Salem, Oregon (6/25/2019) – The recent boom in Oregon’s hazelnut industry has put farmers in Marion, Polk, Washington and Yamhill counties in the heart of an expanding market representing more than 60 percent of hazelnut acres planted in the Willamette Valley.

Yet this mounting market created a challenge for mother nature, as soil erosion on hazelnut orchards has become a growing concern for farmers and conservationists.

Hazelnut orchards are typically managed to eliminate vegetation on the orchard floor to minimize plant competition with the trees and facilitate a clean harvest. However, these bare soil conditions have caused many hazelnut orchards to experience severe soil erosion, especially during the rainy winter months. Erosion impacts the health and productivity of the soil and can pose water quality issues if excess sedimentation washes into streams.

That’s why local Soil and Water Conservation Districts are teaming up with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Oregon Hazelnut Commission, the Oregon Department of Agriculture, and Oregon State University, to offer financial assistance to local hazelnut growers to combat soil erosion by planting cover crops and perennial vegetation in between tree rows.

Funding is available through USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Hazelnut growers may apply for the program by contacting their local USDA Service Center in Marion, Polk, Washington and Yamhill counties.

NRCS and local Soil and Water Conservation Districts recognize there are multiple challenges to growers that make broad adoption of perennial vegetation or cover crops in these systems difficult. To help growers overcome the financial expense of adopting cover crops, project partners are providing financial assistance that will cover 75 to 100 percent of the costs for farmers.

This cost-share assistance will help farmers plant permanent vegetation or cover crops in between rows, establish field borders, and place mulch in seasonal erosion trouble spots. These activities will help keep the orchard floor covered when it is most vulnerable to winter erosion, which will also increase water holding capacity in the soil, increase organic matter and soil productivity, and improve water quality.

This funding initiative stems from work already being done by early adopters of permanent conservation cover on hazelnut orchards in the Willamette Valley, such as Ioka Farms in Marion County.

“Some folks are concerned about the cover crop taking more water away from the hazelnuts, but it’s not an issue if we mow it properly,” said Doug Duerst of Ioka Farms. “We are more concerned with the benefit the cover provides to save the soil.”

OSU Extension is working with growers on cover crop trials to make better recommendations to growers about species selection and planting rates. 

In addition to being good for the land, adopting soil-friendly practices can also boost product marketability. This partnership to bring financial assistance to growers to more broadly adopt erosion prevention practices will boost sustainability and expand the public’s positive perception of the hazelnut industry.

For more information about this funding opportunity, contact a local USDA Service Center:

  • Marion County 650 Hawthorne Avenue SE, Suite 130, Salem, Oregon 97301
    Contact: Les Bachelor, District Conservationist. Phone: 971-273-4816 
    Email: Les.Bachelor@usda.gov 
  • Polk County 580 Main, Suite A, Dallas, Oregon 97338-1911
    Contact: Evelyn Conrad, District Conservationist, Phone: 503-837-3689
    Email: Evelyn.Conrad@usda.gov
  • Washington County1080 SW Baseline, Suite B-2, Hillsboro, Oregon 97123-3823
    Contact: Jessica Wells, District Conservationist, Phone: 503-207-7949
    Email: Jessica.Wells@usda.gov
  • Yamhill County 2200 SW 2nd Street, McMinnville, OR 97128-9185
    Contact: Thomas Hoskins, Phone: 503-376-7605
    Email: Thomas.hoskins@usda.gov

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