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Old Fertilizer Spreader Used To Plant Acorns, Walnuts
Instead of letting once-used fields that are too wet, too hilly, or too rough for crops turn into invasive weed patches, Minnesotans Brad Gatzlaff and Jon Alness help nurture them back into healthy forest. They use an old pull-type fertilizer spreader to broadcast acorns and walnuts to re-forest especially tough parcels. They also restore grasslands and conservation acres by direct-seeding native grasses with a pull-type drill or by hand.
  In 30 years of operation Gatzlaff and Alness say they’ve probably planted more than 8,000,000 trees and restored several thousand parcels of grasslands. Their customers are along the Mississippi River and its tributaries in southeast Minnesota, southwest Wisconsin, and northeast Iowa.
  Gatzlaff says parcels they work with often have invasive and overgrown weeds and brush that needs to be cleared to make way for healthy and beneficial plants and trees. They treat rough vegetation with a herbicide or burn it off, then disc the area to turn up loose soil before it’s replanted.
  “We use a variety of acorns including red oak, white oak and bur oak, which are all native to the area,” Gatzlaff says. “After planting it takes a lot of patience because there’s plenty of environmental and animal competition.”
  For most applications, tree nuts are seeded at 8,000 to 10,000 plants per acre. They use a tractor to pull the fertilizer spreader across the field, then lightly till the nuts into the soil. Gatzlaff says this high population allows for poor germination and animal loss. After a year of growth, healthy seedlings may be 10 to 24 in. tall and surrounded by grasses and weeds. Gatzlaff and his crews return to spray or mow the weeds and continue to manage the young woodlands as needed.
  Most of the acorns and walnuts they plant are from forests in southern Minnesota. Nuts can be picked from a tree or collected from the ground. Either way, it’s time-consuming and time-sensitive work. They collect many nuts themselves and also have a network of collectors.
  Customers are both private and public. “Some of our private landowner projects are covered by conservation programs through FSA, NRCS and SWCD offices,” says Gatzlaff. “We do a lot of plantings with state agencies like DNR Forestry and Wildlife, federal agencies and conservation groups, too.”
  Alness and Gatzlaff plant nearly 100,000 seedlings per year using an attachment on the 3-pt. hitch of their tractor. “Some of the old timers say our tree planting machine looks like a potato planter, but it sure works well,” says Gatzlaff. Their company also does prairie restoration and management, prescribed burns, and helps landowners with timber sales and writing stewardship plans.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Brad Gatzlaff, Zumbro Valley Forestry, 4120 County Road 21 N.E. Elgin, Minn. 55932
(ph 507 838-6189; trees@northfieldwifi.com; www.zumbrovalleyforestry.com).

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2018 - Volume #42, Issue #2