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Hazelnuts Up North


British Columbian hazelnuts are suffering from a large Eastern Filbert Blight (EFB) strike, which is forcing the industry to rebuild. Luckily, nurserymen and growers are looking for ways to successfully introduce Oregon varieties, while farmers in Ontario are looking to expand.

Hazelnuts do not produce a quick cash return and British Columbians would see a faster profit by investing in the dairy, greenhouse, or nursery industry, not to mention land prices are very high. This makes BC farmers skeptical about entering the industry.

A quarantine has been placed to restrict tree imports from the US because of EFB. Trees only enter Canada as tissue culture. Some growers would like to lift the quarantine as EFB has already entered the country. Others want to keep it because it slows spreading and a new strand of EFB could develop, increasing the diversity of the disease. However obtaining blight resistant varieties has taken years.

BC growers and nurserymen are asking politicians for a grant to help fund planting more trees. They are planning to use Oregon varieties such as Jefferson, Yamhill, and Sacajawea. According to Thom O’Dell, co-owner of Naturetech Nursery in Langley, the current trials with these trees look promising. “We’ve seen no symptoms of Eastern Filbert Blight,” says O’Dell in a recent publication for his nursery. “The oldest Jefferson trees that I know of were planted in 2011, and are just now able to produce.”

The purpose of these trials are to demonstrate the suitability of EFB resistant trees in the Fraser Valley, compare performance of resistant cultivators and pollinizers, and share information on cultivator performance with growers.

In Ontario, farmers see it as an opportunity to expand their industry. Hazelnuts are taking over ground where tobacco was once planted, going from 100 to 595 acres in the last year. Ferrero has pushed the industry along with an agreement with the Ontario Hazelnut Association to deliver nuts to their Brantford facility. Some breeding has taken place to help combat EFB in Ontario due to its close proximity to the disease’s native area.

Top: A Canadian hazelnut orchard in 2009.

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