Thursday, June 6, 2013

Slow growing oaks #463

I spend much of my time selling tree tubes to commercial pistachio, almond and pecan growers, helping them shave a precious year or two off the time from planting to first commercial crop, while reducing the inputs of water, labor and chemicals needed to reach that point.  When planting a new pistachio orchard in the San Joaquin Valley, under drip irrigation, fertilization and with a kajillion degrees days (OK, that figure is approximate) per growing season, getting a commercial crop in the 5th growing season is considered very good.

Acorns, on the other hand, could never be a commercial crop because oak trees are so "slow growing" and because they take at least 15 to 20 years to produce a crop of acorns... right?

Wrong.  Take a look:

 (Click to enlarge)

This is a sawtooth oak tree (Quercus acutissima).  It was planted in Georgia in the spring of 2008 as an 18 inch bare root seedling.  It is now about 30 feet tall (I'll post a photo of the whole tree soon).  Sorry the foreground is a bit blurry - turns out I don't do my best photographic work with chiggers digging into my skin.

The red circles in the photo mark the locations of acorns.  Yes, acorns.  This is the 6th growing season for this tree and it is going to have a very sizable crop of acorns.

This is not a specially selected sawtooth variety - just a standard "bed run" bare root seedling.  It wasn't watered.  It wasn't fertilized.  Weed control has been sporadic at best.

With even the slightest modicum of genetic selection and 1/1,000,000th the amount of plant breeding that has gone into corn, and with only slightly more intense growing practices, I guarantee we could have oak trees producing a sizable crop of acorns in the 4th growing season, if not sooner.

Tell me this shouldn't be the basis for a viable "new" (and yet very, very old) crop.

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