Walnut Growing

The Tap Root

Some experimenting has been done and much speculation has been indulged regarding the tap root. One writer disposes of the whole subject in this manner: The cutting of the tap root in planting seedlings has been a question for much discussion, many growers formerly

holding that to cut it meant to kill the tree. This has proved a mistake. It has been practically demonstrated that the tree thrives better with the tap root cut if properly done with a sharp instrument, making a clean cut. New growth is thereby induced, the abundance of lateral roots feed the tree more satisfactorily and the trees come into bearing from two to three years earlier than would otherwise be the case. Before accepting this as final it would be well to make further inquiry. The summers of western Oregon are practically rainless and when the kernel in the formed shell is maturing unless there is irrigation a distress call is sent down to the roots for moisture, if the weather is very dry. The lateral roots cannot supply this dire need and if the main pump is not working away down deep in the moist earth the kernel will not fill well and may perish entirely. For this reason no fibre of the tap root should be disturbed, but rather encouraged by a well auger hole, bored before the tree is planted, down to the reservoir of moisture that will not fail in the dryest season. The moisture in a dry season as a rule is nearer the surface in the valley than in the hills and gives a better filled nut. In a wet season, when the ground everywhere is full of moisture, the hills may produce a more abundant crop than the valley, but in the run of years it will require more time to prove which is most valuable for walnut culture. Trees grow in either place, but he who cuts the tap root in any soil does so at the peril of his crop in dry seasons. Of the taproot, Wm. M. Reece, of the firm of Epps, Reece & Tillmont, Eugene, Oregon, writes: The peculiar climatic conditions of the Willamette Valley, which at a certain season of the year becomes semi-arid, fully justifies the statement that trees not having a tap root are annually checked in their growth when irrigation is not used; while those that do have a tap root, as do walnuts, continue to grow and thrive even in the driest weather. The walnut should be planted, however, in soil having a subsoil free from any hard substance that will permit the tap root to grow downward into the strata of perpetual moisture. This has been most thoroughly demonstrated in our walnut orchard this, the driest year in the memory of old settlers in the Valley. When the growth of our apple, cherry and peach trees ceased because of the dry weather, our walnuts kept on growing as if supplied by continuous rains. It is true that liberal cultivation through the dry season will materially aid the growth of all kinds of trees not having a tap root and is indispensable to the growth of young walnut trees, trees that have not extended their tap root down to perpetual moisture. Walnut trees, in the opinion of the writer, cease growing upward when they cease growing downward; that is to say, when rock, shale or impenetrable hardpan stops the growth of the tap root, the tree has practically reached its height. Therefore, in planting a walnut grove, borings should be made to test the depth of the soil and character of the subsoil. Unquestionably the best variety for this climate is the Franquette and next the Mayette. Grafted trees are to be preferred to seedlings. Grafted trees bear much sooner and the fruit is more uniform in size, though a seedling that has attained the bearing age will produce as much fruit as a grafted tree of the same age; this we have occasion to observe from comparisons in our own orchard. We have trees 14 years old that bore 100 pounds at the age of 12 years and the product sold for 25c a pound for planting purposes. Those who had the misfortune to have the tender shoots of their walnut trees killed by the unusual frost early last May, should not be discouraged. Just examine the limbs now and you will find that three or four more shoots grew out where the one was killed. This makes more fruit buds for next year and the shortage of crop this year will be more than made up next. The writer believes that walnut growing will prove to be the most profitable industry in the Willamette Valley. WM. M. REECE. It seems to be a characteristic of the walnut and hickory, and possibly other nut trees, to send down a tap root deep into the earth to draw up the distilled and purified moisture that has been refined and sweetened in the lower depths. The older boys of the Middle Western states can recall the time when they wandered through the woods in late winter time, with a long pole or rail on their shoulders with which they pulled hickory root. The young sprout was withed around near one end of the pole, then all hands put their shoulders under the long end and with an altogether, heave, oh, draw up a tap root 4, 6 and 8 feet long. The lowest end was the choicest and sweetest. It was delicious and in the division of a day's hunt some of these found their way to his best girl at school. Whether the water down in these lower depths possesses these qualities, and that they are necessary to give the Oregon walnut its superiority is yet a matter of speculation, but that these conditions exist is well known and should have fullest consideration by the intelligent walnut culturist. Cut of tap root of a 2-year-old American Black which grew in the lower red hill land of Yamhill County. There is but one lateral root near the surface and this was probably caused by the tap root striking harder soil on its way down to permanent moisture level. This tap root is 3 feet long and nearly 6 inches in circumference. It is one of the best object lessons to be had in walnut culture in Oregon. Though the Willamette Valley has practically four rainless months of sunshine, irrigation is unnecessary. There is no other country comparable to it. Its cool and dewy summer nights, together with its great subterranean reservoir supplied by the winter rains, are the reasons why its crops never fail and why its fruits fill red, round and luscious, and why the walnut has so persistently shown its preference for this favored region.

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