New OSU hazelnut varieties expand production

Hazelnut trees
An estimated 12,000-plus new hazelnut acres have been planted in Oregon in the past decade. OSU Extension photo

After hazelnut varieties developed at OSU saved Oregon’s industry from devastation by eastern filbert blight, hazelnut acreage in Oregon has more than doubled, marking a full recovery from a disease that nearly wiped out the state’s official nut.

In the past eight years, OSU’s hazelnut breeding program has released 20 cultivars that are resistant to eastern filbert blight. The most popular, ‘Jefferson,’ released in 2009, accounts for more than half the total acres planted. Plantings are also strong for ‘Yamhill,’ released in 2008; it’s a key ingredient in the popular chocolate-hazelnut spread Nutella. And there’s a waiting list for two more-recent OSU varieties, ‘Wepster’ (2013) and ‘McDonald’ (2014), a high-yielding cultivar whose size and blanching ability make it ideal for the baking, snack, and chocolate industries. 

The new orchards are taking root: unofficial estimates say that 11,000 to 12,000 new hazelnut acres were planted between 2009 and 2012. Growers generally don't need to spray the new varieties with fungicides. That helps preserve the environment and the growers’ bottom line.

More than 99 percent of the U.S. hazelnut crop comes from Oregon. In 2016, Oregon growers produced $86 million worth of hazelnuts from about 60,000 acres.

Learn more about OSU's hazelnut research in this video.

Sources: Shawn Mehlenbacher, hazelnut breeder and geneticist; Nik Wiman, orchard specialist

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