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Hazelnuts South of 40 Degrees N Latitude

 
Richard Kastanie
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I am wondering if anyone has hazelnuts that produce well anywhere south of 40 degrees N latitude, especially the hybrid varieties? I have some in southern Missouri from Badgersett and from Oikos that are healthy looking plants, between 5 and 9 ft tall, that have had both male and female flowers, but no nuts at all. They are 4-6 years old, so I'm hoping they are just a little young and will still produce in the future, but I've seen and talked to others in similar latitudes that also have healthy looking but unproductive plants. I heard from someone in southern Indiana that had a dozen plants from Oikos, ten years old, that had grown fine but never produced. I visited a farm in eastern Kentucky with several hybrid hazelnuts that only occasionally produces small amounts of nuts. Wild hazelnuts grow in many of these same places and do produce nuts, but they're quite small.

I recently read Philip Rutter of Badgersett's book "Growing Hybrid Hazelnuts", which discusses many hazelnut problems but never once mentions healthy-looking plants that don't produce nuts. I searched extensively online and contacted a number of people working with hybrid hazelnut breeding. Most didn't relpy, and the ones that did are all up north so they don't have personal experience with southerly plantings. I still have yet to find any evidence of any plantings of hybrid hazels south of 40 degrees N latitude or so that are successfully productive. I had a few good email conversations with several nurseries (up north) one reporting they had known some other people who had hazelnut plantings further south that weren't productive, and one suggested that varieties of European filberts with filbert blight resistance may be a better bet, but there seemed to be a general paucity of knowledge regarding hazelnuts in the South and the lower Midwest. Badgersett didn't reply to me at all, and they were the ones that I really hoped would have some insight. Rutter's book portrays hazelnuts as being a great crop for a changing climate, and has a map that shows how many plants they've shipped to every state. There's a fair amount that has gone to more southerly areas, but no indication of how any of the plantings there have produced. If these northern-bred hazelnuts have issues in warmer climates, that would be important information to have, and it may become relevant to the northern growers too in terms of dealing with future climate change.

It has been brought up that pollination could be tricky in small plantings, that if they are too closely related, they won't pollinate each other. However, my nine hazels in Missouri are a mix of Badgersett and Oikos hazels, that are quite different genetically. I have seen a small planting of badgersett hazels up north (southern Minnesota) that produced just fine, and the plants were smaller than my Missouri ones. I think it may be just that these northern selsctions just aren't adapted to fruit in areas with warmer winters. One of mine has some female flowers on it right now (the male catkins are supposed to be present in the winter, dormant, but the tiny female flowers shouldn't open up until early spring. Wind hazelnuts grow and produce further south than here, so it's certainly possible, but as is the case with many plants, the breeding work and mass plantings have been in the north, with a paucity of information out there regarding the South and lower Midwest.

I'm hoping some people here south of 40 degrees latitude N have some hazels old enough to be producing and would be willing to share their experience, whether it's a success or failure, and what your sources for the plants were. I would love for hazels to work in this area, but it's been frustrating to not be able to find a single report of a productive planting of neohybrid hazels in the South or lower Midwest. If they consistently don't work in these areas, it would be nice to get the information out there so others can avoid planting bushes that won't produce.
 
T Phillips
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Location: Colorado Springs, CO zone 5A / Canon City, CO zone 5B
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Hi Richard-

I'm sorry to see no replies to your inquiry because I have many of the same questions you do - except I'm in Colorado. I have been attempting to learn about an unproductive group of 1500 plants in Colorado by the late John Cruickshank, to no avail. The Southern Oregon Permaculture Institute that has a memorial page for him has given me this response to my questions - "wrong climate". I just love terribly helpful answers like that. I am so interested in a successful small planting of these beasts that I am willing to go to heroic measures - special soils amendment, mycorrhizal fungi additions, massive soil ph changes, natural setting companion plantings, hand pollinating, etc. Please post any responses you get here. I'm very interested in hearing what others have to say.
 
