Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Fall colors, Catkins & Layering project

I've done fall colors every year, but this year there seems to be a lot more variation in the fall colors of the hazelnuts.

This one by our deck has a dark red color.

This one by the garden which came from northern Minnesota has more of an orange color.

We were hiking near Pequot Lakes, MN and found these hazelnuts with a reddish orange color. I tried to find some of the nuts but they were long gone.

This is another picture of hazelnuts from the same area with a darker red-green color.

These tubular shapes hanging from the twig are the catkins (male flowers) of the wild hazelnuts near Pequot Lakes. They will stay attached to the twig all winter and after opening to release their pollen in the spring will fall off.  

This is one of my hazelnuts I planted 4 years ago that is over 5 feet high located at my son's house in Lino Lakes, MN.  This plant has not produced any nuts yet but should have this year.

Here I'm looking for catkins on that same plant which is a good indicator of a mature plant that will flower next spring. The type of catkin will also give me an idea of the genetic back ground of the plant.

These are some of the hazelnut catkins that I found on the plant. Note the 3 catkins on one stem. Cluster of catkins like this usually indicate a hybrid hazelnut of the European type.

The catkins here are in sets of  1, 2 & 3 on another plant at that location. That indicates this plant has a very diverse genetic back ground. This plant was also damaged by Japanese beetles, and may have problems producing a large crop of nuts next year.

This is another plant that was badly damaged by Japanese beetles.  On this plant the catkins are in sets of 1 & 2.

This hazelnut at my orchard has a single catkins held tight to a branch.  The catkin scales are a dirty brown with a short stalk. This plant produces a very thick shell, small nut and the plant tends to sucker up, which indicates a more of wild American hazelnut (C. Americana) in its genetic make up.

This is an other hybrid hazelnut growing in our orchard.  The catkins are in clusters of 2 to 4 on one stem and are a light green color. The nut from this plant has a thin shell, a larger kernel and a milder taste.

These short catkins are in groups of 2 and in an upward position. This plant is a typical beaked hazelnut (Corylus cornets). 

The catkins here are in clusters of 2 to 4 with some pointing upward. The nut is very thin and the husk is almost beak like. That indicates a very diverse genetic background.

This cluster of longer green catkins are a typical hybrid of the European hazelnuts (Corylus avellana).  The husk on this plant is open and the nut tends to drop out. 
The catkins tend to be a good indicator of the type of nut and some of the general genetics of the plant. This may not always be the case because I do have a couple hazelnuts that do not have the male catkins at all and the still produce good nuts. I've also found that plants with these types of catkins are more susceptible to EFB (Easter Filbert Blight).

While on vacation this summer I toured Birkemier Farms & Nursery and learned how they propagate most of their hazelnuts. The layering technique is not new but they do a good job in simplifying the process.
This year I'm trying it on some of my better cultivars using the same methods Birkemier Nursery uses. I have tried layering before but have had mixed results.

In the spring I cut one or two of the main stems off and by mid summer the plant will produce these immature stems (suckers) from the ground.

Next I restrict the bottom of the stem by using a hog ring pliers to clamp a metal ring on the stem. 

In this picture you can see the metal ring on the bottom of the stem. After the ring I apply some rooting hormone around that area.

After the hog ring and rooting hormone I layer the area around the plant with a foot of compost. In this picture I've done this to 3 of the immature stems.

As you can see here I needed a little deer protection to prevent them from nipping off the tops of these new suckers that I just layered.

This is my first plant that I layered 2 years ago in the late summer and transplanted this spring. The plant is over 5 feet tall and has catkins this year. 
The propagation by layering will help guarantee a better plant for people who want a specific trait, and a crop in just a couple years. The open pollinated seedlings I have now only have about a 50% chance of being the same or better then the parent plant and will produce a crop in 3 to 4 years. The seedlings though are much easier to transplant and take care of than the larger layered plants.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Hazelnut Harvest 2016

Early Harvest

I'm finally posting an update about harvest. It has been a hectic summer, finishing the fencing for the new planting area, planting a row of seeds in an open field, potting up the new seedlings, harvest, and of course vacation. Most of these seem to happen at the same time.

This years harvest started on the August 8. That's 3 days earlier then last year and over a week earlier then the average harvest.

This year we had some unusual husks. The husk usually encloses the whole nut, but half of the husk is missing. I think this was due to the late hard frost (26ºF) we had this spring when the hazelnuts were flowering. The hard frost might also be the cause of the low number of nuts on most plants. 

This is another picture of deformed husks from a different plant.

