Answer: The Turkish filbert tree (Corylus colurna), of Persian origin, was imported into the northwestern United States, where it is well-adapted. That area has become the center of commercial hazelnut production in this country. There the trees are trained to a tree form, intensively cultivated. Processing and other support services are easily available. Currently the commercial industry is being threatened because C. columa is susceptible to Eastern filbert blight (EFB), a disease native to this country that has made its way to the west coast. Efforts are underway at Oregon State University to develop resistance.
American hazelnuts (C. americana) are a native relative of the commercial species, and they have natural resistance to EFB. Most of the native hazelnuts are considerably smaller than the Turkish type and have, therefore, been sold for "industrial" uses (for flavoring, use in liquors, baked goods, coffee, etc.). Various lines of native and imported species have been crossed in an attempt to develop a plant that both is resistant to the blight and produces hazelnuts acceptable to the existing market.
Phillip Rutter has, for several decades, been collecting various strains and developing a hybrid with good nut characteristics. His organization, Badgersett Research Corporation in Canton, Minnesota, has been working to increase nut size as well. Visit the Badgersett Web site, www.badgersett.com, for lots of information, including the latest version of The Hazelnut Handbook. The handbook contains information about establishing and maintaining these new types of hazelnuts.
Establishing the plants requires preparation of the seedbed and special planting techniques that are described in detail on the Web site and in the handbook. Control of competing vegetation, initial deer and rodent control, and proper fertilization are required for vigorous seedlings. After they are established, they are described as very resilient. However, wildlife like them, and will compete for the nuts at harvest time.
Several other breeding programs are underway. (See the list of hazelnut experts on the Northern Nut Growers Association Web site.) Several projects investigating the use of selected native hazelnuts in agroforestry applications were funded by the Midwest SARE grants program in the 1990s. Reports indicated varied results in establishing hazelnuts as windbreaks and in wildlife areas. Initial producer commitment and on-site support from someone with practical experience seem to be crucial to success. Since Badgersett seedlings have been involved in many of these plantings, it is likely that these early experiences have influenced handbook content as well as more recent breeding efforts.
Listed below are several articles on hazelnut production and on the potential for raising nuts in home plantings or as farm diversification strategies. Although there are some large-scale plantings underway, be aware that there is still much to be learned about the hybrid hazelnuts. Economics and efficient production, as well as machinery for harvest and commercial markets, are still under development.
Mark Shepard (2), co-author of The Hazelnut Handbook, can consult about wholesale markets for hazelnuts. Since he also has extensive plantings of hazelnuts of various ages, his knowledge base is quite broad. Tom Wahl (3) of Red Fern Farm is a contact for you in Iowa. Ask about a growers’ group there.
1) Northern Nut Growers Assn.
2) Mark L Shepard, Consulting Agroforester
Forest Agriculture Enterprises
P.O. Box 24
Viola, WI 54664
3) Tom Wahl
Red Fern Farm
13882 “I” Ave.
Wapello, IA 52653
Anon. 2000. Arbor Day Farm: Market Research Report. Food Processing Center, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, and Nebraska Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Lincoln, NE. 94 p.
Anon. 2002. Growers consider hazelnut producers organization. Permaculture Activist #7. Summer. p. 75.
Josiah, Scott J. 2001. Hybrid Hazelnuts: An Agroforestry Opportunity. The National Arbor Day Foundation. 4 p.
Josiah, Scott J. 2001. Productive Conservation: Growing Specialty Forest Products in Agroforestry Plantings. The National Arbor Day Foundation. 4 p.
Pulsipher, Gerreld, and Scott J. Josiah. 2001. Hybrid Hazelnuts: An Agroforestry Opportunity. Arbor Day Foundation. 4 p.
Wynn, Kimberly. 1996. Not your father’s hazelnut. American Horticulturist. February. p. 42–45.
Further Electronic Resources:
Society of Ontario Nut Growers
This is a good introduction to hazelnuts in general.
European Filbert Web sites
Oregon State University Extension
This is a good introductory piece about hazelnuts in OR by the OSU hazelnut Extension Specialist, Ross Penhallegon.
Ross Penhallegon’s contact information.
OSU Hazelnut publication (below). http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/html/em/em8786-e/
Search the Extension catalog for several other publications. Some are available to print on-line and some must be ordered.
Hazelnut Growers of Oregon
Another Oregon Hazelnut Growers site
There’s a handbook and a newsletter available here. Check out the links!
American Hazelnut Web sites
Northern Nut Growers Association
Check out this site, which includes a list of experts on hazelnuts. The book below is about the development of the American hazelnut. There’s a lot more about hazelnuts on this site, too.
The Hazel Tree by Cecil Farris. Cecil Farris has recounted his 35 year journey that turned him, a former Oldsmobile worker, into an authority on hazel nuts and trees. Read about: Hazel tree culture, diseases and pests, breeding techniques, establishing backyard hazels...and more. This 74-page book contains 27 color photos and is a "must-have" for the Hazel enthusiast. See the NNGA Web site to order.
Badgersett Research Corporation
Site operated by a breeder working to develop a hybrid American hazelnut bush with good nut characteristics as well as EFB resistance. See their Hazel Handbook for information about growing their plants. This site is chock full of information about this newly developing industry.
Arbor Day Farm Hazelnut Field
Description of the hazelnut planting at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska.
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