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Question of the Week



Permalink Would using seed from a friend’s stand of "superior" black walnut clones result in a stand as good as the original clones?

Answer: You will always have genetic variability from seedlings. Planting seed from known (female) parentage is good, but you don't really know the male parent since it could be pollen coming from nearby woods or it could be from within your friend's planting. Now, if he planted all his land to one clone, it's almost certain that the male parent is coming from the woods because, though walnuts are potentially self-pollinating (there are no barriers in the flower preventing it), in actuality there is "asynchrony" of male and female flowers (males, called catkins, bloom at different times than female flowers) which is one of Nature's way of preventing inbreeding.

And even if your friend had more than one clone in his planting, and thus you could be more certain that there was enough overlap of male and female bloom time within the planting, there would still be chance genetic recombination at the gamete level, and you could still be getting some pollen blowing in from the woods.

The upshot is that you will never know for certain what the genetics are going to be for the trees coming from the seed of your friend's walnuts. Even if there were no walnuts in the woods nearby, there would still be genetic recombination going on, and it's practically impossible to predict what the resulting progeny will look like.

So, now you have to consider what your long-term goals are because this is a very long-term investment. If you were to discover 10 years or more from now that you had a lot of genetic variability in your planting and some inferior genotypes, how would you feel? That situation might be fine with you. Genetic variability is usually a good thing and might have benefits (like disease resistance) that we can't see from this point in time. But if you're hoping to have a stand that is more or less uniform and that you can treat uniformly, including harvesting, you might regret it.

You're probably going to be harvesting these trees in your old age, if you're lucky. These will probably be for your kids and grandkids. Looked at that way, the right investment at the front end (if it's not just prohibitively expensive) begins to look better with time. If, on the other hand, you simply don't have that kind of money to invest right now, you would still probably get superior (compared to random seedlings) trees by using the nuts from your friend's place.

For more information on tree crop production, see Tree Fruits: Organic Production, available at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=2.

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