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Cobnuts: Can pfaf suceed where commercial gowers are failing?

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  • Michael Bell
    I see a lot of potential in trees as food crops. Once Planted and established they need no yearly ploughing, they hold and enrich the soil, they put more
    Message 1 of 4 , Sep 15, 2011
      I see a lot of potential in trees as food crops. Once Planted and
      established they need no yearly ploughing, they hold and enrich the
      soil, they put more chlorophyll into the light and and fix more
      carbon, they do not need weeding which too often is done with
      weedkillers. It's not a new idea, we have apples and bananas.

      My main project is to develop alder as a grain crop, but to learn from
      other tree-crops, I looked at the Kentish cobnut industry.

      Cobnuts, so called in Kent, otherwise Hazelnuts, have a long history
      of cultivation and not only for their nuts. The small timber got from
      coppicing used to be important, but it's doubtful if it can be again.

      Cobnuts grow all over the country, but Kent was a main centre, it
      developed cultivars, cobnuts were used as rations in the Navy, so it
      was well documented, probably to the neglect of other areas.

      I went to Kent, looked around and talked to the leader of the Kent
      cobnut Association:-


      She said:-

      "Most orchards are kept going by Turks coming in on a pick-your-own
      basis. Nuts are in important in Turkish culture. The Turks like their
      nuts fresh, and pick them from the tree, but they can be shaken down
      when ripe, but that gives the problem of getting them up off the

      "Abroad, most nuts are harvested when ready to fall off the tree. A
      mechanical shaker grabs the trunk and shakes the tree, the nuts fall
      to the ground, are swept by another machine to the centre of the
      windrow, and then hoovered up.

      "Here almost all nuts are picked by hand. Most of the trees are in
      clusters of suckers. The problem of a machine might be getting into
      the centre of the tree and difficulty of manipulating the machine
      round the tree considering the high density of trees in most places.

      "Some orchard grow their trees in the form of hedges and attempt
      mechanical harvesting, but it has not been successful.

      "There is one grower who is working hard on developing methods, but he
      won't let you in to see what he's doing. "

      Apart from this one grower, I got the impression of an industry which
      has given up. The trees were old, fences and buildings neglected,
      every sign of having given up.

      If cobnuts are to be developed as major food crop, what needs to be
      done? There may be problems with trees themselves which I don't know
      of so I can't comment. Mechanical harvesting seems easy enough, a rake
      with tines1-2 cms apart pulled through the branches seems the obvious
      way and it can be mechanised. It may be a problem for mechanical
      harvesting may be that trees grow to 3-4 M high and then produce
      suckers to produce a bush. Is this a problem?

      One solution might be to plant the trees in a narrow line. We can mow
      down the suckers that grow on one side, but allow suckers to grow out
      to say 50 cms on the other side. In the fullness of time, we can cut
      down the original line, to be replaced by the sucker-line, and so the
      line will creep across the field.

      A chain-saw can cut the trees, the branches will have to be burned,
      let's hope usefully as fuel, and the trunks might be sold as thin
      wooden poles, or maybe they will also have to be burned, maybe we
      could get a better price for them as logs for wood-burning stoves. And
      can the process be mechanised so that the whole process can be carried
      out by a single machine driven by a single man?

      Marketing is not my field, but I see the need for it. How is it going
      to be presented to the public? As a staple, ground into a flour and
      incorporated into pies, bread, pasta etc.? (Don't be too
      narrow-minded. Remember that there is "Weizenbier", beer made of wheat
      rather than barley. It tastes noticeably different) As a luxury
      delicacy? But the market for that is small. As something to take with
      you on an outing? (Women are disgusted at men's use of a Mole wrench
      to break open nuts. Is this an obstacle to be overcome or a selling
      point?) How are the shells to be disposed of? There are all sorts of
      decisions to be made.

      A lot of work over a lot of time! I'm not going to do it. Europe has a
      food surplus. I am discussing this crop as a commercial crop which it
      ought to be worthwhile to develop as a commercial crop. But I have
      only heard of one grower who is putting the work in. Prices are too
      low! An established industry is bowing out.

      Michael Bell

    • Bekki Shining Bearheart LMT
      I got it...
      Message 2 of 4 , Sep 17, 2011
        I got it...

        Michael Bell wrote:
        > Just to see if this still works for me.
        > --
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