John Weiland
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For some insights, you may wish to try this place located in Arkansas:

http://www.agrilicious.org/Egan-Brothers-Vineyard-Orchard

I understand that you already put effort into the neohybrids from Badgersett, but sometimes that's all you can do is give such things a try and then move on. Yet I would not destroy what you have...if they shed pollen, they may still be a useful genetic resource for future outcrossing to more southerly adapted stock to which you already alluded.

http://www.pollenlibrary.com/map.aspx?map=Corylus-americana.png
 
Eric Brown
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I can't speak to hybrids, but I purchased some native hazelnuts that I planted the winter of '11-'12, so this past year was their 4th growing season since I bought them, and I'd say I got at least a half gallon of nuts (in the shell). This was their first year to produce (at least enough for me to notice.)
 
T Phillips
Posts: 33
Location: Colorado Springs, CO zone 5A / Canon City, CO zone 5B
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Where are you, Eric? Or what is your soil ph and how much moisture and cold weather, if you rather not say?
 
Eric Brown
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I'm in zone 7 North Carolina. Pretty typical Piedmont North Carolina soils and rainfall (right around 50"/year).
 
Richard Kastanie
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Thanks for the replies. It's interesting to hear others' experiences. I contacted Frank Egan in Arkansas (Thanks for the link John Weiland), his also are a young planting, here's his reply which he's fine with me posting here on this forum,

Hi Richard,

Would love to talk with you about this issue. Dunno whether I can help
as I'm in the same boat as you. No nuts...yet. Although the first year there
were a few but I whacked them in favor of putting energy into tree growth
rather than nuts.

My plantings were all done in 2012. Purchased from.....https://www.grimonut.com/index.php?p=Home
I don't see my varieties currently on his site but I spent $400/500+ for 13 trees. His trees were all layered.
They were Geneva, Grimo 186M and Slate. One died and the rest are doing just fair. Some better than
others. To be fair though, I have not been very diligent in there care i.e., zero fertilization. Even though I have
an extensive drip system, I haven't dripped them either. I have pruned every year to a tree rather than a bush.
I have usually a 45 day window for insect pressure. I use Surround WP with about 95% effectiveness.

I may be a real unobservant idiot and I'm embarrassed to say...I've don't recall ever seeing a female flower.
In fairness to me though......I have a boatload of issues with my many other crops. I will say that this year, I
have observed a huge increase in catkins (HUGE) over previous years. Normally, I am a soil testing maniac
and most usually I can do the chemistry analysis and apply as needed. This will be the year that everything
at the farm will get a major shot of ferts and minerals. Like in the next two weeks.

I also bought Grimo's book. Interesting but not much help for me.

We should talk further by phone. Would love to share anything I can with you.
Thanks for Permie URL. I read through it all. Please feel free to copy and paste
anything you wish from me to their site. Always glad to help kindred brothers and sisters.
Call anytime if you wish. We can probably cover a lot more ground.


Ken Asmus of Oikos Tree Crops in Michigan has given me the OK to reprint some of an interesting correspondence we had back in December, here's some of his input

The caliper of the canes or stems usually need to be 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches thick at the base. Once female flowers are produced then it will be 1-3 years before nut set. Sometimes nut set occurs in the second year after catkin formation. This is especially true with the American hazels. American hazelnut bushes produce much younger than the precocious and the canes are typically much smaller 1/2 inch in size with the plant will producing nuts in 3-4 years. Precocious hazels produce nuts in 3-5 years on average and produce nuts from seedling 1-3 years after the Americans do from seed. The more vigorous the plant, the sooner the yield.
But having said that, I am not sure why you or the others you contacted do not have nuts. Blaming everything on pollination is an easy go to place. I doubt it,but it is possible. I too wish I had more information to go on to give you an answer. I just have not heard that from others who have planted this strain.
Thank you for your email and best success to you with your hazelnuts.


