I'm very interested in coppicing for a number of reasons. Firstly, it would allow marginal forest land to be cleared for the establishment of pasture and a forest garden, while the oak and hickory trees that have been cut would be able to re-sprout again, providing tool handles, post-wood, or firewood in the future, while simultaneously providing acorns and hickory nuts for me or for the livestock. Coppicing nut trees like hazel or chestnut would also allow for denser stocking in a food forest. OR at least that's what I hope. What I'd love to hear is your opinions on whether or not coppicing has a net positive result when it comes to nut and acorn production. Do coppiced trees produce well? What are the variables? Do some species provide good crops under those circumstances, while others require major growth?
Just by virtue of observation, I would think that the hazel, being a shrub in at least some of its varieties, would respond well to coppicing and would, on a per-area basis, perhaps be as productive of nuts in a coppice system than in one where "clumps" or single trees were left for their entire natural lives. Most other nuts, however, are large trees, requiring several to many years from seeds or stump sprouts to begin producing nuts in any significant quantity. Coppicing does, I think, prolong the life of the stump and root system; but one would have to have quite a large area, and a very long rotation between coppicings, comparable to natural stand replacement, in order to see no reduction in nut yield. I may be wrong.....I've read that some of the newer hybrid oaks and chestnuts can produce nuts much faster than the average wild tree....and this would make shorter-rotation coppicing more of a possibility....
There is quite a bit of information out about coppicing. I think Martin Crawford is a good person to start with. Hazel has a long history of coppicing, but part of that is because it has a long history of the coppiced wood being used for numerous purposes. I am not sure what impact coppicing has on the nut production.
On coppicing the taller trees that are normally your canopy, i would think that this would make it harder to stock things together, not easier. By putting them all at about the same height, it seems to me you increase competition among them. With a tall oak, you can fit a hazel or two around, partially under the oak, but if they're all 8 feet tall and bushy due to coppicing, I would be concerned that you would need more space, not less. Could be wrong, but that's my first impression.
I am more inclined to think of the nitrogen fixers as targets for coppicing, since I want to use them for mulch and fodder, in addition to their role growing in the food forest, and they are not necessarily there for their food production.
I emailed Martin Crawford to ask him this exact question about chestnuts and I got this response:
"There are many variables involved and nobody has the done the research so any answer is half guesswork. Main variable is how long the coppicing cycle is. If the chestnuts were coppiced on a 15 year cycle you’d get perhaps 70-80% of crop of an uncoppiced tree. Shorter cycles would give less. Two trees coppiced at 10 years might give about the same as one large tree."
He was referring to coppicing chestnuts.
I do know that with Hazelnuts in OR they do a strategy where they double density plant them (9' spacing) and then after 8-12 years they remove every other for the standard 18' spacing. So they just skip coppicing in general because a large tree produces so much more than a small tree (more photosynthesis)
Nut trees produce on second year and older growth so if you are going to coppice them you have to use at least a 5 year cycle.
Hickory and oak are slow growing trees, this regulates them to long term coppice cycles.
The wood of these trees is not very strong at young ages so if you are going to use them for handles and so on, you need them to be at least 9 years old.
There is no problem with coppicing any tree that is prone to sucker growth, Moringa is traditionally coppiced every five years for fire wood production.
Hickory can be coppiced every ten years but your new wood will only be in the 3-4 inch diameter range.
There are also trees that will sprout sucker trees from their roots, some of these such as sumac are not particularly good fire woods but this is the way we grow pipe stems since this is one of our traditional pipe stem woods.
So if I try coppicing the many wild hazelnuts on my farm (which was effectively abandoned for over a decade), I'll get fodder for goats and maybe cows, but not particularly nuts.
But it sounds like if we take down the chestnut tree that has lost its bark at lawn level (more than half the circumference, lots of dead wood in the tree further up as a result) it may grow back from the stump, and we'd get chestnuts faster than if we planted a new tree?
The hazels will come back and the second year they would be ready to produce nuts.
The goats, if put into the area of these trees, would browse them as is, in effect coppicing for you, the cows will do the same, just not as much.
This method would do great things for the soil in that area because of the manure and trampling that would occur.
If the chestnut has been nearly girdled (which it sounds like) it would be best to cut it down, leaving around 2-3 inches of stump.
The suckers should come from this short trunk which makes it easier for future coppice or management of the new trunks.
Good chestnut trees produce their first nuts in the second year, occasionally the first year of planting, this is for year old transplants.
Chestnut wood is awesome for making things from, furniture, spoons, buckets can all be made of chestnut wood.
Hazel wood is a nice smoking wood and it also makes good wooden tools.
In Short Yes Julia
In long form it depends
I use the wild hazel nuts for canes and stuff and cut them prettty regularly, every year or so so for forage thaty would work well
The Chestnut I suspect will depend on what the problem is . If its a disease then maybe it wont regenerate .
Living in Anjou , France,
For the many not for the few