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Are your walnut trees veneer or timber quality?Are your walnut trees veneer or timber quality?

Farmstead Forest: High-value veneer-quality walnut trees are coveted, but farmers need to know the difference to understand what they have growing in their groves.

Curt Arens

October 14, 2016

2 Min Read

Are those walnut trees growing on your farm high-value veneer logs, or just timber? That's a question many landowners ask themselves, because the difference in value is several hundred dollars per log. In some cases, a little management ahead of time can help a landowner gain top veneer grades.

"A typical walnut veneer tree is a large tree usually at least 20 inches in diameter or larger at breast height, or about 4½ feet above ground level; has no or very few defects; and is tall and straight," says Rocky Hayes, Missouri Department of Conservation forestry regional supervisor.


"Bigger is better when it comes to diameter," he explains. "Bigger trees have more board-feet volume, so there is more value. The most valuable trees I've seen in my 35-year career have been over 30 inches in diameter and larger."

For example, a black walnut that is Grade A veneer at 19 inches diameter will be worth about $700 or $800. If you add another 6 inches of diameter, that price can nearly double.

Defects make a big difference in value when it comes to veneer. "Defects include limbs, knots, cracks, holes, mineral streaks, forked trees, wire or metal embedded in the tree, bird pecks, growth rings that are too wide or inconsistent in texture, crooks, sweeps, and anything else that causes imperfections in the wood," Hayes says. "I've seen some odd things in trees like glass telephone insulators and deer antlers that were attached or hung on the tree, and the tree grew around it. Needless to say, these are all defects."

It takes management to get to the high-value walnut lumber. "Grow your walnut on good soil and prune off lower limbs early in the life of the tree up to at least 16 feet in height," says Hayes. "Over half of the value of a tree is in the butt log." At least 9 feet of clear trunk is required to make good veneer grade. He also suggests keeping livestock from grazing around the trees and causing injury.

"Plant good genetic stock and grow the trees in forest condition, rather than in the open," he recommends. "Less than 1% of all naturally grown trees without management are veneer quality, so that is why they are so valuable," Hayes adds. "Management greatly improves the chances of growing a veneer quality tree."

You can learn more by contacting Hayes at [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

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