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Coppicing & Nut Production

 
Patrick Winters
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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?
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
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Location: Western Washington
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Bump.

I am also curious about hazel, filbert, and chestnuts
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
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Location: northern California
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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....
 
Peter Ellis
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Location: Central New Jersey
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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.

 
Sean Klomparens
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Location: Oregon City, OR
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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)
 
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