Testing aged manure for enhanced soil health and tree establishment in a pioneer chestnut orchard.

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2019: $8,649.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2021
Grant Recipient: Ox Heights
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Abby Johnson
Ox Heights


  • Nuts: chestnuts
  • Additional Plants: trees


  • Animal Production: manure management
  • Crop Production: agroforestry, fertilizers, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research
  • Soil Management: composting, soil analysis, soil quality/health


    During 2017, 435 hybrid Japanese/European grafted chestnut trees were planted on a ridge in Northeast Michigan near Lake Huron where chestnut trees have not traditionally been grown; SARE grant FNC17-1081. Tree survival was 99%, terminal growth in year 1 was 1-2 ft., and some nuts were produced.  Starting in 2019, the establishing chestnut trees will need fertilizer. Aged manure could be a very good fertilizer for establishing chestnuts because manure is likely to increase soil organic matter, provide macro and micro nutrients, increase moisture availability, and improve winter survival by insulating the ground.  But manure has never been tested or evaluated as a soil amendment for establishing chestnuts according to Chestnut Growers of America and the Australian Nutgrower. Therefore, we proposed an experiment where manure aged roughly 7 months will be applied around some trees and the inorganic fertilizer recommended by Michigan State University will be applied around remaining trees, comparing both tree health and soil outcomes.  The project promotes sustainable, diversified agriculture by revealing options for enhancing chestnut orchard establishment, while also managing manure on our farm and reducing inorganic fertilizer use.  A blog, video, field day, and presentation at a nut growers meeting will disseminate results.

    Project objectives:

    • (1) Evaluate the feasibility of using aged manure in lieu of inorganic fertilizer during chestnut orchard establishment by evaluating tree survival, growth, nut production, and soil health.
    • (2) Disseminate information regarding the feasibility of using aged manure in lieu of inorganic fertilizer during chestnut orchard establishment results through a blog, conference presentation, field day, and final report to SARE.
    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.