High Value Enterprises for Small Spaces:Accelerating Commercialization and Integration of Woody Florals and Hybrid Hazelnuts in Sustainable Systems

Final Report for LNC05-261

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $149,997.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Scott Josiah
Nebraska Forest Service
Co-Coordinators:
Troy Pabst
Nebraska Forest Service
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Project Information

Summary:

This ambitious, producer driven and implemented project was established to accelerate the short and long term development of profitable and sustainable woody-based agricultural systems in the Midwest. It integrated two woody crops into small-to-medium farm enterprises - woody florals and hybrid hazelnuts. It strategically targeted key barriers that limit commercialization and built on establishing stronger producer links to promote large-scale adoption. Producers “owned” this project, and ensured that solutions were feasible, relevant, and permanently integrated into their enterprises encouraging rapid spread.

Project Objectives:

Objective #1
Increased woody floral visibility and demonstrated profitability through 12 new on-farm demonstration plantings in 4 states.

Objective #2
Develop a permanent network of 12 woody floral (WF) producer “agents” to promote specialty woody crops, and who are regarded as reliable local sources of information.

Objective #3
Significantly increase the number of woody floral growers as a result of project-supported direct landowner contacts and assistance by WF producer agents.

Objective #4
Conduct joint processing, marketing and market/product development via a specialty woody crop cooperative leading to greater farm profitability, greater market options for producers, and stronger producer-consumer links.

Objective #5
Enhance producer access (24/7) to woody floral information, hybrid hazelnut production, processing, marketing, price and financial return information via an improved web-based market information system.

Objective #6
Increased farm profitability by using superior cultivars of both WFs and hazelnuts, and through more efficient processing procedures and equipment.

Objective #7
Successful hazelnut tissue culture leading to the capacity to mass produce superior disease-resistant, hybrid hazelnut seedlings at a low cost.

Objective #8
Development of experience-based enterprise budgets for woody floral enterprises.

Objective #9
An expanded and strengthened specialty woody crop community of interest region-wide through the use of both “high touch” and “high tech” approaches.

Objective #10
Increased production and marketing knowledge of producers, agency personnel, florists, and teachers of vocational agriculture, floral design and natural resources in Native American Tribal Colleges through 8 targeted workshops, 5 field days, 3 publications, and quarterly e-newsletter.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Sabine Becker
  • Bruce Bostelman
  • Mike Dilts
  • Lin Hangren
  • Kerry Hartman
  • Jim Hruskoci
  • Chad Kment
  • Henry Miller
  • Eric Nelson
  • Kathy & Gary Samuelson
  • Fritz Steinhoff
  • Tom White

Research

Materials and methods:

Using project funds, participants planted a wide array of plants ranging from proven performers in our climate as well as many species that are “new” to the area.

The following is a list of plants that were purchased for field trials with SARE funds:
Flowering Almond, Bittersweet, ‘Black Knight’ Buddleia, Nanking Cherry, Coralberry, Snowberry Blood twig dogwood, Cardinal Dogwood, Red twig dogwood, Yellow twig dogwood, Black pussy willow, Pussy willow, Curly willow, ‘Scarlet Curls’ willow, StreamCo willow, Superba willow, Belgium Red willow, Hutchinsons Yellow willow, Select pussy willow, Black Maul willow, Vitelina willow, Chermesina willow, American willow, Yellow weeping willow, Giant pussy willow, Green Dicks willow, Flame willow, Fantail willow, Blue mist spirea, Candidissima Viburnum, Notcott Viburnum, Calvescens Viburnum, Nanny berry Viburnum, Wentworth Viburnum, Mariesii Viburnum, Winterhazel, Mt. Airy Fothergilla, Large Fothergilla, Arnold’s Witchhazel, Primavera Witchhazel, Pallida Witchhazel, Coral bark willow, Yellow flame willow, Yellow curly willow, Sweet birch, Winter Red Holly, Southern Gentleman Holly.

The project also purchased a complete drip irrigation system for each participant to ensure good plant survival and growth. A strapping machine was also purchased to reduce labor and speed the bundling and strapping of harvested woody florals. It has been of great help to growers interested in improved processing efficiencies. Assistance was given to Nebraska Woody Florals (NWF, a woody floral grower co-op) in setting up a freezer study as a possible way to extend the period that dormant stems are available. More than 45 growers are now harvesting and selling woody floral stems, generating a new source of income as a well as augmenting their incomes in these economically tight times.

