Saturday, April 2, 2016

Spring Clean-up & Pollination

This year's spring clean up mostly involves cutting down the unwanted hazelnut plants.

Here I am cutting down about 102 inferior hazelnuts before they can pollinate the rest of the orchard.

The picture here is from the rabbits pruning the higher quality plants.

This is something I don't really appreciate!

Hazelnuts are monoecious wind pollinated species that flowers in March.
The next pictures show the male (catkins) and female (stigmas) flowers

These are the catkins (male flowers) that form in the fall and produce the pollen in the early spring.
This also helps in identifying hazelnuts during the winter and spring in any location.

This is a close up of a typical catkin before it begins to elongate.

In this picture the catkin has grown to twice its length, and is about to release the pollen.

To hand pollinate hazelnuts I first collect the catkins, and spread them out on clean white paper in a warm room and leave overnight. The next day I shake the catkins to extract the rest of the pollen.

I remove the catkins from the paper, fold, and pour the pollen into a small plastic vial.

Here are the vials from some of the best selected plants.

This is the tiny red female (stigmas) flower on the end of the bud.
To hand pollinate these flowers I place a fingertip over the inverted vial to coat the end of the finger.
Then carefully touch the stigmas and coat it with a light coating of pollen.

Part of the hand pollinating process in the spring is to remove the catkins from the plant that you have selected for the breeding program and cover with a bag.
Right after a rain or when most of the pollen has been released from the catkins I remove the bag, hand pollinate the stigmas, and place the bag back over the plant.

Riverbend Hazelnut improvement program
  1. In the breeding efforts maintain large diverse populations of genetic resources.
  2. During open pollination, inferior genotypes are naturally eliminated by harsh climate of North Dakota, culling, and the presence of EFB.
  3. Superior seedlings are identified and nuts harvested to plant successive generations, which then undergo similar evaluations.
  4. Nut evaluations are good taste, thinner shell, larger nuts, higher kernel percentage, and those that fall from the husk on maturity or easily removed form the husk on maturity.
  5. Plant evaluations are non-suckering growth habit, extreme cold hardiness, early maturity, seedling precocity, disease and pest resistance, and tolerance to various stress (dry, wet, and soil ph).
  6. Some traits that may help in selling the plants are red leaf color, leaf shape, growth habit, and the shape of the husk during the summer.
  7. My hope is to increase the potential for the usefulness of hazelnuts in this area.
  8. Cloning and controlled crosses are next.