Green Horizons Newsletter - AgEBB

AgEBB-MU CAFNR Extension

Green Horizons

Volume 22, Number 3
Fall 2018

Forest Industry

Missouri Black Walnut Initiative

By Bob Ball | Missouri Chapter, Walnut Council

Imagine for a moment it's a miserable day outside, so you are rearranging your sock drawer. Suddenly, you find a large stash of cash you had forgotten you had hidden there years ago. Oh boy! Immediately, you begin dreaming about what you can buy, places you can visit, bills you can pay and on and on. Hopefully, some of this new-found wealth will be invested in stocks, bonds, or mutual funds planning for another rainy day.

The next morning is a beautiful day and you decide to walk through your woods, so you climb onto your utility vehicle and head out. A few minutes later you see a small parcel of land you used to crop years ago that raised excellent corn and soybeans. Today, instead of growing row crops the land is growing weeds, some brush, bush honeysuckle, autumn olive, and multiflora rose; all because you decided three years ago it was too difficult to maneuver your bigger equipment around the field. Are you going to begin thinking of ways to utilize that rediscovered wealth in land or will you close the sock drawer and drive on?

The "Missouri Walnut Initiative" is a promotion by the Missouri Walnut Council to encourage establishing and managing black walnut on idle acres of well-suited soils. Those walnut trees could become a significant source of income for your family and future generations. Well-managed walnut trees are like a savings account. Black walnut is one of the most valuable timber species in the United States, and the long-term outlook is good. The beautiful chocolate colored wood is easy to work with and has a natural satin finish.

Black walnut (Juglans nigra) volunteers may be managed for long-term value. Credit MO Chapter Black Walnut Council.

Black Walnut (Juglans nigra L.), a valuable fine hardwood tree, may be growing voluntarily on your best soils in small, isolated areas that once produced excellent row crops. Walnut trees can be established in recently idled areas to produce a cash crop for future generations growing a "woody portfolio" for your heirs!

Missouri is well known for suitability to black walnut; with 20% of all walnut in the native range growing in this state. The current Forest Inventory estimates Missouri has 41 million black walnut trees with a diameter 5" or greater, which is more than twice the second rate state of Ohio.

The growing site is the most important factor in establishing and managing black walnut. Walnut grows best on lower slopes and stream valleys that have good soil moisture, deep (at least 60 in.) soil profiles, loamy soil textures, and a neutral pH. Our best sites are deep alluvial soils along creeks and deep loess soils mapped as "Well- Suited" using the soil mapping, soil data explorer, and vegetative productivity tools on the Natural Resource Conservation Service's web soil survey site. Growing quality walnut trees depends on achieving these

Look for walnut saplings on recently idled land; plant nuts or seedlings in open areas.

 Exclude livestock from the site.

 Deaden trees like fast growing sycamore and soft maple so the young walnuts are taller than competing trees and brush for at least 15 years.

 Use herbicides to control grass and broadleaf vegetation 4' around the base of walnut seedlings for 3 or more years or taller than the competing vegetation.

 Use herbicides to control grapevines and invasive species.

 Prune during the dormant season to a central leader; ideally, remove lateral branches 1.5" or less in diameter. use crop tree management to periodically release the best trees. Manage the competition!

What's your walnut worth?

The value of your timber depends on species, grade, location, market prices, and the harvest season. Trees growing on well-suited soils could be harvest-ready in 50-70 years. On a constant dollar basis, they may be worth $25,000-$60,000or more per acre assuming 30 crop trees per acre at harvest time. Do not loose site of the fact this Initiative is about providing for our future generations. Growing walnut trees is much slower than finding hidden cash in your sock drawer, but is still a valuable opportunity, not to be missed!

Financial and technical assistance is available to eligible landowners wanting to establish and manage woodlands. To learn more about these resources and managing black walnut visit the Missouri Chapter, Walnut Council Initiative website at:; email:, or contact a professional forester serving your area.

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