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OSU announces Eastern filbert blight-resistant hazelnut

Published on January 27, 2012 3:01AM

Last changed on February 24, 2012 7:28AM

Dorris cultivar's smaller size lets growers increase planting density


Capital Press

PORTLAND -- Oregon State University has announced the upcoming release of a new commercial hazelnut variety resistant to Eastern filbert blight.

The new cultivar, Dorris, is notable for its flavor, said OSU hazelnut breeder Shawn Mehlenbacher. "This is an attempt by the OSU breeding program to give you more niche opportunities," he said.

The announcement was made Jan. 25 during the annual Nut Growers' Society meeting at the Northwest Ag Show here.

Nuts from the Dorris cultivar are intended to be shelled and sold as kernels, he said. "When buyers taste the kernels they will be willing to pay for it. It's that kind of quality," he said.

Most hazelnuts commonly grown in the Northwest are sold in shell, the most popular form in the Chinese market.

Rob Hilles, a farmer near Corvallis, Ore., said he's familiar with the variety from OSU field trials and intends to plant several acres this year. "It's going to be a high-quality blanching kernel," he said, referring to the removability of the skin-like husk from the kernel.

The new variety is named after George Dorris, a farmer who helped launch the Oregon hazelnut industry in the early 1900s.

Aside from being resistant to EFB, a fungal pathogen that once threatened the industry, the Dorris cultivar is also notable for its small size. Trees of the cultivar are nearly half of the size of Barcelona, the industry's standard.

"Often, if it's a smaller tree, you can increase your planting density so you can get into production sooner," said Wayne Chambers, a farmer near Albany, Ore., who has experimented with grafting Dorris onto root stocks before its official release.

Mehlenbacher also announced the upcoming release of two pollinizer varieties, York and Felix. The cultivars are used to pollinate the Dorris variety. Though they don't produce commercial yields, the pollinizers do generate marketable nuts and they are also resistant to Eastern filbert blight.

York, named after a slave who proved invaluable in the Lewis and Clark expedition, is widely compatible with other cultivars besides Dorris. "It should be useful to the industry for decades to come, Mehlenbacher said.

Felix, named after a French tree importer who introduced popular hazelnut varieties in the 1800s, can serve as a pollinizer for Jefferson, a recently introduced EFB-resistant variety.

Previous pollinizers for Jefferson for the second-half of the winter pollination season, while Felix and be used during the first half.

"With that combination you get good coverage throughout the bloom," Mehlenbacher said.


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