WALNUT TREES FOR TIMBER
PROFITABILITY AND INVESTMENT SECURITY
Meristec proposes one of the most appreciated hardwoods on both the national and international markets: walnut timber. This has densities of 600 to 750 Kg/m3, achieving medium grade hardness, fine grain and straight fibre. With a homogeneous character, high elasticity and heaviness, this type of wood resists weather and fungi well. It is an irreplaceable material for other synthetic products, generating an exponential demand in industrialized countries. We recommend this crop due to its high economic value, using the latest available agronomic technologies: selection and preparation of the land, use of fertigation systems, unique training and pruning methods, disease control and use of better plant materials for maximum productivity.
On the other hand, Meristec recommends taking advantage of the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification, an international organization involved in the responsible and sustainable management of forests. A product label that makes it easier for consumers to recognize that their products have supported the growth of responsible forest management.
Rhythmic and monopodial growth of mixed terminal buds. Examples: are Vlach, RGA, IRTA-R6® and NG23xRA.
Tremendously vigorous paradox clone. The mother tree is more than 100 years old and 30 m tall; with a perimeter of 7.50 m measured at 1.20 m. In other words, it has grown at a rate of 7.5 cm of trunk perimeter per year, for, on average, 100 years. It was not initially selected as a forest tree (it has a lot of branching and a tendency to produce suckers) but its excellent vigor and low chilling needs (less than 300 h) make it practically the only possibility for warm areas. It is quite rustic: it works well in more limestone areas than those theoretically recommended for a Paradox (pH of 8.2, for example), and has fewer problems than other materials (IRTA-X80®) if the level of management does not offer excessive care. As it is a Paradox you also have to be careful not to use it when winter temperatures tend to drop below -10ºC.
Vigorous clone of French regia used as a rootstock along with other materials. It also stands out due to its extraordinary apical dominance, reduced lateral branching and open branch insertion angle. Its growth is more rustic than hybrids and is recommended in areas that experience low winter temperatures.
Its success is focused on the European timber industry, that always appreciales J. regia walnuts better due to its ability to obtain different shades.
Selection of IRTA regia recommended for cold areas. It has a similar vigor to hybrids, but with the commercial advantages mentioned for the regia. With excellent apical dominance and reduced lateral branching, it maintains its late leafing until the end of April. It is a clone registered by IRTA, requiring the payment of a royalty fee.
Clonal selection of the French hybrid from Italy. Excellent apical dominance and vigor with reduced lateral branching. Better adaptation to limy soils than usual in these hybrids. More vigorous than the regia and less demanding in pruning and training. It has no problems in very cold areas.
Faqs walnut trees for timber production
Each type of crop has its own requirements, which are very different from each other. For example, to produce it is necessary to train tall trees (more than 5 m) and large diameter trunks that are free of wounds from thick branches. However, a French study indicates that in a walnut tree orchard for nut production, for every 20 cm that we raise the lowest productive branch from the ground, we increase the nut bearing by one year It is clear that both systems are incompatible. In order to optimize yields, the varieties used to produce walnut have completely different traits to those used to produce timbers (in some cases, hybrids with a high degree of sterility, which practically won’t produce nuts in order to devote almost all their energy on producing timber).
Although selling a tree whose timber, after producing nuts for 25 years, has a great market value, we have to discard the possibility of using the same tree to produce walnut and timber at the same time.
Producing walnuts and timber (in different trees) in the same orchard can be a different situation. Initially increasing the tree density of a farm with the ultimate goal of producing wood using wood trees for the production of walnuts (for example, in a 8×8 m orchand interspersed with 4 m walnut trees for nut production could have a beneficial effect in the first years (increase in competition, improvement of apical dominance and straightness of timber trees, reduction of training needs) and allow us to produce nuts until the competition forces to clear out the nut trees to maximize timber development.
In any case, these types of orchards are being studied. It is necessary to evaluate aspects such as the influence of the greater growth in height of the walnut trees in the availability of light for fruit walnuts, the increase in cost that the use of insecticides in a timber plantation implies that, under other conditions, wouldn’t need and, ultimately, if the increase in investment is truly profitable.
At present, most of the walnut orchards are being developed have a single clear objective: either nut or timber production.
It will depend on the edaphoclimatic conditions, the management of the orchard and the plant material to be used.
Meristec is commercializing clonal materials whose mother trees have produced more than 1.3 m3 of wood in 25 years. Under the right edaphoclimatic conditions and with an optimized management (putting all the conditions that are in our hands in favour of the development of the plantation) it is feasible to think of an average productivity per tree of between 1 and 1.3 m3 in a period of 22 to 25 years.
Fortunately, one of this product’s characteristics is that, far from being perishable, its value grows in line with the tree’s growth. Therefore, if we can afford to wait longer to harvest (at least part of the orchard), the profitability of the project does not increase linearly.
