Programs

Fall 2010 Newsletter

Partnership Leverages Members' Expertise

When the Hybrid Hazelnut Consortium (HHC) was formed in 2008, it brought together four of the world's leading hazelnut researchers: Oregon State University, Rutgers University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Arbor Day Foundation. Together, the partners represent more than 70 years of hazelnut research and breeding.

The Consortium members are working to develop high-yielding, low-input hazelnuts that can be grown in marginal soils and are competitive with annual crops for food, feed, or bioenergy.

Expansion of hazelnut production through HHC research will help address critical issues facing our world in the areas of agriculture and the environment, wildlife habitat, health, hunger and sustainable energy.

Research and breeding methods are based on thoroughly tested techniques developed at Oregon State University (OSU), University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), Rutgers University and Arbor Day Farm. Through collaboration, the Consortium partners are leveraging their intellectual resources and prior research investments to address the major barriers currently restricting the widespread expansion and agricultural adoption of hazelnut production: susceptibility to hazelnut eastern filbert blight (EFB) and the limited climatic adaptation of existing cultivars.

Plant Development

The Consortium continues work on developing hazelnut cultivars that are resistant to eastern filbert blight (EFB) and can tolerate weather extremes. In summer 2011 the Nebraska Forest Service will test the hardiness of American/European hybrids at its Horning State Farm Demonstration Forest that OSU has determined are EFB-resistant.

OSU researchers recently identified six EFB-resistant varietals (three from Crimea and three from southern Russia). OSU also is continuing its map-based cloning of EFB.

The Consortium received a plant patent in February for Corylus avellana 'Red Dragon,' a red-leaf ornamental varietal. It is EFB-resistant, and there is high demand for the plant among Oregon growers. 'Red Dragon' was released for its ornamental value rather than nut production.

Other HHC plant development news:

  • Released 22884 selection in Chile, Georgia and Italy in February; it is not EFB-resistant.
  • OSU is pursuing a Specialty Block Grant from the Oregon Dept. of Agriculture in cooperation with the Oregon Extension network.
  • Dr. Shawn Mehlenbacher of OSU traveled to Chile in the spring to work with a local nursery that is propagating Oregon hazelnuts for production.
  • OSU shipped EFB inoculate to Rutgers.

Research

Yixiang Xu at UNL recently completed investigation of the quality of hazelnuts and the genotypes in terms of physical properties of nuts, such as kernel size, chemical composition and oil composition. An article on her work will be published in Industrial Crops and Products this year. Previous research on the nutritional quality of hazelnut oil has been submitted for consideration to the International Journal of food Science and Technology.

She's currently working on the nutritional/anti-nutritional composition of hazelnut oil for protein and human and animal feed supplements, and is working to identify fungi and microtoxin contamination in hybrid hazelnuts. The next step will be to study the value-added utilization of hazelnut byproducts, such as shells and leaves. The UNL research group also will begin work on characterizing antioxidants and anti-cancer chemicals in hazelnuts.

Development News

The National Agroforestry Research Center has offered financial support for hazelnut research at Horning Farm in Nebraska.

Consortium members continue to receive inquiries and visitors from around the world. Dr. Shawn Mehlenbacher recently spoke with representatives from Ferrero, maker of Nutella and Ferrero Rocher, which is interested in evaluating OSU hazelnut varieties in three countries. French hazelnut industry representatives also have inquired about licensing recent HHC hazelnut releases in Europe.

Dr. Tom Molnar at Rutgers is talking with Guelph University in Ontario, Canada, about establishing a working arrangement with scientists there. Working with Guelph would allow Consortium members access to test plants in another climate and develop new pollinizers for colder climates. It also would allow HHC to expand trials in the U.S. and would provide HHC a role in helping develop the first new hazelnut market in eastern North America, which could serve as a model for the Consortium later. It also could lead to additional funding opportunities through the Canadian government. Issues under discussion include plant patents and licensing.