You’ve heard of that ‘old chestnut’ – perhaps we have defined it here:
The Chestnut industry in New Zealand has been arduously nutted out many times over; but it always seems to relegate itself into the ‘nearly made it’ chest.
This time – 2013 – there still remain international markets pleading for product.
A leading tree propagator of great experience holds a bud grafting workshop featuring chestnuts.
He has supplied thousands of trees over decades for this elusive industry –
Where is this chestnut industry that has swallowed up so much effort?
While we wait for answers from the many people attempting a rebirth, let us see what we can find from the archival chest of dreams about this unfulfilled crop.
Below is a Basic Crop Fact Sheet from 1997, abridged only to remove references to authorities believed to be no longer with us.
We intended to follow up with coverage of recent progress outlined at the field day (embargoed), much of which is inspiring. (We never did find a reliable method for returning to topic after the 3-month hold, but thankfully those requirements have eased.)
Meanwhile, a great export market goes unsatisfied – which we are well placed to supply.
See the Chestnut Cart in the Nut Crops Summary
Written by Eric Cairnes, NZTCA – February 2000
So you’ve bought or are thinking of buying a rural block and perhaps earning some retirement income from growing something, preferably something you yourself like eating. What about nuts? They are high value, store well, are eary to transport, lend themselves to niche marketing and can be managed on a fairly small scale.
Remember the in shell nuts you indulged in over Christmas. If you chose well, you found some excellent quality locally grown walnuts or hazels. Most of us however, bought mixed packs of nuts imported from around the world. They were stale and rancid and we wondered why we had bought them. Well perhaps its too cold for Brazil nuts here and peanuts are pretty marginal, but, almond, walnut, hazel, macadamia, pinenuts and chestnuts do well. And how much better they would have tasted fresh.
The New Zealand Trees Crops Association, which has branches in most areas of the country, can help you get started, and most importantly, can put you in contact with other growers around NZ. Information is willingly shared at field days and evening meetings and through fact sheets, because we recognise that this is the best way to learn more ourselves.
From time to time there are specialist nut seminars held, and the annual conferences (this year at Lincoln over Easter Weekend) nearly always feature field events and seminars given by experts on nuts.
So if you are serious about a commercial nut venture, you should do your homework. Check out the world scene for indication as to potential. (Get yearbook data and search the Internet). Monitor trends in world prices, trends in planting and disease. Does NZ offer a strategic advantage (eg. season, climate, disease, access to markets etc)? What is the size of the local (ethnic) market? What are the costs of growing and harvesting/processing the crop? What supporting infrastructure is there to assist you? Membership of NZTCA makes it easier to find answers for these and many other questions.
Decide how to market you crop. Will you drop it on the local auction system, and accept commodity prices, or develop niche outlets for processed products and control the situation better.
In a general sense, the marketing aspect is the biggest hurdle for most small scale industries. In NZTCA, many of us are green fingered growers, and not strong on the presentation/marketing end. However, there are also many market success stories for niche products.
A new product in NZ such as gevuina nuts, may have difficulty establishing market demand unless there is sufficient supply. Wholesalers or large retailers may not want to invest in promoting or stocking a product line unless quality and supply is secure. Thus, even for products where there is established demand, but no local supply (eg pine nuts and pistachio), there is a ‘critical mass of product’ required to develop the market. This amount is quite likely more than one or several growers could supply, so don’t try to capture the market on your own. If you are keen on exporting, the amount of product to do business with may be orders of magnitude greater than would be necessary for domestic markets. Our advice is to cooperate with other growers to develop the infrastructure and markets.
Thus one of the strategies of the newly formed Gevuina Action Group is to get as many trees as possible planted as soon as possible in order to be able to “launch the product”. Quite deliberately, they are focussing on a few selections into order to standardise the product. Naturally there are risks involved with new crops if the best selections are not yet known and market demand is uncertain.
In the case of macadamias, walnuts, chestnuts, and hazels, there is now an established demand for local produce (or for export) and some established infrastructure to harvest, process and market the produce. The NZ Hazel industry is still very small, and gevuina, pistachio, almond, pecan, and pine nut are yet to gain ‘critical mass’ but gate sales and specialist retailers would still be interested in spot market sales.
