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Northern Research Station
11 Campus Blvd., Suite 200
Newtown Square, PA 19073
(610) 557-4017
(610) 557-4132 TTY/TDD

Sustaining Forests

Intensive Management of Hardwood Plantings

Research Issue

[photo:] Intensively managed pecan sapling with weed control, deer protection, and pruning to maintain central stem.In the 1960s the diminishing supply of quality hardwood saw timber, especially black walnut, raised the question of how best to grow hardwoods in plantations to assure future supplies.  At the time, we determined the most promising native hardwood for timber production in intensively managed plantings was black walnut, white ash, and several of the oak species.  This assumed with proper site selection and intensive management that trees would yield high quality veneer logs that traditionally sold for as much as four times their value if processed as sawlogs.   Problems with producing veneer logs on open-grown walnut in a pure stand along with the substantial upfront costs for plantation establishment that must be carried through the rotation, lead researchers to conclude that landowners should first evaluate their existing hardwood stands for management opportunities and whether they had soils suitable for long-term growth of any fine hardwoods before investing in a hardwood planting.  Secondary considerations included how to manage the competing vegetation and availability of labor to carry out management practices such as weed control, pruning, thinning, harvesting of seed crops, and the final timber harvest.   Off site plantings by both researchers and landowners, increasing risks of species specific invasive pests, and changes in cost-share recommendations have lead current recommendations for plantations with a mix of species.  Several of the species recommended for  underplanting or interplanting to increase hardwood tree growth are now considered invasive species and alternatives are needed.

Our Research

Much of our early research on plantation culture, especially for black walnut, was summarized at more than thirty how to notes in the Walnut Notes (1988).  More recent research has concentrated on evaluating the effects of different ground cover s, especially native grasses and legumes, on growth of sapling and pole-sized trees of planted walnut, pecans, oak, and ash.  Our research with interplanting native woody plants that fix atmospheric nitrogen has not produced suitable alternatives to species now considered invasive.   In cooperation with the University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry, we have expanded our research to identifying management practices that will increase seed yields for hard mast species.   Emphasis has been on improving tree nutrition and grafting to superior selections.

Research Results

Ponder, F., Jr.  2010.  Response of young ash trees to cultural treatments not all positive.  In: Michler, C.H.; Ginzel, M.D. (eds.) 2010. Proceedings: Symposium on Ash in North America; 2010 March 9-11; West Lafayette, IN. NRS-GTR-P-72. Newtown Square, PA: USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 64.

Van Sambeek, J.W.  2010.  Database for estimating tree responses of walnut and other hardwoods to ground cover management practices.  In: McNeil, D.L. (ed.)  Proceedings: 6th International Walnut Symposium.  Acta Horticulturae 861: 245-252.

Ponder, F., Jr.  2009.  Benefits and drawbacks of tree shelters.  Walnut Council Bulletin 36(3): 1, 4-5.

Reid, W.; Coggeshall, M.; Garrett, H.E.; Van Sambeek, J. 2009.  Growing black walnut for nut production.  Agroforestry in Action AF1011-2009.  Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry. 16 pp.

Van Sambeek, J.W.; Reid, W.  2009.  Foliar analyses for improved nut production: Step 1 and Step 2.  Missouri Nut Growers Association Newsletter 9(2): 5-6 and 9(3): 4-7.

Coggeshall, M.V.; Van Sambeek, J.W.; Garrett, H.E.  2008. Grafting influences on early acorn production in swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor Wild.).   In: Jacobs, D.F.; Michler, C.H. (eds.) 2008. Proceedings: 16th Central Hardwood Forest Conference; 2008 April 8-9; West Lafayette, IN. NRSGTR--P-24. Newtown Square, PA: USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 20-25.

Ponder, F., Jr.; Eivazi, F.  2008.  Activities of five enzymes following soil disturbance and weed control in a Missouri forest. Journal of Environmental Monitoring and Restoration 5(1): 68-76.

Van Sambeek, J.W.  2008.  Plantation establishment: site preparation and tree planting methods.   Walnut Council Bulletin 35(1): 1, 5, 7, 10-11. 

Van Sambeek, J.W.; Wallace, D.C.; Brundage, R.S.; Palm, H.L.; Slusher, J. 2008.  Principles for managing immature black walnut in mixed hardwood stands.  Walnut Council Bulletin 35(2): 1, 5-6, 12-14.  [TS#19186]

Ponder, F., Jr.; Jones, J.E.; Mueller, R.  2005.  Using poultry litter in black walnut nutrient management.   Journal of Plant Nutrition 28:1355-1364.

