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Products: Walnuts
Subject: Sustainability

A review to frame the utilization of Eastern black walnut (Juglans nigra L.) cultivars in alley cropping systems

Authors: Bishop, B., Meier, N. A., Coggeshall, M. V., Lovell, S. T., & Revord, R. S.
  • Journals: Agroforestry systems
  • Pages: 309-321
  • Volume: 98(2)
  • Year: 2024
Agroforestry adoptition is gaining considerable traction in the temperate US with growing popularity and government incentives (e.g., the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Project) for systems with greenhouse gas mitigation potential. The identification of complementary species combinations will accelerate the expansion of temperate agroforestry. Since the mid-19th century, European timber plantations have taken advantage of the late-leafing habit of walnut (Juglans spp.) to grow a spring grain crop between the tree rows. Such alley cropping systems increase land-use efficiency and provide extensive environmental benefits. A parallel but underutilized opportunity in North American involves incorporating eastern black walnut (Juglans nigra L.) cultivars into alley cropping systems (ACS). Eastern black walnut, henceforth referred to as black walnut, is native to North America and exhibits architectural and phenological characters for reduced competition with winter cereal crops grown in alleys. Black walnut also produces nutritious nuts, and cultivars with improved kernel percentage and mass offer potential to cultivate the species as a domesticated orchard crop, as opposed to just the high-quality timber for which it is well-known. However, field observations suggest significant variation in tree architecture and phenology amongst cultivars, which is likely to influence complementarity with winter grains. Comprehensive characterization of trait genetic diversity is needed to best leverage germplasm into productive systems. Here, we review literature related to implementing ACS with consideration of cultivar-dependent traits that may reduce interspecific competition. While the focus is directed toward black walnut, broad characterization of other underutilized fruit/nut species will allow for robust diversification of ACS.