Answer to the Tree Mystery

8 Dec

Now I know you have all been on the edge of your seat all weekend!!  I bet you can’t hardly stand not knowing what is going on with those hazelnut trees!!

So here is the deal.  We are thinning our orchards because they have grown too big and the trees need more room to grow in order to become more productive.  Now this might seem strange, mostly because we are taking out half of our trees and that seems odd for two reasons.  First of all, how does taking out trees allow for them to produce more nuts?And secondly, aren’t hazelnuts at an all time high price? Why in the world would you want to get rid of them?

Hazelnut trees when planted close together eventually will grow together so tightly that they won’t let all the sunlight into the trees.  When it doesn’t get sun, there will be no production in that area.  So by taking out half of the trees you allow the trees to individually grow more, get more sunlight, and eventually produce more nuts as a single tree than as a tree crowded in by others that are close around it.  For example we have done this to another orchard that is right next door to this one.  We took out half of the trees over a two year period, and while we experienced a yield loss the first year.  Every year after that it has been pretty quickly getting back to it’s original yield.  This past year, only 4 years since taking out 50% of the trees, it’s back to 100% of the yield we were getting before thinning.  We expect this yield increase to continue and our happy trees to continue to enjoy their space and sun and give us more nuts in return.

Yes as you may have heard through the grapevine (not sure if that’s the best use of terms here) but hazelnuts are at a record high price.  This has to do some with demand and some with a deep freeze in Turkey.  So it’s a good question, why would we want to take a hit now?  The reason is that this is an agronomic decision as much as it is an economic decision.  This is something that we will accomplish over the next two years for this particular orchard, so that will help ease the blow.  But if say to yourself, “The price is high so we want all the nuts we can get.” Wouldn’t you also say to yourself, “The price is low, so we want to get all the nuts we can get!”?  Basically there is no good time to tear out trees, and no matter what it’s a tough decision of when to pull the trigger.  For us, for the size of our trees, for the good of the rest of our trees that we are leaving, now is the time.

That’s the thing with farming.  Sometimes you have to make decisions that look strange to someone who isn’t involved in what you are doing.  Sometimes you look like that crazy neighbor that probably has no idea what they are doing, that someone driving by could be very critical of.  But usually when someone is doing something different than what you’re used to on a farm, it’s because they have a situation economic or agronomic that warrants a creative, different or unconventional way of doing things.

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