Oregon hazelnut harvest late, mostly dry

John Schmitz/Capital Press Corvallis, Ore., hazelnut grower Rob Hillis with one of his 9-year-old, micropropigated Yamhill trees.

Yield numbers may be down if wet weather sets in early

By JOHN SCHMITZ

For the Capital Press

Oregon's 2011 hazelnut harvest was slow out of the starting gate, but thanks to good weather later on has made good speed in the home stretch, with some growers bringing in helicopters to shake stubborn nuts from trees.

Hillsboro, Ore., grower Bob Jossy, who began harvesting Oct. 11, said on Oct. 24 that he was going to soon start his second picking.

"It was a little wet when we started, but it's good now so we're going to go again," he said. "If the nuts are there and the weather's good, we will (do a third picking)."

Jossy said that early on he had problems with husks not detaching and that "it was as bad as I've ever seen it." He attributes that to the late season. He said he also heard that mold was a problem in larger nuts.

Oregon Hazelnut Commission administrator Polly Owen said some suspect the mold got an early start in hazelnut flowers before nuts developed.

As to whether the industry will meet the 41,000-ton estimate, Jossy didn't want to speculate.

"All I can (comment on) is our orchard, and we're having a good crop," he said. He has 120 acres, mostly Barcelonas.

Owen said the late season may have a negative effect on yields, especially if wet weather sets in before all of the nuts can be collected.

Oregon State University Yamhill County Extension agent Jeff Olsen said Oct. 25 that growers in his area were two to three weeks from wrapping up the harvest.

"Last night's frost probably helped to knock some nuts down, but we're getting the breaks in the weather to keep operations moving," he said.

Corvallis, Ore., grower-retailer-nurseryman Rob Hillis, who was beset with over three inches of rain in a half hour at the start of harvest, said Oct. 18 that most of his crop was "pretty much down."

Hillis grows only kernel variety nuts, one of those being Yamhill, OSU's newest cultivar that is highly resistant to Eastern Filbert Blight. He processes all of his crop and sells it through his online and walk-in retail store.

Jossy, who has been battling EFB, said that he's taken out some Barcelona trees and replaced them with Jefferson, the new, highly EFB-resistant, inshell cultivar developed by OSU.

"We're really only interested in inshell varieties. At this point, on average, they look bigger (than Barcelonas)."

He added that so far his Jeffersons are coming down bigger than his Barcelonas.

Owen said that as far as she could tell, the recent earthquake in Turkey had no effect on that country's huge hazelnut crop.

For one thing, she said, the harvest has concluded there.

Secondly, orchards and supporting infrastructure are located outside the troubled region.

Hillis said growers need to keep an eye on the future when deciding which variety to plant. Traditionally, growers opt for inshell varieties that sell well offshore, especially in China, but, Hillis said, that lucrative market is becoming more competitive as growers in other countries, such as Chile and Asian Georgia, are attracted to it.

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