One of my customers planted about 30 acres of hazelnuts near my farm and then moved away. That was amazing what came of that. Also there is a hazelnut breeder I met called Cecil Farris and he loved to talk about hazelnuts. He has a book that was published concerning his life long quest with hazels. He told me Kentucky, southern Indiana, and other farther south locations were not good for hazels because the flowering could occur in the middle of winter or very early spring. So the nuts do not set. He mentioned that one of his selections flowered in December. Very bad. So I think you are on to something. I have visited a lot of plantings over the years but really what do I know about these plantings in Iowa or Nebraska. Essentially nothing as I have only really looked at the ones in Michigan and some of those were planted over 60 years ago and then abandoned. Probably over time I will know more as in the last 2 years we have sold a lot of hazels and some are very big plantings. Most are from the northern states but a few in Illinois. Wait and see I guess.


Enjoyed your comments. I will check some of our older customers this winter and see what is any anecdotal evidence I can find. I know out west in dry hot climates can be a problem. I started a planting this last fall with fuzzy stemmed selections which I believe may be more drought and heat tolerant. The New Mexico attempts did not work
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Have you guys tried going with pure Eastern American Hazelnuts? I know they're less productive than the Europeans or the Hybrids, but they are native to the region.
 
John Weiland
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The following is going in the wrong direction, geographically speaking, but may be of use to the discussion. This website [ http://riverbendhazelnuts.blogspot.com/p/introduction.html ] describes breeding hazels from wild stock originally obtained from North Dakota and Minnesota. I may be wrong, but I think some Badgersett or other regional genetics have been mixed in with Riverbend's stock. At any rate, the goal was to get hazels that would do well in the North in the heavy clay of the region and produce more and larger nuts. Seems to be a work in progress.

My sister in Wisconsin (near Red Wing, MN) has had good success with Badgersett stock, but that would make sense as Badgersett material is adapted for southern MN. It may be that hazels are more sensitive to the flowering periods as described earlier and can't tolerate many of the chaotic spring temperature swings of the mid-western states. I did my graduate work at Oregon State (not on hazelnuts) in the middle of Oregon hazelnut country and can attest to the relative calm and predictability of the seasons as compared to the northern plains.

With continued contact with others both at regional universities and private breeders, you may come across some gems that would have you up and running with nuts in a moderately short time. Keep up the perseverence and sleuthing!.....
 
Richard Kastanie
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The range of native hazelnuts does go pretty far south, this webpage has a map,

Hazelnuts

We have a few here and there in the Ozarks. I'll sometimes gather them, they taste quite good but are small and typically not very productive (although sometimes I'll happen upon a loaded bush). The wild hazelnuts are great as a low-maintenance edible landscaping plant, but for commercially viability, larger, more productive bushes are needed. If none of the currently existing cultivated varieties are suited to this area, then doing something similar to the riverbend folks and crossing some with well adapted wild hazelnuts, then selecting the best offspring could eventually create productive varieties in this area with larger nuts. That's a long-term project, and one I could possibly eventually undertake but I'm not really in the position to now. I'm still hoping I'll find someone who's had success with a productive, larger not variety in a climate with milder winters.

Good information about effects of warmer winters on hazelnuts will probably end up being important to the northern growers too in the decades ahead as the climate changes, especially since the badgersett hybrids have been credited with "Resilience in the face of climate change". It's also possible that daylength is a factor in adaptation to different latitudes, it is important for some plants.
 
Richard Kastanie
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Here's some info I got from Tom Wahl of Red Fern Farm in Iowa, he gave me the OK to reprint here what he wrote in email correspondence to me.

"I am sorry, but I don’t have an answer to your question. You are the
farthest south of anyone I know of planting hybrid hazels. Clifford
England of England’s Orchard and Nursery (Kentucky) has hazels, but as
far as I know, they are all European, not hybrids (and European hazels
are adapted to areas ranging from Siberia to Turkey). Most of the
people I know who are planting hybrid hazels are in Wisconsin and
Minnesota. I tell people, “hazels are for people too far north for
chestnuts.” Even people in the southern third of MN and WI should be
planting chestnuts, not hazels, if they are for commercial purposes
rather than personal use.



