Potential for Shake and Catch Harvesting of Hazelnuts

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2018: $19,532.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2021
Grant Recipient: My Brothers' Farm
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Taylor Larson
My Brothers' Farm


  • Nuts: hazelnuts


  • Crop Production: agroforestry, silvopasture
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: feasibility study
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, integrated crop and livestock systems

    Proposal summary:

    Nearly all hazelnuts produced in the United States are grown in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
    Hazelnuts are typically harvested by sweeping them off the orchard floor every fall. This “sweep
    harvest” method necessitates keeping orchard floors very flat, and free of vegetation/debris that
    may interfere with harvest.
    Keeping orchard floors “clean” is achieved through frequent flail mowing, leveling and herbicide
    applications. These practices can lead to soil degradation. Additionally, because sweep
    harvesting cannot begin until all nuts have fallen from the tree, harvest is often conducted after
    the onset of the fall rains which can lead to additional compaction and difficulties separating the
    nuts from debris and mud.
    We are proposing to study the potential for shake and catch harvesting in hazelnut production. If
    feasible, shake and catch harvesting could allow for a whole host of environmental benefits as
    well as increase the economic viability of small to midsize hazelnuts orchards.
    With shake and catch harvesting techniques, nuts are harvested straight from the tree by shaking
    the trunk, causing nuts to fall onto an inverted umbrella and into a tote. This would allow for
    much less intensive orchard floor management, as nuts do not have to be swept off a clean and
    manicured orchard floor. Deep-rooted cover crops could be grown to maximize their soil
    building potential, and animals could be integrated after the harvest to help control disease and
    maintain fertility. Finally, harvest could happen earlier in the fall, decreasing the potential for
    harvesting in the rain.
    In order to test the viability of shake and catch harvesting, we are proposing to compare yield,
    and timing of “shake and catch harvesting” vs “sweep harvesting” in order to assess whether
    shake and catch harvesting has the potential to replace traditional sweep methods in hazelnut
    production in Oregon and beyond.
    We plan to share our experience and findings with the wider agricultural community through
    online demonstration videos, a dedicated page on our website and regular updates via our
    Facebook page, Instagram account and email list. We plan to host two field days on our farm and
    to share our findings at the Oregon Small Farms Conference.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1) Compare yield of shake and catch to conventional harvest
    a. We want to know if we can harvest as many nuts with a “shake and catch
    harvester” as with a “conventional sweep harvester”. We will be measuring
    yield by finding the percentage of total nuts we are able to harvest from a
    given block of 118 trees (one acre). We will then compare our harvest
    percentage to the industry average.
    2) Compare quality of nut in shake and catch to conventional harvest
    a. Conventional sweep harvesting waits for hazelnuts to fall to the ground at
    maturity. Shake and catch harvesting will be conducted earlier in the fall
    before nuts drop to the ground. Therefore, we want to know whether shake
    and catch harvesting has any effect on the ability of the hazelnut to fully fill
    its shell. We will be measuring quality much in the same way that major
    hazelnut processors do: by looking at percentage of nut fill. We will crack
    and separate nuts from shells for our given block of 118 trees. Then we will
    divide weight of shell by weight of nut to get our nut fill percentage and
    compare that to the industry average.
    3) Compare percent blanks in shake and catch to conventional harvest
    a. We want to know if shake and catch harvesting has any effect on the
    percentage of nuts harvested that are blanks (have no nut inside). We’ll test
    this much the same way that large processors do, by cracking random samples
    of nuts from our test block one at a time and recording the percentage that are
    blank. We will then compare this to the industry average as well as to other
    blocks in our orchard.
    4) Compare harvest timing of shake and catch to conventional harvest
    a. Shake and catch harvesting has the potential to occur and be completed earlier
    than sweep harvesting methods. We plan to document actual and preferred
    harvest dates in 2018 and 2019 and then compare those with the industry
    average harvest dates for those years.

    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.