Van Sambeek, J. W.  2005. Evaluating the effectiveness of ground cover management in oak plantings and stands.  In: Weigel, D.R.; Van Sambeek, J.W.; Michler, C.H., eds. Ninth workshop on seedling physiology and growth problems in oak plantings.  NC-GTR-262. St. Paul, MN: USDA Forest Service, North Central Research Station: 21.

Geyer, Wayne A.; Ponder, Felix, Jr.  2004.  Site relationships and black walnut height growth in natural stands in eastern Kansas.  In: Michler, C.H.; Pijut, P.M.; Van Sambeek, J.W.; Coggeshall, M.V.; Seifert, J.; Woeste, K.; Overton, R.; Ponder, F., Jr. (eds.) Proceedings: 6th Walnut Council Research Symposium; NC-GTR-243. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Research Station. 77-80.

Ponder, F., Jr.  2004.  Soils and nutrition management for black walnuts.  In: Michler, C.H.; Pijut, P.M.; Van Sambeek, J.W.; Coggeshall, M.V.; Seifert, J.; Woeste, K.; Overton, R.; Ponder, F., Jr. (eds.) Proceedings: 6th Walnut Council Research Symposium; NC-GTR-243. St. Paul, MN: USDA Forest Service, North Central Research Station. 71-76

Hammons, B.; Ponder, F., Jr.; Rickman, J.  2004.  Beyond the wild nut: moving toward profitable black walnut nut crops.  In: Michler, C.H.; Pijut, P.M.; Van Sambeek, J.W.; Coggeshall, M.V.; Seifert, J.; Woeste, K.; Overton, R.; Ponder, F., Jr. (eds.) Proceedings: 6th Walnut Council Research Symposium; NC-GTR-243. St. Paul, MN: USDA Forest Service, North Central Research Station. 156-160.

Van Sambeek, J. W.; Garrett, H. E.  2004.  Ground cover management in walnut and other hardwood plantings.  In: Michler, C. E.; Pijut, P. M.; Van Sambeek, J. W.; five others.  Proceedings: Sixth Black Walnut Symposium. NC-GTR-243.  St. Paul, MN: USDA Forest Service, North Central Research Station: 85-100.  

Carlisle, J.D.; Geyer, W. A.; Van Sambeek, J. W.  2003. Increasing amounts of chemical weed control increase growth of white ash, white oak, and black walnut saplings in a tall fescue sod.  In: Van Sambeek, J. W.; Dawson, Jeffery O.; Ponder Jr., Felix; Loewenstein, Edward F.; Fralish, James S. (eds.) Proceedings: 13th Central Hardwood Forest Conference. NC-GTR-234. St. Paul, MN: USDA Forest Service, North Central Research Station: 449-452.

Van Sambeek, J. W.  2003.  Legume ground covers alter defoliation response of black walnut saplings to drought and anthracnose.  In: Van Sambeek, J. W.; Dawson, J.O.; Ponder, F., Jr.; Loewenstein, E.F.; Fralish, J.S. (eds.)  Proceedings: 13th Central Hardwood Forest Conference.  NC-GTR-234.  St. Paul, MN: USDA Forest Service, North Central Research Station: 556-564.   

Jones, J.E.; Mueller, R.; Van Sambeek, J.W. (eds.)   1998. Nut Production Handbook for Eastern Black Walnut.  Republic, MO: Southwest Missouri Resources, Conservation & Development, Inc. 150 pp.

Ponder, F., Jr.   1993.  Performance of hardwoods planted with autumn olive after removing prior cover.  In: Gillespie, A.R.; Parker, G.R.; Pope, P.E.; Rink, G. (eds.) Proceedings: 9th Central Hardwood Forest Conference. NC-GTR-161. St. Paul, MN: USDA Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station: 447-454.

Burde, L.E., ed.  1988.  Walnut Notes.  St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station. 

Van Sambeek, J.W.; Ponder, F., Jr.; Rietveld, W.J.  1986. Legumes increase growth and alter foliar nutrient levels of black walnut saplings. Forest Ecology and Management 17: 159-167.

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

  • J.W. Van Sambeek, Research Physiologist, US Forest Service, Northern Research Station
  • Felix Ponder, Jr., Research Soil Scientist (retired), US Forest Service, Northern Research Station

Research Partners

Last Modified: 01/24/2012