The history of serious nut growing in NZ is quite recent and began with the foundation of the New Zealand Tree Crops association, 25 years ago. Some of our early researchers were also on the staff at DSIR or MAF and no doubt this assisted with the professional approach and early successes. A key trial area for nuts was the Crop research block at Lincoln and the cooperative venture with the then DSIR was a major success story. Some of these trials continue in the grounds of Lincoln University under the auspices of Dr David McNeil, a Research and Development Coordinator for NZTCA.
Before the formation of NZTCA, no one had done any systematic selection or breeding of nut trees suitable for NZ conditions. We weren’t even of the limitations of our climate. How then to develop a nut industry? The quickest way was not to spend 15 years breeding new varieties but to see how existing material would perform. The opinion was that NZ conditions were sufficiently different to other major nut producing countries, that imported varieties may not be any better than some selections already growing and adapted to NZ.
So in order to get the industries started, NZTCA held nut competitions to identify the best walnuts, chestnuts and hazels. The best of these were then propagated and put into trial plantings and compared with the best overseas varieties.
In the case of walnuts, some local selections have done extremely well and four of these (Rex, Meyric, Dublin’s Glory and Stan) were given variety names in 1998.
Some of our local hazel selections (eg Whiteheart) also compare well against Italian and American varieties.
In the case of chestnut, due to the prevalence of chestnut blight in most other countries, there was reluctance to import any new overseas material. Some did eventually get imported, but our local selections still form the bulk of the plantings.
With the founding of NZTCA, it still took 15 – 20 years of development to get walnuts, chestnuts and hazels to an industry size.
The nut crop summary below – Walnut – Chestnut – see also Nut Crop Guides may help you decide whether your favourite nut can be grown on your patch.
Species: Juglans regia commonly known as European, English or Persian walnut.
|Recommended Varieties||Numerous seedling and grafted selections available. It is important to match the orchard site with the right variety. Research is still continuing to select the best varieties for North Is conditions.|
|Climate||Rain or high humidity during spring to late summer increases the incidence of blight. Some varieties are more susceptible to blight than others. Dry east coast climates are preferred.
The leaves and flowers are damaged by unseasonal frosts. Areas subject to frost after mid October may benefit from late leafing varieties.
|Soil||Critical. Must be free draining down to 2 metres. Fertile soils of moderately high pH are required. Nutrients need to be well balanced.|
|Markets||Present local consumption far exceeds local supply and quality NZ kernel is readily sold. Said to one of the few commodity products which has maintained its value over the years.
The (heart) timber is amongst the most valuable wood there is, provided it is well grown and trees of large size. Walnut burr is particularly sort after. Heart content varies greatly.
|Harvesting||The nuts fall to the ground and must be harvested within a day to avoid deterioration. Various machines (vacuum and hedgehogs) available to pick up nuts. In dry climates, daily collection is less critical.|
|Post-Harvest||Nuts should be cleaned by water blasting and dried promptly. They will go mouldy if kept damp too long or bagged before internal moisture content is low enough. For home use, air drying on racks is adequate. Assisted drying is required commercially.|
|Orchard layout||Grafted trees are recommended for smaller orchards or where uniform nut quality is critical. Certain seedling lines come remarkably true to the parent.
In humid climates, timber may be the preferred objective. Where timber production is required, initial spacings should be 4 x 5 metres. Half of these should be thinned out in stages.
Where nuts only are required, use grafted trees at a maximum of 10 x 10 metres. Having more than one variety will assist with pollination.
|Orchard Management||Fertiliser is required. Mowing or spraying under the trees enables easy nut collection. Roots stocks can be J. regia or the hybrid “paradox” for well drained soils. J. nigra is preferred for wetter soils.|
|Pests and diseases||Apart from blight and root rots in poorly drained soils, other diseases are only of nuisance value. Blight can be controlled with copper sprays. No other compounds are yet registered for use.
