- Nuts: hazelnuts
- Crop Production: agroforestry
- Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
- Energy: bioenergy and biofuels
- Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance
- Production Systems: general crop production
Bush-type hazelnuts (Corylus spp) are a multi-purpose specialty crop with significant potential for the Upper Midwest. Nut yield data from single plants of hybrids of C. americana, C. cornuta, and C. avellana in Minnesota have demonstrated yields of over 2.2 tons/acre (Braun, personal communication). Oil yields from the top 25 producing hybrid plants in a Nebraska planting yielded an equivalent of 892 lb oil/ac, nearly twice that of soybeans (Xu et at, 2007). Coppice wood, husks, and shell are well-suited for second-generation biofuels.
Furthermore, perennial native plants have been proposed as foundations for the bioeconomy, due to their lower input needs, higher net energy ratios, and more effective provision of ecosystem services compared to non-native annual plants (Tilman et.· al, 2006; Cox et. al, 2006).
At a recent Hazelnut Growers Conference, a representative from Fisher Nuts stated they would prefer to purchase the smaller hazelnuts from Midwestern growers rather than import hazelnuts from Turkey, however, the volume they demand is currently not available in the Upper Midwest. Hazelnut growers report considerable interest from retailers, restaurants, and consumers for both in-shell, kernels, and hazelnut oil. Finally, the Army is very interested in hazelnuts for biodiesel due to its excellent cold-flow properties and has recently funded a project at UW-Superior to investigate oil yields and properties from American hazelnuts.
Despite the incredible potential of bush-type hazelnuts, there is currently not a single proven hazelnut cultivar available for growers in the Upper Midwest nor is there sound enterprise data to help growers make business planning decisions. The lack of a proven cultivar is the single most important roadblock to rapid expansion of hazelnut production. The European and Turkish cultivars are not winter hardy and are lethally susceptible to eastern filbert blight (EFB), a fungal disease native to the Upper Midwest. A private breeder in Minnesota has been crossing C. avellana with the two native species, C. americana and C. cornuta, to combine the large nut size of C. avellana with the cold hardiness and eastern filbert blight (EFB) resistance of the native species (Weschcke, 1954; Rutter, 1991). Recent survey work conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin Extension identified 136 growers in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois, growing over 75,700 of these hybrid hazelnuts, each genetically unique from the other.
Forest Agriculture Enterprises, LLC has already conducted much of the early evaluation work necessary to identify advanced plant material. Forest Ag received funding from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) to establish a large-scale (10-acre) planting of first generation hazelnut plants in the 1990s developed by Badgersett Research Corporation. The project essentially launched the fledgling hazelnut industry in Wisconsin. The 2nd generation full-sibling plants developed from this initial planting are available starting in 2011, but require further evaluation across a range of sites. Because the plants are full-siblings and, thus, are more genetically uniform, the plants will allow for development of enterprise budgets based on actual plantings rather than single plant extrapolations.
This project proposes to establish 1-acre trial plantings of these full-sibling plants at four locations in Wisconsin (Chequamegon Food Farm, Bayfield, WI; New Forest Farm, Viola, WI; Spooner Agricultural Research Station, Spooner, WI; Milwaukee, Spooner) in order to generate the following data: 1) Enterprise budgets for hazelnut production with real expenses and revenue data; 2) Establishment, vigor, yield, and disease resistance for the plants; 3) The effect of pruning on mechanical harvest efficiency. Given the two-year scope of this project period, data collection and distribution will focus on enterprise budgets and plant performance during the establishment year and year after planting. The University of Wisconsin-Extension has agreed to coordinate the longterm data collection of yield and performance ensuring the impact of this project will occur for many years beyond the two-year project period.
In the spring of 2011, Mark Shepard of Forest Agricultural Enterprises, LLC will work with each participating grower to develop an establishment and production plan specific to each site. Site preparation will begin as soon as conditions permit in the spring of 2011 with planting of 1-acre of hazelnuts (726 plants/ac) to occur in late-May to early-June. Site preparation methods will vary based on the site, but will follow a sod-culture protocol involving preparation of weed-free planting strips with perennial grass/legume mixtures in the row middles. Drip tape will be used to deliver water in the planting year and wood chips will be used to retain soil moisture and limit weed growth. Weed control will vary by site, as well, but will consist of a mix of herbicides, mowing, and tillage. All input and labor costs will be recorded for each site as part of the enterprise budgeting portion of the project.
This project will provide multiple outcomes, but the three most important are:
1. The project will provide yield and performance data from four locations for the 2nd generation plant materials from the Forest Agriculture Enterprises breeding program. This data will guide future plant selection and crossings for development of locally-adapted 3rd generation material.
2. The project will serve as a replicated feasibility analysis of Midwest hazelnut production using the best and most uniform genetics available and the best management practices for hazelnut establishment and management. The project will allow growers to develop business plans and enterprise budgets using real data, rather than single plant extrapolations.
3. The project will establish four replicated regional hazelnut plantings to allow for development of mechanical harvest systems once the plantings mature.
Data Collection and Analysis
Jason Fischbach, the Agriculture Agent with UW-Extension in Ashland and Bayfield County and coordinator of the outreach component of the Upper Midwest Hazelnut Development Initiative will coordinate data collection throughout this project. Relative plant vigor and establishment success will be recorded during the establishment year for each plant. In addition, plant height will be recorded once per year for each plant during the first three years. All input expenses will be recorded by the participating growers and Jason will compile and publish the data on an annual basis. Beginning in the third season after planting, Jason will measure yield from the 25 highest yielding plants and 40 plants chosen at random. The yield data will provide a snapshot of both the potential maximum yields of select plants within the plantings and a composite yield of the plantings as a whole. As the plantings mature, Jason will work with area blueberry growers to trial mechanical harvesting with their sway-action BEl harvesters.