Fighting the blight continues as growers expand

EFB, which is caused by a fungus indigenous to the Northeastern U.S., causes only a canker on the native American hazelnut but is lethal when it appears on the commercially important European hazelnut.

By Jan Jackson

For the Capital Press

Published on April 13, 2017 12:58PM

David Chambers, a third-generation hazelnut grower near Albany, Ore., has been replacing the European variety of hazelnut trees on his orchard with new blight-resistant ones.

Jan Jackson/For the Capital Press

David Chambers, a third-generation hazelnut grower near Albany, Ore., has been replacing the European variety of hazelnut trees on his orchard with new blight-resistant ones.

A crop duster sprays a hazelnut orchard to protect against diseases like eastern filbert blight. David Chambers, a third-generation hazelnut grower near Albany, Ore., has been replacing his trees with new blight-resistant varieties.

Jan Jackson/For the Capital Press

A crop duster sprays a hazelnut orchard to protect against diseases like eastern filbert blight. David Chambers, a third-generation hazelnut grower near Albany, Ore., has been replacing his trees with new blight-resistant varieties.


ALBANY, Ore. — David Chambers, a third-generation hazelnut grower who lives just down the road from the Century farm on which he grew up, cut his orchard acreage to 85 acres three years ago.

Harder to get rid of, however, is the eastern filbert blight plaguing his remaining trees. Semi-retired after selling the Century farm to his nephew, Brian Graffenberger, Chambers and his son Eric are spending long days pushing over and burning blight-diseased trees and planting new blight-resistant varieties.

EFB, which is caused by a fungus indigenous to the Northeastern U.S., causes only a canker on the native American hazelnut but is lethal when it appears on the commercially important European hazelnut varieties.

EFB was discovered in the West in 1973. The vigorous-growing jumbo-nut variety Ennis was one of the types Chambers chose to grow. Now, recognized as one of the varieties most susceptible to EFB, he is replacing them.

“We’re pushing over and burning about 20 acres, which represents about 2,700 trees,” Chambers said. “In the meantime, I’m replacing them with the Jefferson variety, which was developed and evaluated at Oregon State University in Corvallis. It is supposed to be comparable to the industry standard nut produced by the Barcelona in nut and kernel size. More importantly, it is supposed to be highly resistance to eastern filbert blight.”

Looking at other issues involving the future of hazelnut production, Chambers thinks Oregon’s growing region is on ground that will be OK during the erratic weather expected with climate change. He has seen the brown marmorated stink bugs that are beginning to plague the industry on his property, but has yet to find any damage from them in the orchard. Chambers also sees a continuing marketing challenge in trying to take hazelnuts to the next level.

“We keep trying to figure out ways to increase product sales but there certainly doesn’t seem to be a simple solution,” Chambers said. “Even though Oregon grows 99 percent of the nation’s hazelnuts, it is still only 5 percent of the world’s. It only takes a bad year on our part and we have to rely on Turkey to make up the difference.”

Oregon’s growers continue to pursue market options.

“We’ve talked about approaching United Airlines to dispense hazelnuts on the flights and Hershey to add them to their chocolate bars but we don’t produce enough here to meet their needs. We thought about trying to talk Nutella into building a plant here but it turns out they use 25 percent of the world’s hazelnuts so we couldn’t come close to supplying them, either,” he said. “We are making some headway increasing the kernel fresh market, marketing gourmet products and getting hazelnuts to show up on the menu in restaurants.

“A lot of these issues we are going to have to play by ear. For the here and now, it’s back to getting rid of the blight.”


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For more information check out the Nut Growers Handbook at http://bit.ly/2mJlbtV




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