Whenever a beginner
(or a veteran) nut grower decides to make a planting of nut trees,
it is very proper to ask the question "Will I plant seedlings
or grafted trees?" Certainly not an easy question to answer.
In order to shed some light on the question a person should analyze
what are his objectives for planting the trees: "What level
of production do I want? Do filberts suit my taste better than heartnuts?
Do all Persian walnuts taste the same? Will species "x"
fill (mature) nuts properly in this area? Is the tree fast growing,
slow growing? Will the selection be self pollinating? What is the
size of the nut? Is the nut meat easy to extract from the shells?
What is the percentage crackout of nut meat? Will the tree be hardy
in my backyard, the back of my farm? Will my selection make a good
shade tree? Is the tree unusually susceptible to late spring frosts?
What are the storage (keeping) qualities of the nuts? Are the nuts
easy to remove from the outer husks? What are the cultural requirements
of the tree? Is the tree subject to diseases and insects? How much
space does the tree require? Is the tree easy to transplant? How
soon does the tree come into bearing?"
When a person
determines his objectives first, then the question of seedlings
versus grafted trees, becomes somewhat easier to answer. Certainly
it is not my intention to bewilder the beginning nut grower with
endless questions. Probably very few nut growers answer all of the
foregoing questions before initiating a planting of trees. Most
often it is a case that not all of the required information is readily
available. However I have tried to cover a good sampling of the
proper objectives so that the individual nut grower can pursue the
answers to the questions to whatever extent his interests dictate.
I will now attempt
to provide a general guide to answering the questions listed above
although admittedly I enter the avenues, "where angels fear
In what ways
may a grafted tree meet the objectives better than a seedling tree?
It is the assumption with grafted trees that under specified conditions
...ABC ... that the results will be ... XYZ ... In other words if
neighbour ... M... has the same soil type and the same general cultural
and climate conditions as neighbour ... N ... then the two growers
should get the same results. Ah - therein lies the rub! Although
there are a large number of grafted selections of all nut species
available from various points in the United States, few of the named
varieties have been adequately tested in Ontario or other parts
of Canada. Some varietal selection of nut trees have been made in
Canada - such as those made by the Gellatlys - although in this
case the selections were made for the interior valley conditions
of British Columbia.
has to be concluded that the selection of either grafted trees or
seedlings currently available for planting represent a speculative
venture for Ontario conditions.
How does one
remove the element of speculation from the selection of nut trees
for planting? First if you choose grafted specimens, try to get
trees that have originated from seedlings as close to your area
as possible. (Yes at some point even grafted trees have originated
from scion wood of superior seedlings.) If there are no grafted
specimens available from points reasonably close to home, then try
to get your grafted trees from points of origin which have similar
cultural and climatic conditions as your own. Also study the growing
requirements of the trees such as - length of frost free season
required - necessary heat units - moisture - intensity of light
- soil - probability of early frost damage - to determine whether
your backyard can supply the conditions required by the trees. The
study of comparative climatology is in itself a most fascinating
and rewarding subject.
What is the
case for the planting of seedling trees? First it must be recorded
that seedlings grown from any one source tree are capable of remarkable
variation in terms of tree and nut size, quality, length of season
required, frost resistance, disease resistance. That is ... the
trees grown from seed do not come "true" to the form of
the parent tree. The degree of variation depends on the previous
history of the parent tree. (The "family-tree" of a tree
is also a very fascinating subject!)
There are two
basically sound approaches for selecting sources of seed for the
production of seedlings:
from an outstanding tree - probably a named variety - from any
area which has conditions which are generally similar to your
own. Note that the variation in cultural and climatic conditions
of a legitimate seed source can vary much more from your own
than is proper for the selection of sources of scion wood for
grafted trees. Seedlings from these superior sources would have
an inherent disposition for good fruiting characteristics and
the grower would probably rate the success of the seedlings
in terms of cultural and climatic adaptation.
from two or three of the best naturally occurring specimens
within your district ?- arbitrarily suppose a 50 mile radius.
Such seedlings should have a general adaptation to your cultural
and climatic conditions and the grower's objectives would be
directed mostly towards achieving better nut size, crackability,
flavour, productivity etc.
man's opinion I would have to suggest that Ontario growers should
spend a considerable part of their efforts developing seedling nut
trees. However that is not to say that certain judiciously chosen
named varieties should not be imported from other areas. In fact
if some of the improved specimens from remote areas should prove
even marginally adaptable to Ontario climates, such trees would
provide a valuable seed source for species improvement. In other
words I am strongly suggesting that growers should advance through
the stages of secondary seedling selection before a general attempt
is made to mass produce specific grafted varieties for Ontario.
A similar argument
can be made if an unusually promising "wild" tree should
be found within a distance which could be considered as "close
to home". Since any wild tree is so amenable to improvement
via seedling reproduction, it is quite doubtful whether mass grafting
of scion wood from such trees can be justified.
it may be stated that grafted trees are excellent selections if
the trees have the characteristics you require and if same are adaptable
to your cultural and climatic conditions. Seedlings are always a
matter of speculation; plant a number of seedlings from carefully
selected seed sources and be prepared to use the axe on some of
them - who knows - you may create the perfect tree!
SONGNEWS # 2, Spring 1973.