How can consumer awareness for chestnuts be increased economically?
How does the farmer manage the orchard to achieve the
How long can the chestnuts be on the ground before they
start to rot?
What kind of soils will chestnuts tolerate and still be
considered commercially viable?
How best can chestnuts be stored and for how long?
What is the best variety to grow commercially?
How can pests be controlled since there are few products
labeled for use on chestnuts?
of these questions can be addressed in simple terms backed by research
conducted at University research facilities around the world and casual
research conducted within the United States of America. Before going
into the suggestions a few myths must be addressed first.
Myth #1 - Chestnut orchards can product 6000 lbs per acre - casual research
indicates the best producing orchards in North America produce about 2200 lbs per
Myth #2 - Chinese chestnut trees out produce European - casual research indicates the best
producing chestnut tree orchards east of the Rocky Mountains produce
about 1200 lbs per acre.
Myth #3 -
Chestnut producers make $6.00/lbs (2006 retail pricing) - casual
research demonstrates only producers selling directly to consumers are
receiving $6.00/lb. Many orchards selling to retail stores are
receiving between $1.50 - $3.50 per pound. The pricing presented here
is known in accounting as gross revenue. When a producer actually
makes money it is after all other expenses are paid. Many orchards are
operated on the owners land where they live. If they had to repay land
loans with interest for the land the trees are grown on then few if any
would actually make money. A local potato producer makes lots of money
on the many acres they farm. Almost all the land they farm is rented on
an annual basis for between $200-$350 per acre. The rent is far below
the actual cost of owning the land.
Myth #4 - Chestnut trees have few pests - Like most crops the first
few years the pests that harm chestnut trees and the nuts they product
are few in number, so little harm is done. As the pests increase in
number the harm increases until the orchard can no longer produce
commercial quality nuts. Then there are some growers who do not
recognize the harm or problems in their orchard.
Myth #5 - Colossal chestnut tress are the top producing commercial chestnut
trees - Colossal chestnut trees are a top producing chestnut tree but
it suffers from being easily stressed. Under stressed conditions the
Colossal chestnut tree is one of the lowest producing chestnut trees.
For chestnuts stress conditions can be low nitrogen levels in the soil,
soil ph greater than 6.5, drought, and soils with poor drainage./p>
Myth #6 - Roasted chestnuts are an American tradition - Roasted chestnuts
have been a part of both European and Asian diets for over 1000 years.
The Romans helped establish the first chestnut groves in Europe.
American tradition of using American chestnuts for providing culinary
delight dates back before the arrival of the first Europeans.
Now that the myths are addressed lets look at some suggestions. There are
two very important suggestions. The first and most important is not to try to grow chestnut trees in clay soils. One of the United States
leading experts in chestnut tree management says "Chestnut trees do not
grow in clay soil". We attempted to place several chestnut trees in
what would be considered a clay based soil. The results were all the
same, the trees died. The other very important suggestion is to find
the best producing variety for your conditions. The experts say its important to
establish your orchard with grafted trees. This is excellent advice if
conditions were the same everywhere. Conditions are not the same
everywhere. For example, Marival trees take light frosts at the time
they are budding out better than Colossals. Chinese chestnut trees take
winter cold better than European varieties. The bottom line is no
matter what the experts say, local conditions always take presidence
over what the university research farms advise.