The objective of the project is to develop a new sustainable industry that will employ local people and provide an opportunity for a number of producers to enter the market. The project goal is to develop an economically viable hazelnut industry within the county and later expanding to other areas of Northern Appalachia.
The approach is to develop a cold-tolerant and disease-resistant hazelnut tree through crossbreeding the wild American hazelnut bush with the European filbert. Thus far, 100 wild hazelnut bushes have been transplanted and are being used for crossbreeding with pollen obtained from the University of Oregon, Corvallis, Oregon. The first yield was harvested this fall (2006). Additionally, 40 blight-resistant European filbert cultivars were planted in the second year (of the project). These were obtained through the University of Oregon also.
I worked primarily with Mr. Shawn Mehlenbacher at the University of Oregon, Corvallis, Oregon. Mr. Mehlenbacher provided assistance in genetics, pollen types, cross-pollination methods and also provided blight-resistant stock.
I also worked with a local nursery, Hrinko’s and with Mr. Daryl Clark, Ohio State University (OSU) Extension on soil conditions, starting of stock, and pruning.
The project is a long-term project with at least five years required before full production can be established. However, the first year of crossbreeding did yield a crossbred nut of good quality but smaller size than desired. Production was less than expected because wind resulted in some crop loss. Additionally, the Tyvek bags used to isolate the female receptors following pollination rubbed against the branches and damaged the buds. I am working with the University of Oregon on a solution to this problem. Deer attacked the trees this fall requiring the use of electric fencing and tree guards.
This is a project that I had thought of trying for some time. The program and the grant provided the incentive to undertake the venture. I really enjoyed the experience and also believe that it will be successful. The initial results are good and I am looking forward to continuing to work on the cross breeding efforts. I learned a lot about hazelnut genetics, cross-breeding techniques, and transplanting of the trees.
1. Publication in the Noble County “Journal Leader” newspaper
2. Word of mouth
3. Publication in Washington Electric Cooperative “Country Living” magazine
4. Field day demonstration with the local OSU Extension Pasture Walk group
I feel this is a valuable program in that it encourages new approaches to sustainable agriculture. It is a venue for funding programs that may not otherwise find capital.