opportunity to influence the tree's straightness and quality of form.

Here's a PDF about "Managing Stand Quality" It discusses pruning and Live Crown Ratio more in depth.

Here may be some helpful links for you (you may have already seen them but I like them):

Corrective Pruning Of Black Walnut: http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/FNR/FNR-76.html

Black Walnut Plantation Management: http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/FNR/FNR-119.html

Black Walnut Management Slides: http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/naturalresources/DD6713.html

Growing Black Walnut: http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/naturalresources/dd0505.html
Filename: Class 29_Silviculture_Managing Stand Quality.pdf
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