The project coordinator also investigated various types of pecan processing equipment that showed promise for processing hybrid hazelnuts; visiting two nut processing manufactures in Oklahoma and Texas. As a result of this trip three types of pecan processing equipment were identified with applications for hazelnut processing. Separate funding, ($31,500) was secured for the purchase of a nut cracker, an aspirator and a deshucker, laying the foundation for improved nut processing efficiencies and profitability for Central states growers.

Research results and discussion:

Working in conjunction with the National Arbor Day Foundation, an ambitious research project was started in the fall of 2002. The focus of this project was to screen a planting of 5,000 hazelnut plants for yield potential. With this SARE grant, this project kept that effort in place, generating valuable findings.

Ten potential new cultivars have been identified and yield data from the top 100 producing plants is still being collected each fall, which has now been narrowed to 50 superior plants utilizing yield data collected from these plants over a seven year period . We are currently working with Rutgers University to screen these plants for a devastating hazelnut disease called Eastern Filbert Blight (EFB) that would limit their commercialization. These top producers have also been tested for their oil content and oil physical and chemical characteristics in collaboration with scientists at the Biological Systems Engineering department at the University of Nebraska. Findings are exciting – several plants were discovered to consistently produce very high nut yields, others produce nearly twice as much oil per acre as do soybeans, and hazelnut oil has now been shown to be superior to soybean oil for biofuel (biodiesel) applications.

Unfortunately propagation of hazelnuts has been difficult with very limited success. Tissue culture of those plants has not yet been attempted at this time due to lack of replication of the top performing plants as well as the number of plants that you are required to purchase from a tissue culture supplier (~ approximately 500 plants or more of each line) with each potential cultivar requiring its own tissue culture technique. Tissue culture attempts elsewhere have also been shown to be highly problematic and highly dependent on genotype. An alternative to tissue culture was instead developed in order to establish a replicated planting of the top producers on a small scale utilizing a modified mound layering technique by first chip budding the superior plant onto hazelnut rootstocks, after the chips had grown to a length of 8–12” the plants were layered and then harvested after 8–12 weeks. Unfortunately this technique has also had limited success. Mass production of superior hybrid hazelnuts remains an ongoing challenge.

As a direct result of the continued collaborative work on hybrid hazelnuts supported by this project, a consortium composed of the Nebraska Forest Service, Rutgers University, Oregon State University and the Arbor Day Foundation was formed to commercialize the hybrid hazelnut within ten years. The consortium recently was awarded a $1.3 million Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) grant from the USDA-CSREES to support this effort.

Research conclusions:

At this time impacts and contributions/outcomes are beginning to accumulate. This project began in November of 2005.

The first year of activity consisted of establishing the 12 woody floral plots, thus allowing each of the participants to become familiar with growing woody florals. These plantings have become core production plantings, building the production base for plant multiplication & woody floral production well into the future. These working plantings also serve as widely distributed demonstration sites, which are now being used for producer training on a producer-to-producer level.

A major success and impact of this project was the development of NWF LLC, which provides permanent capability in the central and Great Plains states for technical assistance, processing information, and collective marketing of a wide range of woody floral products.

During the project period, NWF identified entirely new markets, competed successfully in existing markets and provided an essential processing and marketing outlet to a growing number of woody floral producers across three states. Six of the SARE producers did harvest their woody floral plants and marketed them through NWF this past year; the other growers plantings were not quite mature enough to be harvested. More than half of the participants joined the NWF cooperative or intend to join, indicating their long-term commitment to woody floral production, and the sustainable long – term impacts of this project. The cooperative, with 45 members, currently sells thousands of woody floral stems annually to wholesale florists located in Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and South Dakota. Expanded collaboration with both NWF as well as though the hazelnut commercialization consortium are opening up new opportunities for further development of the two commercial, but as yet, alternative crops. The development of a research & development consortium to commercialize the hybrid hazelnut (with the Nebraska Forest Service, National Arbor Day Foundation, Oregon State University and Rutgers University), as well as NWF LLC, are direct outcomes of this project that will continue the work started by this project long into the future. The development of the NWF LLC has thoroughly shifted woody floral production and marketing from a research and development idea to one that is fully mainstreamed into the private sector, ensuring the sustained and continued development of this alternative crop.

