Black Walnuts Are Another Victim of the Drought

Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Oregon County walnut buyers are still getting customers during the fall season, but they are delivering about half as many walnuts as usual. The drought has affected walnut production all over Missouri.

The drought of 2012 had a huge impact on the black walnut crop, as well as on cattle farms and produce growers. Black walnuts provide fine wood used for furniture, veneer and gunstocks, as well as delicious nuts. Walnut wood and nuts are in high demand, and they are an important part of Missouri's economy.

Dennis Morgan of Myrtle has operated a walnut huller machine for the past three years. Morgan said, this season, he has seen a drastic decrease in the amount of nuts people are bringing to him for sale. He said he will be lucky to get 70,000 pounds this year, as opposed to the normal harvest of approximately 180,000 pounds.

Morgan began buying walnuts in early October, and the last day to sell walnuts is November 5. Walnuts are being bought for $13.00 for every 100 pounds. A regular sized truck bed full of black walnuts is estimated to be around 800 pounds.

Morgan took over the operation three years ago, and delivers the walnuts to Hammons Products in Stockton, Mo, one of the largest walnut suppliers in the U.S. "Some people may rely on the extra income for help with the upcoming winter," said Morgan. He is happy to have kept the operation in the area to help those people.

Tom Rutledge, of Hammons Products, said his company will end up with approximately two million pounds of nuts this year. That is a severely low number, compared to its usual take of 14 to 15 million pounds. "This year, it (supply) has been a statewide problem," said Rutledge.

Typically, Hammons Products processes kernels and shells 11 months out of the year. Rutledge doesn't know exactly how long the process will take this year, but his company will finish processing in a significantly shorter time than usual. He also expects to have significantly less kernel and shell products for the companies he supplies.

Walnut trees grow throughout Missouri. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, "The trees grow best on the deep, well-drained soils of north Missouri and on alluvial soils in the south. In addition to providing valuable wood, the walnut's nutmeats are a major industry in the state." MDC also calls the tree, Missouri's most valuable tree.

Missouri is the world's leading producer of black walnuts, which are used in baking and confections and even pickled whole.

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