Our opinion is no, it won’t. In order to provide our customers with the maximum amount of information about the product they are going to obtain with the walnut trees we produce, we will say that a survey has been carried out among the Spanish producers of walnut veneer. In this regard, the loggers have expressed with complete certainty that the diameter of each foot is a critical factor when it comes to quoting the price of its timber, given that its production system significantly increases its yield with larger diameter logs. As an example, the price differences between a tree which is 40 to 45 cm in diameter and another of more than 50 cm can reach over 25%.
Therefore, it is best to plant at a density that, taking full advantage of the surface area of our farm, prevents competition between trees.
Several studies carried out both in France and in Spain, as well as the experience of researchers and experts working with this species estimate that, on average, per Ha about 160-170 trees will be able to be brought to a harvesting period, preventing them from competing with each other. Consequently, it is recommended to plant at 7×7 m (204 trees per hectare), so that, depending on our conditions, we can clarify among those who can compete with each other, those who have least developed until we get the number of trees mentioned.
If the tree density is intensified, the amount of wood will be maintained (up to a certain density, at which it will begin to decrease), but at the cost of producing less wood per foot, as these will be of smaller diameter. The consequence will be of a similar wood production, but with a clearly lower market value.
Pruning and training in a walnut tree plantation for timber production is a critical factor to obtain maximum profitability from our orchard.
The survey carried out among Spanish timber companies that use walnut wood in order to provide our customers with as much information as possible about the product they are going to obtain with the walnut trees we produce and their market has shown that the straightness of the trunk and absence of defects (such as wounds that leave branches with a thickness greater than 3 cm in diameter) are the traits that will have the greatest influence on the price of the timber from our walnut trees.
To put it another way: a poorly trained tree with defects will have a very small market value. The differences can be overwhelming: from 300 (bad trees) at 2,500 Euros (properly trained trees), with the same volume.
Training and pruning is not complex nor requires great dedication, but due to its importance, it is necessary to pay adequate attention if you want to get the maximum profitability out of the orchard.
All deciduous plants require a certain number of chilling (there are many definitions of this term, here we will use: “Number of annual hours with a temperature lower than 7.2ºC) to cover what are called vernalization needs and leaf normally the following spring. Chilling requirements depend on both the clone and the species, so there are walnut trees with both large and small chilling needs.
If these chilling requirements are not met, there is a risk that the tree will not leaf when it should or will do so in a less vigorous way, reduding the vegetative growth. Therefore, it is not advisable to use walnut trees that require a lot of chilling in temperate zones: they would simply not grow well.
The need in chilling of different clones and varieties of walnut treess is a genetic trait, so it depends on the plant material in particular. In other words, each clone or variety has specific needs. This means, as in other circumstances, that the specific climatic conditions of the orchard will determine which material should be used
Meristec has both clones with different degrees of chilling requirements; even some that can be used perfectly in conditions with slow chilling (growing perfectly in areas where they live with citrus trees, for example). To receive personalized information free of charge about the most appropriate plant material for your conditions, don’t hesitate to contact our technical/commercial department.
In this aspect we are limited: the one that best adapts to the edaphoclimatic conditions of our orchard. It is the most logical way to get the most out of our plantation.
As examples: the black walnut (Juglans nigra, L) are the most demanding in soil and climate conditions, looking for neutral pH and no limestone; the common walnut (Juglans regia, L.) is more rustic and works better with higher pHs, supporting the limestone better; the hybrids are somewhere in between. There are many other factors (chilling, maximum temperatures in summer, minimum temperatures in winter, other soil characteristics…). The wide range of possible variables makes it practically impossible to briefly summarize the large number of possible particular conditions. Meristec will provide you with personalized information free of charge for your conditions through our technical/commercial department. Don’t hesitate to contact us to learn about the most appropriate material for your plantation.
Again, each one has its characteristics. Timber from English or Persian walnuts is highly appreciated by European loggers, but its scarcity (one of the factors that affect this consideration) makes it impossible for there to be a stable price quotation, as is the case with the American black walnut. This species is produced in the American Midwest in sufficient quantity so that its industry has perfectly standardized its products and managed to establish quotes with a certain stability. The hybrid walnut trees have been recently introduced on the market, but given the shortage of walnut trees, they are being excellently received, having obtained good market prices.
In short, with any of the walnut species that are being used, an excellent profitability of our project can be achieved. Once again, we consider the most important thing is to make sure that the plant material adapts to our farm without problems. If the choice of plant material is not adequate, its growth will not be good, it will take much more work to train the tree, and the profitability of the project may be compromised.
Although economic predictions are always very difficult to make (someone said that “an economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn’t happen today”, with all our respect for the economists’ union), in this case you can establish a simplification that makes it easy enough: within 25 years the walnut wood that will be on the market will be the one that is being planted now. And currently not enough timber trees are being planted to supply the large number of hectares of tropical hardwoods that are being lost (due to felling or reconversion of the land to other activities); the current demand is unsatisfied and everything points towards future demand being even greater.
The absence of substitute materials, together with population growth, as well their purchasing power led the World Bank to estimate a 25% increase in wood consumption between 1995 and 2010. Given that these factors will remain, and even increase after these dates, it is easy to come to the conclusion that the production of noble wood will continue to be a highly profitable project in the years to come.