Puriri moth can cause damage to young trees by ringbarking. Walnuts are palatable to horses and sometimes to possums.
|Shelter and Irrigation||Shelter is important, even in mild situations. Wind slows the growth down and cools the microclimate. Irrigation could be useful for very dry areas, especially during establishment. Don’t over water.|
|Payback Period||Grafted trees can start bearing after a year but an economic crop will not be achieved until at least 8 years under ideal conditions. Cropping is directly related to tree growth (and variety). The slower the growth, the longer the wait for nuts. As seedlings are generally more vigorous, they may be quicker to bear nuts|
Got to the Walnut pages
Species or hybrids between Castanea sativa, C. mollisima and C. crenata (Spanish, Chinese and Japanese)
|Recommended Varieties||1002, 1005, 1015, Disk II, Mayrick King, Mayrick Queen|
|Climate||Not fussy, as long as they are clear of salt spray|
|Soil||Critical. Must be free draining down to 2 metres. Soil fertility not usually a problem.|
|Markets||Nuts mostly exported and local market is fully supplied, but expanding. Overseas markets pay highest prices for processing quality nuts, but this has not yet happened here. A recent development is the production of chestnut meal in NZ for the food industry. Chestnut timber is also highly sought after overseas. Timber from C sativa is naturally ground durable.|
|Harvesting||The nuts fall to the ground and must be harvested within a day to avoid deterioration. Prickly burrs present a problem. Various machines (vacuum and hedgehogs) available to pick up nuts|
|Post-Harvest||Chestnuts are starchy and taste rather like kumara. They can be dried for use like flour. Usually stored moist in cool stores. Processing into meal involves cooking and pressing|
|Orchard layout||Minimum spacing is 6×6 m. Some growers are allowing much more room. Chestnuts must not be thinned by cutting trees down. Dying roots would cause fungal infections in the remaining trees. (Therefore dig trees out). Most growers are planting 3 varieties. Harvest has to be by variety. Nut quality is modified by the pollinator.|
|Orchard Management||Very little is required except for mowing or spraying under the trees to enable easy nut collection.|
|Pests and diseases||Puriri moth, grass grub beetles, cicadas and opossums can cause serious damage on young trees. Very palatable to livestock. The fungus phomopsis affects storage of the nuts. At present no sprays are registered for use on chestnuts.|
|Shelter and Irrigation||Shelter is helpful in exposed situations. Irrigation can make establishment easier and increase crops. Both are important in severe climates.|
|Payback period||Grafted trees will start to bear after a year and should be giving an economic return by age 4. The pure Japanese varieties take a year or two longer.|
Wednesday, 27 August 2003 – Updated: 2015-02-20
Walnut Blogletter 21 – Introduction
A few random thoughts coming your way, mostly in response to emails.
If you hear some walnut news or observe something interesting in your orchard, let us hear about it. We can all learn.
If you have made or are selling walnut equipment that would be interesting too.
All the best as you count down to the next walnut season.
Enjoy: Blogletter 21, click to open in PDF format…
- The Walnut Industry – viable!
- Nut crops summary – Walnut, Chestnut and others.
- Walnut Blogletter launched in 2010 by Nick Nelson Parker
- Index to all Walnut Blogletters
[While we re-think how we re-present this content, this edition makes an interim appearance as one big post. Nick’s hosting is in upright characters; guest contributions and responses in italics – web ed]
Walnut Blogletter 17 August 2013
Obviously people enjoyed Jeffrey Feint’s account of his trip to China. This was a sample response: [Read more…] about Walnut Blogletter 17 – August 2013
Another welcome interruption to our usual blogletter fare; Jeffrey Feint has just come back from an exciting trip to China, and has generously shared it with us. I think you will gain some worthwhile insights, and it does what any blogletter should do; generate more questions!
As no-one put their hand up last time, saying they were still on dial-up, I have put in more pictures this time. If that clogs up your phone line big-time, let me know! I have had one or two people say they cannot open a Microsoft word file. If that is you, let me know (again), and I will start to keep track of you and send out a separate mailing list with a different system.*
All the best
* Website note: These issues are largely avoided by converting to Portable Document Format – ideal for the web, and almost any browser software knows how to nicely present PDF files for viewing –
Family – JUGLANDACEAE
Botanical Name – Juglans neotropica Diels = J. honorei Dode
Other Names – Tocte (fruit), Nogal (tree), Ecuador Walnut, Tropical Walnut, Cedro, Black or Nogul Cedar
In 1977 on a trip to Ecuador Dick Endt of Landsendt Nursery saw the potential for growing Andean Walnut in New Zealand. The first trees were planted in the Auckland area at Oratia,then later at Great Barrier Island. Other older plantings are in the Bay of Plenty where there is a mature tree cropping well.i
Ironically this tree was used as root stock for grafted English Walnuts, J. regia, instead of a tree in its own right.
