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Fall 2011 Newsletter

Leveraging the intellectual resources and prior research investments of its four member organizations, the Hybrid Hazelnut Consortium is working to create new hazelnut cultivars to expand the U.S. hazelnut industry.

The four institutions, Oregon State University, Rutgers University, Arbor Day Foundation and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, are engaged in cooperative, scientific research to remove the major barriers restricting widespread agricultural adoption of hazelnut production. Together, the four Consortium partners have more than 70 years of hazelnut research and breeding, and working together allows access to expanded genetic resources, breeding advances, and genetic tools and techniques.

Ninety-nine percent of the U.S. hazelnut crop is grown in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. By developing new cultivars that are disease resistant and climatically adaptable, the Consortium expects expansion into the Midwest and eastern U.S. to be possible. The partners are exploring the use of hazelnuts for food, animal feed and biofuel.

Rutgers University

Rutgers University initiated hazelnut research and breeding in 1996, focusing on developing resistance to eastern filbert blight (EFB), the disease that kills European hazelnuts, as well as pest resistance, cold hardiness, yield and the overall development of hazelnuts for northern climates. Part of this work includes wide germplasm exploration and collection, including newly accessible regions of the former Soviet Union.

Close collaboration between Rutgers and Oregon State University scientists has led to development of adapted and productive plants that are highly resistant to eastern filbert blight and that produce excellent quality nuts.

Rutgers also is developing a new line of disease-resistant ornamental hazelnuts. These include plants with attractive purple leaves and bright fall color, as well as those with contorted and weeping branches. The fall color comes from the native hazelnut and the purple leaves from the European species. These plants also produce nuts, making them edible landscape plants.

Oregon State University

Hazelnut research at Oregon State University has focused on developing new hazelnut cultivars for the Oregon hazelnut industry. The Oregon crop represents about 5 percent of the world’s hazelnut crop, but is the third largest producer of hazelnuts behind Turkey and Italy.

EFB resistance, microsatellite marker development and DNA markers for EFB resistance have been central to the research. Part of this work includes wide germplasm exploration and collection to increase the world’s largest hazelnut germplasm collection, which is housed at the USDA Germplasm Respository in Corvallis, Ore.

Oregon State University provides significant extension and outreach to the Oregon Hazelnut Growers, Scientific Committee of International Congresses on Hazelnuts, and Northern Nut Growers.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln & the Nebraska Forest Service

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln has been conducting hazelnut research for 10 years, focusing on yield, oil yield, cold hardiness, drought resistance and bioenergy. Hazelnut hybrids are being field tested for EFB resistance and cold hardiness at two Nebraska Forest Service sites.

The International Agricultural Products Center at the University of Nebraska is analyzing the oil content of hybrid hazelnuts for the Consortium. Their analysis shows that hazelnuts have the potential to produce twice as much oil per acre as soybeans. In addition to yield, hazelnut oil has a unique fatty acid composition (high monounsaturated fatty acids), good thermal stability and low temperature properties that should make it competitive with soybean oil for a number of applications.

After oil extraction, the shells form a high-protein meal that can be used for livestock and wildlife feed. This area of research is a largely unexplored, yet promising opportunity, for hazelnuts. Also of interest to Consortium researchers is the presence of taxanes in hazelnut shells and their potential for use in anti-cancer drugs.

Arbor Day Foundation

Since 2000, Arbor Day Foundation members from across the U.S. have participated in its Hazelnut Research Project. These individuals are growing hybrid hazelnut bushes from Arbor Day Farm in their backyards and have made measurements and other observations, reporting this information periodically and contributing to the success of on-going hazelnut research. Today the project has grown to nearly 100,000 members.

Key findings from Arbor Day research have been best practices and methods for growing hazelnuts from seed, hybrid hazelnuts can thrive in Nebraska as a dryland crop and Arbor Day Farm hybrids grow best in zones 4 to 8.

The Hybrid Hazelnut Consortium is asking Arbor Day Foundation hazelnut project members and the public to join in collecting native hazelnut plants to add to its breeding program.