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I happen to live in what is now USDA climate zone 6a with a dry climate. I have some space around my house, and I'd like to plant some trees, but I can't figure out which trees would have the most economic value. My end goal would be to grow 5ish trees of 3ish species from the top 20 of the list.

I understand that there are a lot of variables, but I was hoping to find a website with a database that would offer 5 to 10 suggestions based on my parameters. I suspect that it's dry enough that after irrigation, trees are a money loser, but I can't get much perspective without knowing the value of a grown (or producing) tree. I understand that the value of shade (unless it reduces your cooling bills or rooftop solar conversion), beauty and privacy are extras and tough to measure, and that I may move away before the "investment" matures, but are there either website or specific suggestions?

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    You need to clarify this question as everyone assigns a different value to the things trees provide: do you value food ( acorns, hazelnuts..) which you can have every year over growing a black walnut for thirty years and getting cash for the wood?
    – kevinskio
    Nov 20, 2023 at 12:28
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    Unless "dry climate" is "full-on desert" suitable trees that don't require irrigation are likely extant. Try "Tree Crops - A Permanent Agriculture" by J. Russell Smith (available as a free ebook several places on the web and un-free some other plaaces, but the free version is not an illicit one.)
    – Ecnerwal
    Nov 20, 2023 at 14:32
  • As for "most valuable here" and then not giving a general location on the planet, - not helpful.
    – Ecnerwal
    Nov 20, 2023 at 14:38
  • @kevinskio Economic means the monetary output. So, if you produce an average amount of crop at dollars per amount over time years, that's amount(in dollars)*time plus whatever the wood is worth at the end of the tree's life.
    – user121330
    Nov 20, 2023 at 18:31
  • If "some trees" means 5, what kind of mega-harvest do you expect? If it means 100s, wouldn't it make sense to hire a farmer who has experience where you don't? Nov 20, 2023 at 18:47

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If you aren't engaging in actual agriculture, a tree's 'economic value' doesn't make much sense to me. Economic value is what the tree would be worth to other people, and who cares about them? The most valuable tree is the one you appreciate being near most.

Well, not everyone thinks like me. Arbor Day will let you put in your ZIP code and give you a list of suitable trees, and even produce a dollar value for the tree. They assign dollar values to shade, CO2 sequestration, stormwater mitigation, air quality, all kinds of things they can put a number next too.

Personally, those numbers mean nothing to me. The internet is full of better tree selection databases like this one that let you input different tree parameters, and get a list of candidates back.

Is it a good tree for children to climb, or hang a swing from? Does it aggravate someone's allergies? When does it flower? Does it have a smell? How does it look in the autumn? And the winter? Does it drop leaves? How many leaves, and all at once or do they drizzle off? Is it culturally important? How does it fit into the local ecosystem? Does it give me bragging rights over my neighbor? Will it grow to a size the location is suited for? Is it beautiful, strong and noble?

You can't answer those questions with a number.

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  • Ooh, a frame challenge. Economic value would be total value of the annual crop I don't have to buy (retail price for crop consumed) plus the value of the wood at the end minus the cost of production. It's a number that an actual arboriculturist would need (though, obviously at wholesale and for the whole crop) and I was hoping there was a resource for that. While I agree that that one number won't tell me everything, it will give me a place to start. The websites you've provided do not contain any information that I asked for.
    – user121330
    Nov 20, 2023 at 18:59
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    @user121330 I can almost guarantee you, the global economy will produce any harvest more reliably and economically than we can with our hobby orchards / tree farms. You are kind of dancing around if you expect edible harvests or lumber or both, without even sharing what kind or size of lot this imaginary tree farm will be on. The question is nearly "what is the formula for agribusiness management?"
    – MackM
    Nov 20, 2023 at 19:23
  • @user121330 What are you looking for that the Arbor Day site does not provide? If you are talking agriculture numbers, to give you a sense of why I think it's a dead end - my old neighbor had a large, healthy white oak taken down. He paid a tree service $2,300 to remove the tree, and received $1,500 for the lumber from a local mill. Another neighbor kept a stand of apple trees, and spent many hours every year caring for them. He got maybe 60lbs of fruit per season, which sells for maybe $140 here. All of those trees were excellent investments.
    – MackM
    Nov 20, 2023 at 19:31
  • The Arbor Day site provides information on a given tree. Which I would delve into happily if I knew which tree to ask about - which it doesn't provide. As for the calculations you've provided ... if I hire out tree removal, one might suppose that mitigating its costs would be better than paying for them in full. Sometimes it's best to say 'I don't know if such a resource exists.'
    – user121330
    Nov 20, 2023 at 19:42
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    So something like "Oak trees yield $850 in lumber after 7 years growth, apple trees yield $85 / year in fruit"?
    – MackM
    Nov 20, 2023 at 20:01

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