This is a normal husk, but this plant flowers a little later the others, and it's also in an area that's a little more protected from a frost. 

When do you pick the nuts? Most think the color will determine when to pick the nut or when the nuts fall out. I've found that if you wait that long the squirrels would have removed most of the crop.

I pick the nut when the abscission layer forms between the husk and the nut. To find out if this layer has formed I roll back the husk and press with my thumb. If the nut pops out they can be picked. Not all nuts ripen at the same time on each plant, so I check in several locations.

Here I've just checked a couple places, usually close to the bottom and on the top. Both were easily removed from the husk. I then remove all the hazelnuts from that plant and I'm ahead of the squirrels  most of the time!

While on our vacation to Alaska we stopped in Vancouver for a day and I just had to check out their  hazelnut crop. I just hope they didn't mind me going through their yards! Most were the European Filbert (Corylus Avellana) or a close relative. I sure wanted to take some with me but I don't think they would have made it through customs. They probably wouldn't have survived a North Dakota winter.

 Major squirrel damage this year, probably due to lack of other natural food, such as acorns, ash seeds, black walnuts, plums, and apples. All of these plants just happened to be flowering and leafing out during the late hard frost. The temperature was 26º F most of the night. I also was on vacation for 2 weeks and unable to use my hot pepper spray. ( see August 17, 2012 post for the recipe)

This spring I planted a row of hazelnuts in an open field to see how many would germinate. The hazelnuts were stratified in a refrigerator for the winter to eliminate rodents from removing the nuts. I had about a 40% that germinated, but lost quite a few during the dry spring. I also had to put cages around  the plants to keep the rabbits and deer from clipping them off. 

These seedlings came up on June 6 after a good ran. They are about 3 to 4 inch high and have about 4 leaves. Most look in good shape, but some look like they need a little moisture to make it through the winter.

These are plants I've started inside. The one on the right is a seedling from this year which is about 12 inches tall with 8 leaves. The plant here is over a year ahead of the ones planted in the field and will produce nuts earlier.

The three plants starting from the left are 2 year old, 1 year old, and a seedling started in March.

If your interested in purchasing these or looking at a mature hazelnut plant, contact me at riverbendhazelnuts@gmail.com or call 701-361-8581.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Birkemier Farms tour

We were in Oregon for my daughter's graduation. Kelsey's husband, Josh,  arranged a tour of Birkemier Farms, a large hazelnut orchard and nursery.  

Josh is the one on the left :)
Thanks Josh!

Loren Berkemier in the brown shirt gave us a very interesting tour of their hazelnut nursery.  He showed us the different types of cultivars that they are propagating. Loren informed us that they receive new introductions from Oregon State University Hazelnut Breeding Progam to test and propagate. Their main concern is resistance to Eastern Filbert Blight, which has affected a lot of their better hazelnut cultivars.

They do most of their propagation using a cloning method called layering. Layering is tying off the new immature hazelnut shoots and then adding a foot of compost for root development.  They can produce 4 to 6 from each layered plant. 

As you can see here they have many layered plants. Plants can also be propagated by tissue cultures done at a lab. The tissue culture "plugs" are then planted at the nursery.  The layered plants produce nuts in just a couple years whereas the plants started via tissue cultures take 4 to 5 years.

This cultivar has just been planted and will be layered next year. 

There hazelnuts are about 3 months ahead of the ones I raise in North Dakota.

This is the new hazelnuts in my orchard.

These hazelnut clusters are a wild varity from northern Minnesota. In this picture you can see the husk is very thick and encloses the nut.  This makes it hard to dry down and remove the nut.

This hybrid cultivar here has only a single nut, but it is easily removed from the husk.

This hybrid plant has a large cluster of nuts that are easily removed from the husk and will fall to the ground when ripe.

This cultivar also has large clusters with larger nuts that are easily removed.

Here you can see a mature hazelnut orchard in Oregon. The small tree at the right was planted to replace a plant that affected by EFB. The ground is very flat and was being graded while we were there. This is done to allow a mechanical sweeper to pick up the nuts when they fall to the ground.

Loren gave a fantastic tour and was very informative. With this new information I'll be doing a lot more cloning by layering of my best plants, but still breeding for a better hazelnut.
The Birkemier Farms link is http://www.growinghazelnuts.com

The Berkemier Farms also are testing Honeyberries (Haskap) at their nursery. 
The berries were ripe and very good!
They may start propagating next year for the Oregon area.

I had to put this picture of Nancy and me with the new Doctor of Botany and Plant Pathology.
Good luck Kelsey!