The USDA awarded the Hybrid Hazelnut Consortium $3.1 million to expand research on hybrid hazelnuts
Lincoln, Neb. Sept. 14, 2016-- The Arbor Day Foundation is proud to announce the organization is a recipient of a three million dollar USDA grant as part of the Hybrid Hazelnut Consortium to expand research on hybrid hazelnuts. Effective as of September 1, 2016, this five-year grant will help the Consortium advance its research plan in creating new cultivars which are high-yielding in nuts, cold-hardy, heat-tolerant, drought-resistant and resistant to eastern filbert blight (EFB), a fungal disease. The new cultivars will also help expand the hazelnut industry across many more growing regions of the country than is now possible with the current hybrids.
The Hybrid Hazelnut Consortium is a select group of experts from Rutgers University, Oregon State University, the Nebraska Forest Service/University of Nebraska--Lincoln and the Arbor Day Foundation working together to develop disease-resistant, widely adapted hybrid hazelnuts for commercial production.
Combined, the Consortium partners bring in more than 70 years of hazelnut research. The collaborative initiative blends modern and classical breeding techniques, ensuring the development of the highest-quality hybrid hazelnut plants.
The Consortium is currently testing new hybrid hazelnut plants in the field which combine the wide adaptation, cold hardiness and EFB resistance of American hazelnuts with the high nut quality of European hazelnuts. The latest hybrids are a result of genetic collection, crosses and disease testing. Research spans from Nebraska to the eastern U.S., Oregon and Washington.
Commercial hazelnut production would improve sustainability because hybrid hazelnuts provide carbon sequestration for cleaning the air, ensures clean water and are drought resistant because of their extensive root system. For example, hazelnuts produce more protein per acre than existing row crops and can be harvested for 25 years and require less yearly maintenance. Additionally, expanding the growing region for hybrid hazelnuts will create thousands of jobs and generate significant revenue.
The U.S. produces about 5 percent of the world commercial hazelnut crop. Ninety-nine percent of the country's hazelnuts come out of Oregon. The average value of hazelnuts in the U.S. the past three years was roughly $63 million. However, two factors limit expanding production of hazelnuts in the U.S.--harsh weather conditions and susceptibility to EFB.
Arbor Day Foundation members are also involved in hazelnut research through the Foundation's Hazelnut Project. Participants deliver measurements and reports about cultivars planted throughout the nation. The results ensure that only the highest-quality and most reliably productive plants are developed and made available to the public.
In 2012, the best hazelnut progenies were added to the existing 9 acres hybrid hazelnut research field planted at Arbor Day Farm using the best selections of nuts returned by participants along with promising bushes discovered in the wild. New seedlings were propagated and planted in the orchard, allowing for additional distribution and testing and a more diverse sample.
If successful, the expansion of hazelnut production through the Consortium's research will give the U.S. the potential of becoming the world's leading sustainable hazelnut producer and address critical issues in areas of agriculture, environment, wildlife habitat, society, health, hunger and sustainable energy.
The grant program is coordinated by the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The Consortium's hazelnut grant was one of 19 nationally, totaling $36.5 million.
About the Arbor Day Foundation
Founded in 1972, the Arbor Day Foundation has grown to become the largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees, with more than one million members, supporters, and valued partners. During the last 44 years, more than 250 million Arbor Day Foundation trees have been planted in neighborhoods, communities, cities and forests throughout the world.
For more information, visit www.arborday.org/consortium