Hazelnut trees typically bloom in February, but the surprise snowfall and freezing rain that pounded Oregon’s Willamette Valley this past week probably didn’t harm them.
Tim Aman, a Mount Angel grower and field representative for Hazelnut Growers of Oregon, said the female flower on hazelnut trees is viable for up to 90 days. “If the weather gets bad, it sits there and waits,” he said.
Male pollinating trees can be hampered by cold weather, but release pollen for a couple weeks and also should have time to recover and do their job after the storms, Aman said. Many growers plant two or three varieties of pollinator trees that are active at different times, giving them up to six weeks of pollen release, he said.
In addition, Barcelona varieties have generally finished pollinating and Jefferson varieties aren’t up to full bloom yet, Aman said. The storm’s timing was “a good lull for that to happen in,” he said.
Aman said freezing rain that followed a heavy snowfall was a mixed blessing. In older orchards, the weight of ice snaps branches, but in some cases that can stimulate tree growth. “I always call it God’s pruning,” Aman said.
Oregon produces nearly all of the U.S. hazelnut crop, with about 650 growers operating on an estimated 30,000 acres and planting about 3,000 acres more per year. The 2012 crop had a farm gate value of about $63 million, ranking it 16th most valuable among the state’s crops. About half the annual crop is exported, most of it to China.