MANHATTAN, Kan. — The Walnut Council Field Day scheduled for Thursday, June 2, in the northeast corner of Kansas will give equal attention to nut production, timber management and sawmill processing.
“All three are parts of a forest products industry that could be yielding more and better returns in Kansas. And, that’s saying quite a bit, given that black walnuts already are the state’s most valuable forest resource,” said Dave Bruton, Kansas Forest Service district forester who helped organize the council’s annual event.
Field day check-in will begin at 8:30 a.m. near Troy, Kan., at the plantation George Rush has established with improved cultivars of black walnut. After a series of morning sessions there, participants will travel to Wathena for lunch (covered in the event’s $10 registration fee) and afternoon sessions at the Hewins’ Sawmill.
If the weather brings rain, the entire day’s program will be in Troy’s fair building at 211 North Boder St.
Those who register by May 31 also will have their names put into a drawing for a chance to buy one of 20 grafted Kwik Krop black walnut trees for $5. (The cultivar regularly sells for five to six times that much.) A development of Stark Bro’s in Missouri, Kwik Krop is producing big crops of easy-to-shell nuts in half the time that wild black walnut trees require.
Directions for registering and for driving to the Rush plantation are online in the field day brochure at http://www.kansasforests.org/calendar/index.shtml. For further information, participants can contact council member Larry Rutter by phone (785-484-2509) or email (email@example.com).
The day’s speakers and their topics will include:
- * Why use improved black walnut varieties? – John Knorr, president, Nebraska Nut Growers Association.
- * Black walnut pruning and management techniques – Bill Reid, nationally recognized Kansas State University Research and Extension specialist in nut production.
- * Bonus benefits of black walnut riparian plantings – Carl Johnson, coordinator, Missouri River Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) group.
- * Industry perspective of log quality (walking tour) – Marty Hewins and Gary Rudloff, each of whom has more than 30 years of experience in identifying and grading quality black walnut logs.
- * Thousand cankers disease (always fatal to black walnut trees): update on Kansas’ quarantine – Jeff Vogel, the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s program manager for plant protection, and Nicole Ricci, the Kansas Forest Service’s forest health specialist.
- * Evaluating and processing a log, grading and valuing the lumber – Michael Hewins, Christopher Hewins and Marty Hewins.
While they’re growing, black walnut trees reduce erosion, as well as provide shade and beauty, Bruton said. When harvested, they benefit from Kansas walnuts’ worldwide reputation for quality wood. Much of their timber goes overseas into the manufacture of veneers, to cover lesser woods.
As a group, Kansans also sell an average 1 million pounds of walnut nuts to Hammons Products Company in Stockton, Mo. While the nutmeats are a favorite for cooking, the shells can become a variety of products, including gentle abrasives for both jewelry polishing and skin exfoliation.
In a late fall 2010 interview, CEO Brian Hammons said his company pays more for walnuts from named varieties. In 2006, for example, it bought 41,000 pounds of black walnuts from just 11 producers growing such cultivars as Kwik Krop, Emma-K and TomBoy. Their average price was 50 cents a pound, while the top price was 82 cents per pound. The growers produced more nuts per tree, and their nuts were an average 23.4 percent kernel.
That same year, the company typically purchased wild trees’ nuts for 8 to 13 cents a pound, Hammons said. Those nuts’ yield rate averaged about 7 percent kernel.
He urged growers who want to make extra money via agroforestry to consider planting black walnut trees that are grafted with improved cultivars.
K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus in Manhattan.