Although it is reported as only growing in isolated stands overseas this may because the tree has been so exploited for other uses, as it is being grown successfully in a plantation in Taranaki.ii
It is a related to the American Black Walnut, J. nigra but much faster growing.
As with other nut trees it is wise to avoid planting near buildings.
Seedling trees in warm climates can hold leaves throughout the year which may account for its exceptional growth in New Zealand reportedly up to 1.5 to 2 metres per year in the early years in the Auckland area and 10 metres in 10 years in warmer parts of the country.
It is one of last trees to drop leaves – in July, if it does, and one of the first to regain them in early spring.
Leaves are shed to facilitate wind pollination in September and October. They can turn yellow in the autumn where temperatures are cooler.
Although relatively widespread in Colombia, the populations are considered vulnerable.iii
Deciduous fast growing tree to 27m height.
Leaves are large pinnate with 15-18 pairs of almost opposite leaflets, serrate, 5cm wide by 15 cm long with 15 vein pairs, (American Black Walnut J. nigra leaves are more alternate and smaller.)
They have a fragrant odour which lasts even when the leaves are dry.
New growth has a pinkish tinge.
Prominent leaf scars on trunk similar to J. nigra but slightly more pronounced.
Bark: More horizontal pattern than J. nigra when young.
Flowers: Monoecious. Male catkins, female terminal clusters.
Thick indehiscent outer shell. Longitudinally furrowed thick shell covering convoluted kernel of dark colour.
Terminal clusters of 3-6.
As the natural distribution of the Andean walnut is in the highlands (up to 2000m) of Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela, it is neither tropical nor temperate. Temperatures there are even throughout the year though they can vary between -3C minimum to 25C maximum on a daily basis.
The seasons are usually defined as wet and dry.
In New Zealand the conditions in northern areas are considered ideal. They are also growing in the Wairarapa where they have survived -4C and are doing well at Urenui (on the Taranaki coast where not subject to frosts); Bay of Plenty, Auckland and Northland where thousands of trees have been planted.
They are more frost sensitive when young and it is doubtful that they would tolerate severe frosts.
Andean walnuts have no chilling requirements, which is usually a prerequisite for growing other walnut species successfully.
The young trees are very prone to wind damage probably because the growth is sappy and brittle due to its long growing season – almost year round in New Zealand.
The top blows out easily in exposed conditions so shelter is vital. This is not such a problem as the tree matures.
Adequate rainfall is needed, as they do not grow well in dry sites.iv
Most well drained soils are suitable but trees are susceptible to root rot if waterlogged especially in heavy wet soils.
They seem to do well near river beds where there is highly oxygenated water.
Flowers & Pollination
The trees are monoecious, bearing both male and female flowers on the same tree. No cross pollination is needed.
Hybrids can be developed if desired eg. Hybrids between J. neoptropica and J. regia have been reported (Popenoe, 1924).
Male catkins appear in September when any remaining leaves will be shed to assist in wind pollination.
Female flowers are in terminal clusters.
The most economic way to propagate the tree is by sowing seed which is collected from trees of good shape and form.
Nuts are collected in June – July when they drop to the ground with the husk still attached.
Keep in containers until husks rot then a high-pressure hose can be used to separate the seed from the husk.
The clean seeds are then left to dry.
Sow seeds in September in propagating bed of open medium such as pumice sand about 15cm deep.
Place the seeds horizontally with the suture at the top to about the depth of the seed.
Keep moist until germinated usually October to November.
They will quickly form long taproots so pot on into PB12 bags.
Seedlings are fast growing so allow enough space.
They may be transplanted directly into the prepared site when about 10cm high or about December when danger of late frost passed.
Seed can also be sown directly into the site.
Best results are obtained with shelter trees or interplant with fast growing nurse crop species which need to be removed at the right time so as not to compete in later stages.
Weed control is needed especially in the first two years.
Spacing recommendation is at least 5 metres apart.
While some observations have been that Andean walnuts are not seen in large groups and it is thought that they prefer to grow in small stands, it may be that because of exploitation and other considerations such as changing climate, large groups are not able to be grown in its native country.
Plantation growing is being done successfully in NZ at Urenui since 1994.
