Winter 2011 Newsletter

Consortium Meets at Oregon State

Members of the Hybrid Hazelnut Consortium met at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore., August 30-September 2, for their annual meeting and to view first-hand the work of Oregon State University and Oregon hazelnut growers.

Those attending got a detailed look at Oregon State’s hazelnut breeding program and toured OSU’s Smith Farm plus several hazelnut industry sites including growers, a nursery, wholesaler, equipment dealer and packing company.

Oregon State University began hazelnut research in 1969, and Dr. Shawn Mehlenbacher was hired in 1986. The focus of OSU’s program has been on developing new hazelnut cultivars for the Oregon hazelnut industry. Eastern Filbert Blight (EFB) resistance, microsatellite marker development and DNA markers for EFB resistance are now part of this effort. Their work also includes global germplasm exploration and collection to increase the world’s largest hazelnut germplasm collection.

About 4,000 seedlings are planted yearly (100 each of 40 crosses) on 65 acres of OSU’s Smith Field Farm near Corvallis. After years of intense screening, the 4,000 plants are whittled down to 25-30 possibilities for the breeding program. The best trees are layered, banded, and sent to the nursery for a year, then placed in a field trial. Nut data is taken in years 3-7.

Work is Ahead of Schedule

The Hybrid Hazelnut Consortium’s progress in the tasks outlined in the three-year Scope of Work of the CSREES/USDA Specialty Crops grant is well ahead of schedule.

Genome Sequencing Continues

Major work in progress includes sequencing the Jefferson hazelnut genome using Illumina technology, which is nearly complete. Understanding its genetic diversity will help HHC researchers manage the collection and choose parents and seedlings based on markertrait associations. The genome sequence could be the basis for additional funding in the future, said Dr. Mehlenbacher. The next big step, he said, is mapping the incompatibility marker.

EFB Test Developed

Dr. Tom Molnar and Rutgers ashsociates have developed a test to detect Anisogramma anomala, the pathogen that causes EFB in hazelnuts. They next plan to evaluate native hazelnuts for A. anomala. The Consortium is actively seeking wild hazelnuts to continue its work in developing EFB-resistant, climatically adapted hybrid hazelnuts.

Rutgers HHC researchers also have identified EFB-resistant plants from those collected in Russia and Crimea. More than 2,000 progeny from about 10 resistant plants have been created and inoculated with EFB. Some of these plants are being tested and evaluated in Nebraska and Oregon as well as New Jersey. Other work includes searching for EFB resistance in new germplasm collections from Georgia and from previous germplasm collection trips to Eastern Europe.

Rutgers also is evaluating the response of OSU hazelnut selections to EFB, including new sources of resistance and advanced-generation hybrids that showed a high level of EFB resistance in Oregon. Many of the plants were established 3-4 years ago and the results of yearly inoculations are being seen.

In all, Rutgers has more than 18,000 progeny in its greenhouse and fields segregated for EFB resistance directly or through advanced-generation progeny of other resistant hybrids and plants from OSU, Arbor Day Foundation (ADF), Georgia, Russia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and other locations. They will be planted in New Jersey for the first time in spring 2011 and over the next two years will yield a significant amount of information about their viability.

Nebraska Planting Site Readied; Top Arbor Day Foundation Hybrids Selected

In Nebraska, an additionalv40 acres have been cleared at the Nebraska Forest Service’s Horning Farm for hazel and future nut research and demonstration plantings. Leveraging the USDA grant funding by tapping other funding sources, a well providing water and associated distribution system for drip irrigation for the entire field has been installed, nut-processing equipment has been acquired and a 30 x 90-foot shade house constructed. In spring, 1,546 seedlings developed at Rutgers and Oregon State will be planted at Horning Farm to test for disease resistance and weather hardiness.

Nuts from the top 25 hybrids in the Arbor Day Foundation’s orchard in Nebraska City and commercial nut cultivars from Oregon have been sent to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Industrial Agricultural Products Center lab to test for oil qualities.

