Black walnuts often are called “black gold” because they provide income for people willing to gather them up in the fall and sell them to a local buyer.

Black walnuts often are called “black gold” because they provide income for people willing to gather them up in the fall and sell them to a local buyer.
This year for the first time in many years, those nuggets of “gold” mostly are missing from walnut trees.
Many people attribute the lack of these delicious nuts to the overabundance of webworms this year, but experts indicate there is no relation between webworms and walnut production. While webworms tend to form on walnut trees, they don’t affect the crop.
Terry Cook with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s forestry office in Neosho, said his office takes a survey each year, with this year’s report indicated that all nut populations are down.
Although webworms are not attractive, Cook said, they really do no harm. He doesn’t advise using chemicals on them.
“A couple in Joplin spent $1,800 to get them out of their trees. They got them out of the trees, but the worms started attaching themselves to their house,” he said.
Cook suggests using a stick or some other device to open the web so birds, especially robins, can eat the worms. He said this is more effective than chemicals.
Dennis Evans, president of the Missouri Walnut Council, agrees that walnut production is down. Evans has a big black walnut tree on his lawn in Neosho.
“It is usually full of walnuts, but this year I don’t think there’s even one on it,” he said.
In his “walnut orchard” near Ritchie in eastern Newton County, Evans’ 5,000 trees almost are bare of nuts this year, he said.
The Missouri Walnut Council met in early October and discussed the problem, which is statewide. Council members agreed that the lack of a walnut crop mostly can be blamed on a cool, wet spring. They hope the walnuts will come back in full force next year.
Brett Lewis, the local buyer for Hammons Products Co., said buying is down to about a fourth of normal.
“I would guess we have bought about 14,000 pounds so far, and that is way down,” Lewis said.
Lewis has been the local buyer for three years. He started as a student at Crowder College, but graduated this year and is looking for a permanent job on a farm. Until then, he’ll be buying walnuts and working on his family’s farm near Anderson.
“When the crop is booming and we are buying all the time, the company usually extends the buying season beyond Nov. 1. I don’t know if that will happen this year,” he said. “People say that many nuts are still on the trees, but still the crop is way short.”
Mother Nature has a way of doing what she thinks. This year, she has brought a rather “nutty” year.