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?
Some 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 acre.
Myth #2 - Chinese chestnut trees out produce European - casual research
indicates the best producing chinese 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 produce
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.
Myth #5 - Chestnut tress consistantly produce nuts year after year -
Chestnut trees can produce execellent crops year after year as long as they
are not stressed. Under stressed conditions, the chestnut trees may not
produce many nuts. Chestnuts trees can experience stress with low nitrogen
levels in the soil, soil ph greater than 6.5, drought, and soils with poor
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 no matter
where you estabilish your orchard. Conditions are not the same
everywhere. For example, Marival trees take light frosts at the time
they are budding as compared to most other European cultivars. 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
in selecting chestnut tree cultivars for your orchard.