The four-year-old plantings had reached a height of over 6m, form pruned yearly.
Pests & Diseases
They are not prone to pests and diseases but it should be stressed that they need good drainage to prevent root rot.
Cicada Amphisalta zelandica damage does occur in areas where it is prevalent such as the Bay of Plenty.
In about 6 years or less from planting the trees will have a nut crop.
These are very thick, 5cm diameter, hard shelled, deeply grooved, larger than J. regia, with quality dark nut meat which is hard to extract.
It is used to make a sweetmeat with sugar and milk called nogada de Ibarra by the women of the Ecuadorian town of Ibarra and sold at the markets.
They are considered very nutritious [compare with recent trials as to efficacy of walnuts as cholesterol reducer with students at Lincoln University on their normal junk diet supplemented with walnuts (GP Savage, D McNeill 2000)]
Personally I have made Pickled Walnuts which are very tasty and go well with cold meats etc. It is very time consuming and labour intensive but worth the effort to use nuts that would otherwise be wasted.
It is a good idea to use rubber gloves in the initial stage as the nuts leave a nicotine-like stain on your hands which has to wear off as it does not wash off – after all it is used as a dyestuff. Recipe at end of this Fact sheet.
In early years Andean walnuts make rapid growth of 1.5 to 2m a year. It tapers off after the tree matures at about 10 years and the tree becomes more sturdy and wind tolerant.
Timber from these trees can be harvest in 30 years on good sites which is comparable to Pinus radiata.
Wood Description: Dark brown with blackish streaks; Grain straight to wavy, sometimes curled; Texture medium to fine, not always even. Diameter 0.9 – 1.50m
Medium bending strength and resistance to shock loads.
High crush strength and low stiffness.
Very good steam bending characteristics.
A compact, elastic wood with good strength properties.
Basic density 0.66gr/cm3, Elasticity 106.0 tn/cm3, Breaking 723.7 kg/cm3
Worked easily with hand and power tools. Joints hold perfectly. Nails and screws easily.
Moderate blunting effect on cutters, but the finish is clean. Polishes to a very good finish.
Moderately durable. Heartwood is resistant to preservative treatment and biodegradation. Sapwood is permeable.
Dries well, but should be dried slowly to avoid twisting. Medium movement
High-class furniture and cabinet making, musical instruments, turning, carving, sporting goods, decorative veneer, plywood facing, marquetry.
Due to its shock resistance and elasticity, it is a good choice for rifle stocks.v
The bark is boiled with other ingredients for use as a health tonic in Ecuador. Vernacular name cedro-cara.
At a Workshop on "Ecuador: Use and Trade of Medicinal Plants, Current Status and Important Aspects for Their Conservation" in Quito, September, 1999 it was reported that "90% of the plants used in traditional medicine are extracted from the wild, and not cultivated or managed.
Medicinal plants have not been inventoried and only 500 such plants are known.
This study identified 228 species as the most frequently used plants and 125 of these as the most widely marketed.
Of these 125 species, three are listed as timber species where commercialisation is prohibited: the Holy Wood Bursera graveolens, Balm Myroxylum balsamum and Andean Walnut Juglans neotropica.
Andean Walnut is also one of the six species listed as threatened.vi
The leaves are strongly aromatic and when rubbed on the skin are an effective insect repellant.
In Ecuador the leaves have many uses including fabric dyes and a diet tonic.
As a species of the Juglans family it may be assumed that it could be used for similar medicinal uses as for J. nigra, J. cinerara, J.regia. (Checking this out?)
Other indigenous walnutsvii from the Andean region include:
Argentine walnut Juglans australis; Argentina and southern Bolivia. (Spanish names: nogul cayure, cayuri, nogul cimarron, nogal criollo, nogul silvestre, nogal de monte). The nut is small and its shell is very thick, making the meat difficult to extract. However, the wood is prized for its fine qualities and is sought-after for making guitars.
Bolivian walnut J. boliviana; Mountains of northern Bolivia as well as southern and central Peru. (Spanish names: nogul de la tierra, nogal negro, nogal blanco). Similar to J. neotropica, this species has grown well in Costa Rica.
