Chestnut Trees: A Sustainable Alternative Land Use for Small Farms in Jefferson County

Final Report for FNC06-598

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2006: $5,996.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information


Three hill top one acre Chinese Chestnut planting variations will be tested at three adjacent sites

Can a poor sandy hill top land mass be developed into a profitable Chinese Chestnut orchard?

Goals were to determine the best method to obtain a successful orchard establishment. I have used three different sites with three identical methods of establishment. The three methods were using; direct planted seed, seedling developed by me from seed and the last was to purchase grafted rootstock from a seedling commercial nursery.

1. Hill top, sandy soil
2. Choose three different one acre test sites, each being on a different hill top
3. Two sites are planted in a East to West direction (“2A” & “0”)
a. One site is planted in a North to South direction (“z”)
b. This was done to see how the sun light may have an effect on production in the future
4. Each site was planted as follows:
a. Direct planted seed in the orchard and manually watered
b. Seed planted in my nursery to develop seedlings and then transplanted in the fall
c. Purchased grafted root stock from a nursery and planted in the fall
5. By fall each tree had wood chips added to preserve moisture
6. By spring each tree had carpet strips added over the wood chips to again preserve moisture through the summer
7. Added fertilizer to each tree in the spring
8. Did not manually water in summer because of sufficient rainfall
9. Applied Malathion Dust to prevent Japanese Beetle attack
10. Installed wire cages to each tree to prevent deer damage. Held cages in place with two re-bar rods per cage
11. Developed a clover cover crop between each tree and in the rows to prevent soil erosion and provide some natural nitrogen in the poor ground
12. Controlled all grass vegetation around each tree
13. In the fall, added additional wood chips for moisture and ground freeze around and near each tree

- Mike Gold and Ken Hunt from the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo. Their support of variety type to plant and technical support
- Dennis Fullbright from Michigan State with his many years in Chestnut Research for Michigan orchards
- Dean Wilson from University of Missouri Extension office in Jefferson County with Chestnut news items in the local county news letters
- The Leader Newspaper from Festus, Missouri with a news release about my grant and my nut farm
- KJCF Radio, a local radio station in Festus promoting my tree farm about nuts
- Michelle Hall’s news article in the Chestnut Growers Association newsletter about my chestnut development
- Students from the seminary of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in St. Louis assisted me with all the labor
- Attended the CGA annual meeting conference to discuss ideas along with failure and success that they experienced in the years of development, production and marketing the Chinese Chestnut
- The CGA was held in Chico, California this past summer
- The Northern Nut Growers Association (NNGA) was held in College Station, Texas this past summer

1. I have no problems with rodents by using the wood chips mulch and also the carpet strips to maintain moisture around each tree.
2. The cages were held steady and upright. The cages did prevent deer damage. The deer were in the orchard most of the time enjoying the tasty clover.
3. The clover and wheat mixed planting sure assisted in preventing erosion
4. The row direction at this young age didn’t have any effect on tree growth
5. A couple of the nursery grafted root stock trees had a single small burr develop by fall
6. All of the direct seed was up and growing by the first fall. By spring very few of them came to life and continued to grow.
a. Field “Z” had a 30% success
b. Field “O” had a 39% success
c. Field “2A” had a 38% success
d. Reason for failure had to be poor root development or wrong fertilizer mixtures
7. After planting all the seedlings in the fall the success to continue to grow the next spring was as follows:
a. Field “Z” had a 98% success
b. Field “O” had a 97.4% success
c. Field “2” had a 59% success
d. I suspect the root mass of the seedlings and planting depth was the major reason for failure
8. After planting all the root stock grafted trees from the nursery they continued growth was as follows the next spring.
a. Field “Z” was 100% success
b. Field “O” was 99% success
c. Field “2A” was 70% success
d. Poor handling of trees in shipment and at the nursery along with planting depth was the major reason for failure
9. In the second fall I planted home grown seedlings in place of all the direct planted seed and my previous nursery grown seedlings that had failed
a. Also replaced the grafted nursery trees with replacements from the nursery. Also added 10 additional grafted trees to each field
10. Will apply nitrogen as suggested to each tree in mid April of 2009

Will need to wait until May 2009 to check out the survival of each orchard

Change fertilizer formula to more nitrogen to promote root development

To time consuming and labor intensive to do direct seeding

It is a joy to develop seedlings from your own seed in a nursery bed. In the future, I will need to graft to the desirable cultivar for production or take the chances as to the quality of any one seedling to develop into a good quality for health and production.

The grafted rootstock trees from Forrest Keeling are expensive, but may have earlier production to overcome the expense. Suggest planting a budgeted quantity each year until you have a full orchard. With a grafted tree you know the cultivar and a 2 to 3 year head start for return income.

Project Impacts
Over the last two years I have generated a starting interest in the chestnut as a niche farm product in my area. Each year a few more people have become interested. It has gone from zero a couple years ago, and has grown to six newly interested families. I am sure the University of Missouri Chestnut Seminars and my continuous effect to promote chestnut agriculture in my county, the interest will continue to grow. I have plans to share a “Chestnut Roast” somewhere in my county this fall, so the citizens can enjoy the true taste of fresh chestnuts.

- Local radio
- Local newspaper
- County Extension newsletters
- Booth at the county Extension luncheon each spring
- Nut Growers newsletter
- Community interaction via phone and email
- Attending Chestnut Seminars and conferences to obtain additional knowledge for myself
- Integrated with my local community college to develop a class field work experience
- Results were to generate six new families to become active in the small product of chestnuts.


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.