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USDA projects 38,000-ton hazelnut crop

Mateusz Perkowski

Capital Press

Published on August 24, 2016 8:43AM

Devon Johnson was hired by USDA to collect hazelnuts from orchards as part of the agency’s annual crop forecast. Changes in the hazelnut industry have made such statistical analysis more challenging.

Mateusz Perkowski/Capital Press

Devon Johnson was hired by USDA to collect hazelnuts from orchards as part of the agency’s annual crop forecast. Changes in the hazelnut industry have made such statistical analysis more challenging.

Gene Pierce, agricultural statistician with the USDA prepares to collect hazelnuts as part of the agency’s annual crop forecast. Changes in the hazelnut industry have made such statistical analysis more challenging.

Mateusz Perkowski/Capital Press

Gene Pierce, agricultural statistician with the USDA prepares to collect hazelnuts as part of the agency’s annual crop forecast. Changes in the hazelnut industry have made such statistical analysis more challenging.


Oregon farmers are projected to reap 38,000 tons of hazelnuts this year, which would be a substantial improvement over 2015 but less than some had expected.

The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service has forecast the crop will be 22.5 percent larger in 2016, based on statistical surveys conducted earlier this summer.

Although the average number of nuts collected per tree in the survey was 224, up from 186 last year, they weighed slightly less and a bit more of them were defective, according to the forecast.

Gene Pierce, a NASS statistician, said he noticed more space within the shells than during past surveys.

“The kernel hadn’t filled to the entire capacity of the shell and it had already stopped development,” Pierce said.

Garry Rodakowski, chairman of the Oregon Hazelnut Commission, said he was expecting a larger forecasted crop of roughly 42,000-43,000 tons, but that’s based only on observation.

Predicting the actual harvest is tough because the hazelnut industry isn’t sure exactly how many Barcelona trees afflicted with eastern filbert blight are being removed and how many new disease-resistant Jefferson trees are reaching maturity, he said.

“We’ve got two curves and we don’t know where they meet,” said Rodakowski. “We’ve had a lot of plantings going in, but they haven’t gotten to the production stage as quickly as we’d thought.”

The trees in Rodakowski’s orchard near Vida, Ore., appear to be generating healthy yields, but he owns smaller acreage than some hazelnut growers and has been able to “stay on top of pruning” to keep EFB at bay, he said.

The fungal pathogen also infected orchards in the area later than other portions of the Willamette Valley further to the north, Rodakowski said.

Rodakowski agrees with USDA that some nuts haven’t fully filled shells this year.

“I have seen what they’re talking about, and my speculation would be a lack of moisture,” he said, adding that newer, irrigated orchards wouldn’t have this problem.

The drier, warmer growing season is likely to result in the harvest beginning in mid-September rather than the typical early October, he said.

Crop estimates provided by farmers to the Northwest Hazelnut Co., a processor based in Hubbard, are generally higher than the 38,000 tons projected by USDA, said Jonathan Thompson, the company’s CEO.

“I can tell you the growers we’re talking to are much more optimistic than that,” Thompson said.

While the USDA’s forecast is helpful, processors ultimately wait until the crop is being harvested before making firm commitments to buyers, he said. “It’s just one piece of the puzzle.”



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