Venezuelan walnut J. venezuelensis; Coast mountains of northern Venezuala. (Local names include nogal, nogal de Caracas, cedro negro, nogal plance, laurel). The trees once occurred frequently in the mountains near Caracas but are now extremely rare, although they still exist between Junquito and the Colonia Tovar cloud forest.viii
Carlos Mario Ospina Penagos wrote to me from Colombia with this report. (Some difficulty with my lack of Spanish) –
"In Ecuador three species (Bursera graveolens, Miroxylon balsamum and Juglans neotropica) have restricted use as their natural population has been almost destroyed; the species have been used for civil constructions, cabinetwork in general, cross ties of railroad and fuelwood among others, producing almost the extinction of the species.
At the beginning of the year I was in the cities of the Ecuador – Quito, Otavalo, Ibarra; and there I could observe the high degree of “deforestation” that the zone presents, caused by two things: Higher concentration of pollution near or around these cities; and a very dry zone (less than 900 mm of precipitation) – with a predominance of pasture grass, soils of sedimentary origin that combined with the strong winds have caused the zone high degrees of silica erosion, resulting in soils of the surrounding area that are almost sterile. The zone might be likened to a cold desert.
There is a second zone near a Tulcán, where the environment is more wet, soils derived of volcanic ash and some existing individual trees are dispersed. Unfortunately the Andean walnut is very threatened as it is used for the construction of houses, cabinet making, doors, windows, libraries, shade for the tomato of arbol Cyphomandra betacea or fuelwood. In this zone much pressure on the species exists which keeps it very restricted.
I might conclude that the species, due to its great use, to the high demand of the wood and little that this being done to revive the species, it is very threatened but not quite in extinction."
He then asks us for information regarding this species for a document they are compiling regarding geographic distribution, morphologic description, pregerminative treatments, germination, handling in nurseries, plagues and diseases, plantation growing, silvicultural management and uses.
As New Zealand’s seed source has come from this area I think it would be good to help out in whatever way we can. Do you know of any other places where these trees are growing?
From NewCrops HortPurdue: Observations in family gardens show Cyphmandra (Tamarillo) grow better in association with Juglans neotropica (Andean Walnut)
ICUN – The International Conservation Union reports that in Ecuador Juglans neotropica is one of three medicinal plants in which international trade is banned, and is one of the six on their list of threatened trees.
Recipe for Sweet Pickled Walnuts
In early December or when nuts are still green and able to be pricked with a darning needle or similar object, gather 100 green nuts (Black Walnuts seem to be later in the season)
Prick them all over pushing the needle right through. Put in large bowl with brine –
6 oz (175gm) Rock or Plain Salt 2 qts (2.4 litres) Water
Soak for nine days, changing the brine every 3 days. Stir daily. Drain nuts and dry. Prick again and leave in sun until they go black (this may take a few days)
1 qt (1.2 litres) Malt Vinegar 1 teaspoon Allspice
1 oz (25 gm) Cloves 1 whole Nutmeg
3lb (1.325 kg) Brown Sugar
Boil mixture for 10 minutes and pour over nuts in jar. Seal and leave for at least 8
Dick Endt, Gerald Endt, Landsendt, Oratia, Auckland NZ
Lost Crops of the Incas, National Academy Press, 1989
Personal observations, G Newcomb
i Planted (1984) at what was originally part of "Littleweed"; since subdivided. There are younger spectacularly fast-growing examples on another neighbouring property, Aongatete, Bay of Plenty, NZ
ii Toon W, Taranaki, Tree Grower August 1998. "Andean Walnuts – Toon initially planted 20 Andean Walnuts, Juglans neotropica, one-year-old seedlings and was so impressed with their growth rate that he planted a further 300 seed in December 1996 and the best of these measured over two metres in height at eighteen months. Last December (1997) Toon planted 600 more…" He has since planted even more.
iii Calderon 1997
iv Carlos Mario Ospina Penagos
v Advantage Lumber & IMEXCO – Internet sites
vii Lost Crops of the Incas, National Academy Press
viii WE Manning, J Steyermark
Compiled by: Gail Newcomb, Technical Editor, February, 2001.
Privacy removals and proprietory format conversion – December 2007
This crop guide was produced with the latest information available at the time of publication. This should not be considered the ultimate in information for New Zealand growing conditions: it is just a basic guide on the subject. If any member has information to add, or feels that any of the information is misleading, please use the contact below.
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