The anticipated benefit for producers in the North Central region is rural economic development as well as environmental conservation through the use of profitable permaculture systems based on woody florals and hazelnuts. This project also focused on a high-touch and high-tech approach that has been accomplished by providing each member with plant material and an irrigation system, hands-on harvesting and processing workshops, combined with improved web-based information on the various cultivars and markets for woody floral production. We were also in contact with the SARE participants through e-mail, meetings, workshops, and the steering committee. The establishment of NWF continues this communication; post project and strengthens this growing community of producers across the region in a sustained manner.

Farmer Adoption

We have had limited success recruiting new growers through the planned grower-to-landowner contact approach. Several factors have contributed to this:
1) some of the growers knew relatively few of their neighbors thus making recruiting difficult, or
2) those that had the means to grow or incorporate woody florals in their farming operations or acreages were not as interested as anticipated when the project was first proposed.

A new strategy was developed mid-project by the steering committee, in collaboration with NWF that used a more traditional approach, such as seasonal field days and workshops as a means to promote woody floral production. This was much more successful and led to over 45 growers establishing woody floral on-farm enterprises.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

A major outreach publication that captured and summarized production, processing, marketing and sales expenses can be found within the text of the online growers guide located online at www.nfs.unl.edu/documents/SpecialtyForest/growersguideweb2007. This web site includes woody florals with interesting color, shapes, buds, fruit, flowers and other marketable characteristics, photos of woody floral plants, plant descriptions, growth requirements, propagation methods, harvest information, production information, labor requirements, establishment costs, fresh market information and potential problems. This site also gives those interested in woody florals contact information on the NWF cooperative. The site is updated as new information becomes available.

To date eleven workshops have been conducted. During November 2005, 4 extension workshops were held on woody florals in Columbus, Lincoln, Fremont and Omaha Nebraska. Each of these workshops had between 15 – 20 attendees present. In September of 2006 a workshop was held on proper processing techniques of woody florals with 40 attendees present. The project coordinator delivered plant material to Fort Berthold Community College (a tribal college) in New Town, North Dakota, and provided hands-on training to tribal college participants while there. NWF manned a booth and conducted floral design presentation with woody florals at the 2006 - 08 Wild Fruit & Nut jam event, hosted by the Nebraska Forest Service, with approximately 2500 in attendance. Two field days were also conducted; the first in November of 2005 when a harvesting and processing workshop was held with 60 attendees, the second was conducted in April of 2006 when a planting workshop was held with 15- 20 in attendance. In July, 2007 a woody floral summer field day was held with 35 in attendance. NWF has published six newsletters and has emailed a monthly bulletin since August of 2008. One of the participants, Mr. Fritz Steinhoff utilized the SARE woody floral plant material as his Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter project. The floral design class at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has also utilized more and more woody floral stems in class designs as a direct result of the SARE project and NWF.

Publications developed as a result of this SARE grant are:

Hygnstrom, S., Josiah, S.J., Skelton, P.D., Gilsdormf, J.A., Virchow, D.R., Brandle, J.A., Jayaprakash, A. K., Eskridge, K.M., and K.C. VerCauteren. 2009. White-tailed Deer Browsing and Rubbing Preference for Trees and Shrubs that Produce Non-timber Forest Products. 19:204-211

Meyer, C.M., Josiah, S.J., Pabst, T., Erdkamp, B. 2007. A Grower’s Guide to Producing Woody Floral Stems. Nebraska Forest Service technical bulletin. NFS01-2007.

Xu, Y.X., Hanna, M.A., Josiah, S.J. 2007. Hybrid hazelnut oil characteristics and its potential oleochemical application. J. Industrial Crops and Products. 26:69-76

Grants secured in part due to work on this project:

2009

Expansion of Hazelnut Production, Feedstock, and Biofuel Potential through Breeding for Disease Resistance and Climatic Adaption. USDA CSREES. $1,300,000

2008

Nutritional Quality and Oxidative Stability of Oil Extracted from Hybrid Hazelnuts Grow in Nebraska. Ne Dept. of Ag. $25,000
2008 Nutritional and Anti-nutritional Compositions of Defatted Nebraska Hybrid Hazelnut Meal. Ne Dept. of Ag. $25,000

2007

Expansion of Rural Business Enterprise Development. HUD. $31,500.

Hazelnut Oil Potential as a Feedstock for Biofuel. Ne Dept. of Ag. $20,000

Grant Proposals submitted but not funded:

2007

Hazelnuts as Feedstock for Biodiesel and Green Chemicals. NCESR

2006

Olechemicals from Hazelnut Oil. NCESR

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.