Michigan Chestnut Industry Research Priorities

Midwest Nut Producers Council - Non-profit for chestnut research and teaching
Pete Ivory
4843 Stewart Rd
Lapeer, MI 48446
HM (810) 797-4299
Cell (248) 922-3065
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Chestnut Growers, Inc. - A for-profit, chestnut marketing cooperative.
Roger Blackwell
Roger  & Sue Blackwell
4555 Windswept Drive
Milford, MI 48380
HM (810) 225–9343
CGI Cell 810–923–2954
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Priorities for Germplasm Development

Lead Priority for Germplasm:

Create a systemic approach to accelerate development and propagation of new cultivars while evaluating based on: winter hardiness, yield data, size of nuts, pollination, time of maturity and harvest, disease and insect susceptibility and ease of peeling.

Other critical, high priority needs:

What model, or combination of market-based models make it possible for growers to either buy or grow new trees? 


Priorities for Orchard Management

Lead Priorities for Orchard Management:

Pollenizers for chestnuts have been through several iterations of strategy in the last 12 years because of a lack of research. Recently, Michigan State University scientists have been able to do genetic tracking of pollenizing trees such that these findings need to be made more comprehensive and then synthesized into viable planting strategies by region. 

Other critical, high priority needs:

  1. Mapping climatic conditions carefully across all willing growers in the U.S. with respect to these points and periods:
    1. Bud differentiation 
    2. Harvest
    3. During the growing season.
  2. What is the effect of growing degree days (GDD) on each cultivar used in the respective regions?
  3. Cultivar Selection, what cultivars can be expected to grow well in which region?
  4. Growing a good nut is the primary grower objective, what variables affect each cultivar? For instance, water, timing of water, fertilizer, climate, GDD? 
  5. Chestnut growers are widely dispersed geographically, and the ability to convey basic information in a timely manner is difficult. As such, a 21st century education modality is requested to be established, initially on Youtube as video training materials similar to the ones developed by the One Acre Vineyard for wine grapes in Napa Valley.
  6. There is mixed research on both the need and desirability of pruning that needs to be resolved so that growers can prune appropriately. This likely will vary substantially by region due to differing rates of growth between regions. A related question is:  Is there variance on the pruning effect on mature tree productivity by cultivar?
  7. Orchard floor control of vegetation and companion plantings need to be better understood. For instance, what kind of orchard floor vegetation is helpful, if any, how should it be maintained, and how wide a vegetation-cleared or mulched row should be for optimum uptake of water and nutrients?
  8. Does chemical thinning after pollenization improve the size and quality of nuts to harvest?


Priorities for Chestnut Quality, Harvest, Storage and Marketing

Lead Priority for Chestnut Quality, Harvest, Storage, and Marketing:

Establish USDA standards and grading for chestnuts to optimize ability to sell to larger customers. This process was initiated ten years ago but needs to be completed. This is the highest priority in this area as the ability to sell fresh market chestnuts to grocery stores is seriously limited by lack of standards.

Other critical, high priority needs:

  1. Plant Pathology scientists at Michigan State University have identified an internal nut rot problem. The cause is unknown, but potato leaf hopper is suspected. The pathogen or conditions causing this internal rot problem need to become known and strategies developed for managing the problem.
  2. Mechanical harvesting is rapidly becoming a limiting parameter in nut quality as chestnuts need to be refrigerated immediately after harvest. Mechanical harvesters need to be evaluated and developed to provide economical options for scale of the farm.
  3. Gains have been made in post harvest handling and storage, but losses of 15-25 percent of crop while stored have necessitated including research into how to safely store fresh chestnuts to extend the selling season into February or March. This includes both on farm storage, storage prior to sale, and product storage in retail or restaurants.
  4. Processing of chestnuts, both as a peeled product and value-added products made from peeled product need to be developed and evaluated.
  5. Chestnut growers believe that developing a system to track nuts from orchard to product sold needs to be developed as the fresh food industry is all moving in that direction.


Priorities for the Economics of the Michigan Chestnut Industry

Lead Priority for the Economics of the Michigan Chestnut Industry:

Develop capital budgets for a range of different chestnut enterprises, including chestnut orchards, and the chestnut processing and marketing facilities. This task is crucial for improving stakeholders’ access to the knowledge that they need to make effective production and marketing decisions.

Other critical, high priority needs:

  1. Complete a structural analysis of the U.S. and global chestnut industry to provide stakeholders with knowledge about the key players, alternative supply chains, as well as the competitive dynamics of the industry.
  2. Conduct a value chain analysis to assist stakeholders in identifying opportunities for creating value and a competitive advantage for Michigan chestnuts through cost reduction and/or differentiation of their chestnut products or services.
  3. Survey consumers of chestnut products, including both individual and institutional customers. Knowledge of consumer demand including preferences for product, pricing, promotion and distribution are key to developing an effective marketing plan for Michigan chestnuts.
  4. Examine the benefits and costs of improving chestnut quality in Michigan.  
  5. Conduct a study of the challenges facing the Michigan chestnut industry with respect to industry coordination.


Last Updated: October 2011


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