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Summer 2012 Newsletter

Hazelnut Oil Shows Market Opportunities

The Industrial Agricultural Products Center (IAPC) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln analyzed oil from the top 20 producers out of 5,200 genetically distinct hybrid hazelnut shrubs from Hybrid Hazelnut Consortium partner Arbor Day Foundation.

Evaluating and characterizing hazelnut and its individual components (nuts, kernels, oil, meal, and shells) pointed to new opportunities for value-added products from hazelnut production.

Tests show that opportunities exist to expand into new markets for hazelnuts, particularly as animal feed and biodiesel.

Key findings from IAPC’s analysis are:

  • Hybrid hazelnuts have a high oil content, averaging 54.3%, with five genotypes with more than 60% oil.
  • Hybrid hazelnuts contain about 2 to 3 times more oil than soybeans, which have an average content of 20%.
  • Two fatty acids (oleic and linoleic) accounted for 90% of the total fatty acid content of evaluated hazelnut oils, suggesting that hazelnut oil would be a superior oilseed for industrial applications.
  • Oxidative stability of hazelnut oil is enhanced by the presence of high levels of natural antioxidants and monounsaturated fatty acids.
  • Hazelnut-based biodiesel produced and evaluated had a significantly lower cloud point than soy-based biodiesel (-14.7 v. -4.1 C) along with better oxidative stability, but a slightly higher viscosity.
  • Hazelnut meal, which is left after the oil is extracted, is rich in protein with 16 amino acids identified. However, further study identified high levels of anti-nutritional factors such as total phenolics, tannins, condensed tannins and phytate that could reduce protein and mineral bioavailability.
  • High concentrations of phenolic compounds found in hazelnut shells could service as a source of natural antioxidants for food applications.

High oil content makes Nebraska hybrid hazelnuts a potentially sustainable and alternative oilseed for human consumption and value-added industrial applications. The Hybrid Hazelnut Consortium believes hazelnuts merit investigation and development as a sustainable and high-yielding feedstock for biodiesel and other oleochemicals.

Hazelnut Harvest Begins Early

Nebraska Forest Service personnel began harvesting hazelnuts mid-August, 7-10 days earlier than usual, because of the severe drought conditions in the Midwest. "The hazelnut plants survived the hot, dry summer, but the nuts are much smaller this year," said Troy Pabst, forestry property manager for the Nebraska Forest Service.

Developing hybrid hazelnuts that can survive weather extremes and produce commercial-quality nuts is one of the major challenges facing the Hybrid Hazelnut Consortium partners. This summer was an excellent test for the current crop of hazelnut plants, Pabst said.