Published On: Thu, Jan 24th, 2019

Maximising Revenue from Walnut Farming

Agriculture is a massive contributor to the economy of many countries. With the variety of cultivars available to choose from, some of the most popularly grown in the United States are fruit trees. In this regard, many farmers are venturing into planting nut-bearing trees to answer the demand for nuts both for local consumption and export. Of the different types of nuts to cultivate, the walnut is at the top of the list because of two reasons. First, you can plant a walnut tree for its fruit, or you can plant it for lumber.

photo/Gerd Altmann

Walnut as a valuable crop

China is currently the top producer of walnut across the globe, with the USA being the third top producer. Among all the viable fried fruit and nuts, walnut production continues to increase making it a valuable crop for those who are interested in farming it.

The challenge with farming walnut is that you will need to wait a few years before the trees become productive. Some varieties like the Chandler walnut tree are most suitable for nut production, while there are others, like black walnut, that are mostly planted for timber.

To get income while waiting for the trees to start bearing fruit or be old enough to cut down for timber, many farmers introduce double cropping or agroforestry. This practice entails planting crops used to feed livestock. Since walnut trees are typically planted far apart, the spaces between rows are ideal for planting other productive crops. Apart from crops used for grazing livestock, farmers can also plant high-value crops like blueberries and raspberries.

Agroforestry can provide income in several stages. During the first few years after planting the walnut trees, the revenue will exclusively come from whatever crop is planted between the rows. When walnuts start to get bigger, they are usually thinned down to a maximum of 30 trees for every acre of land. Wood collected from thinning can be sold. Eventually, after several years, the walnut trees will start to bear fruit which can produce up to 6,000 pounds of nuts for every acre of land. When the walnut trees become mature, harvesting timber can bring in significant profits especially if the tree variety is black walnut.

Maximising revenue

Walnuts are not as common a commodity as other fruits and vegetables which means they can fetch a premium price when sold in bulk or at farmer’s markets. There are other value-added products from walnut which can bring additional revenue. Some example includes the widely popular nut butter, baked goods, and candies. Farmers can also venture into selling seedlings and grafted plants directly from the orchard. In some instances, selling seedlings can bring in higher profits than selling the nuts.

Cultivating walnut requires patience and perseverance because the produce is not instant, unlike planting vegetables. However, a walnut orchard offers versatility in revenue, and once the farm becomes productive, you can expect it to continue producing for many years to come. Coupled with agroforestry practices, a walnut farmer can maximise profits by mixing other crops with the walnut as well as selling legacy trees as timber.

Author: Joana Green

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