One option you could consider is to try some of the “blight immune”
European hazels out of Oregon, New Jersey, Nebraska, and Ontario.
Those don’t usually stand up to the multiple strains of blight found
in Iowa, but when they are planted in places like Michigan, New York,
and New Jersey, they seem to do all right, at least so far. Their nut
size and quality may be better than the hybrids, too.



You said you may be involved with a “more substantial” planting of
hazels in the future. If, by this, you mean a commercial endeavor, I
would strongly advise against this, even if you know you are planting
hazels that would be very productive. I don’t know of anyone outside
of Oregon who has done anything but lose money on hazels. The Midwest
Hazel Cooperative says their break-even price for hazels is around $4
per pound. You can buy high-quality hazels on the world market for 60
cents per pound. You can’t compete with that on a commercial scale.
In contrast, I made over $9000 per acre on chestnuts this fall, and I
didn’t even have to harvest them—my customers did almost all the
harvesting for me, then they paid me for what they harvested."



"Something has occurred to me…hazels require cross pollination to set
nuts, as you know. Many seedling nut trees, like chestnuts, will
pollenize any other chestnut trees except for themselves and clones of
themselves. Hazels are a little bit more picky. It seems their
pollen partners need to be not too closely related. Full siblings,
and sometimes even half siblings can be too closely related to be
compatible. If you have just a few plants and if they came from the
same parentage, then cross pollination may be the problem. You could
easily test this by adding another plant or two that have different
parentage."
 
Richard Kastanie
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An update (February 26)

All the hazelnut catkins are actively growing, some 4 inches long already and some just beginning to break winter dormancy. Most plants have female flowers too. Does anyone know what the thresholds for freeze damage for hazelnut blooms are, because although we've had some pretty mild spells, it's still freezing at night pretty often, and the chances are that we'll still get some pretty cold weather after this, even though the next week's forecast isn't showing anything colder than mild freezes. Last year, it got close to zero degrees in early March, although the colder winter meant nothing much had broken dormancy. Such an early bloom time may be the problem with these northern-adapted strains in my climate. I hope I can find out the critical temperatures for blossom damage in hazelnuts, that information is easily available online for many species, such as all the common grown fruit trees, but google searches on hazelnuts have revealed conflicting information.

Spring freeze damage is more likely here in the Ozarks than in areas further north because the day-today and week-to-week temperature fluctuations are just as extreme as the upper midwest (and more extreme than areas influenced by the Great Lakes), but the increase in average temperatures over the course of the spring happens more gradually, making it more likely that early warm spells will trigger plants to break dormancy while a damaging freeze can still hit. In Minnesota, by contrast, the time between it being too cold for anything to break dormancy to being past the danger of freeze damage is typically much more brief, thus damaging spring freezes are less likely.
 
Richard Kastanie
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I was looking through the hazelnut bushes today and noticed one of them (one that came from Oikos) that did actually have some nuts on it this year. It's spotty, some branches have none and some have several clusters, but I'd say there are probably several dozen developing nuts scattered throughout the bush that's about 10 feet high and wide. The others still don't have any, it's possible there are a few hidden there that I didn't see, the plants are pretty big and lush, but I'm glad I finally have a few growing on one plant. It's interesting that it's the same bush that had some female flowers open last December. I assume these nuts are from flowers that opened later than that, I have trouble imagining that the flowers open in December would have remained viable the whole winter, it was a mild one here but still the lowest temperature was 10 degrees F and that kills all but the hardiest flowers. I haven't been able to find the sort of information about critical temperatures for hazelnut blooms as is readily out there for common fruits.

I'm still interested in hearing from others with hazelnut plantings south of 40 N latitude, whether they're successful or not.
 
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