Oil Content Analysis Begins

The lab has received nuts from all HHC sites and to date has conducted a nutritional composition breakdown on those received from ADF; the shells are being evaluated for gasification. Researchers also are looking at the potential of shell byproducts for use as fuel and landscape material. Shell char also might be used as fertilizer in organic systems, and pelletizing as a solid fuel shows promise. An area of particular interest is the presence of taxane in hazelnut shells. Taxanes have been used to make chemotherapy drugs.

One of the next steps in the oil analysis is to test for taste and oil content among the top cultivars. Taste is important for the confectionery and cooking oil markets and high oil content is desirable for potential biodiesel production.

Outreach

Rutgers Hosts Field Day

HHC members continue with outreach activities in each geographic area. Rutgers held a field day in July 2010 with more than 80 people attending including extension agents, professors, farmers, potential growers and gardening enthusiasts. The day included tours of research plots and presentations by Rutgers lead researcher Dr. Tom Molnar, Ferrero Inc. (the hazelnut candy manufacturer) and Arbor Day Foundation. Dr. Molnar reports that the day yielded about eight potential new locations for on-farm trials of plants developed through the HHC breeding program.

Nebraska Forest Service Issues News Release

A news release announcing the CSREES grant resulted in coverage in more than 55 national and local news outlets, including usatoday.com; msnbc.com; forbes.com; finance.yahoo.com; canadianbusiness.com and businessweek.com. A story on the Consortium’s work, "Hazelnuts: Not Only for Food, But Fuel," can be found here on the ABC News website.

The response to the announcement indicates widespread interest in the Consortium’s work but also points to the need to create awareness without raising unrealistic expectations due to the long-term timeline of this research effort.

Outreach will continue via the HHC website, publications and presentations, and potentially through social networking, videos and visits with Congressional delegations.

Ferrero Agreement Could Serve as Model

When Italy-based Ferrero, maker of Ferrero-Roche and Nutella hazelnut products, established a new plant in Bradford, Ontario, the company imported 6,000 tons of hazelnuts the first year. The number grew to 10,000 tons in 2010, with projections of 25,000 tons needed annually in the future.

Ferrero would like to acquire hazelnuts locally for the Bradford plant, and is working with various people to accomplish this, including the HHC’s Dr. Molnar and Adam Dale from the University of Guelph in Ontario. Both are among those working to establish hazelnuts as a viable crop in the area.

A group comprised of Ferrero, Guelph University, Canadian government officials and business interests is working to develop a business plan that would outline a value chain from hazelnut propagation to final product.

At the Corvallis meetings Dale and graduate student Walter Garrison updated Consortium members on their work to establish a local hazelnut supply in Ontario. Dale is interested in partnering with the Consortium to develop cold-hardy, disease-resistant hazelnuts that could be produced in the quantity needed to supply Ferrero. The Consortium will establish an agreement with Dale designating him as a research affiliate and allow him to test HHC materials. All materials will be covered by a Materials Transfer Agreement.

As the Consortium’s work expands in the future, the agreement with Dale may serve as a model for work with other growers and researchers.

Advisory Board Set

The Consortium’s newly established Advisory Board was introduced and met for the first time via conference call during the Corvallis meeting.

Advisory Board members are:

  • Jeff Olsen
    Horticulturist, Oregon State University Extension
  • Jay Pschiedt
    Plant Pathology Specialist, Oregon State University Extension
  • Rich Birkemeier
    Oregon Hazelnut Commission vice chairman; Oregon hazelnut grower
  • Dennis Fullbright
    Northern Nut Growers Association vice president; Professor of Plant Pathology, Michigan State University
  • John Knorr
    Nebraska Nut Growers Association president; Heartland Nuts N More board member
  • Bill Kruidenier
    Arbor Day Foundation board member; Coordinator of External Relations, University of Illinois