This week, a local PCA sent me the following photo & message:
I had come across a couple blocks this week with similar growth, so I asked our Almond and Walnut Specialist, Bruce Lampinen for more information. He said that what we are seeing are neoformed (= current season, as opposed to preformed last season) nodes on shoots growing so rapidly that the buds don’t have time to differentiate into leaves. It’s common on shoots that are growing rapidly, often (though not always) when the trees have been pruned hard, or when they are high in nitrogen.
The nodes will not have viable buds develop in them. That means next year, they will have the so-called Poodle-tail growth frequently seen on walnuts:
The ‘funky’ shoot growth and poodle-tail are both a result rapid growth. To help prevent this, slow the growth down by managing nitrogen and ensuring that the trees are not kept too wet.