There are lots of reasons to love hazelnuts beyond everyone’s favourite chocolate spread. Hazelnuts are an important crop for North American growers and A.M.A.’s resident tree expert, Craig Willett, loves them because they are fairly easy to germinate when using the proper method and stabilized media.
“Hazelnut seeds are typically collected around this time of year – late summer and early fall – when the husk and shell have turned only partially brown. As long as the seeds are stratified for 120 days in the fridge, they will germinate in the spring,” says Craig, who prior to joining A.M.A. grew hazelnut trees at his nursery. “To ensure the right variety, we recommend that commercial growers select cuttings or tissue culture, and to ensure consistency and quality, we recommend sticking with Ellepots.”
As with all trees, proper propagation and pruning practices are critical to healthy growth. “The ability of trees to grow and thrive has everything to do with what’s happening in the soil,” says Dr. Darby McGrath in this video from Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. In partnership with A.M.A., Vineland designed the innovative RootSmartTM propagation tray to improve tree propagation and help growers avoid root defects at the earliest stages of growth, when it really counts. Vineland’s field trials continue to show that the unique wall-less, bottomless design of the tray promotes full 360° degree root distribution and better tree establishment compared to other propagation trays.
When it comes to pruning, we’d like to share some tips from Les High, Vice Chairman of the Ontario Hazelnut Association and owner of Highview Orchards. Les grew tender fruit for over 40 years and has been a hazelnut farmer since 2011. His commentary was originally published in the OHA August Newsletter.
Commentary by Les High
Structure cut to one central leader;
Use a 5-7 bud selection in the first year or if re-whipping
Select a vertical bud and prevailing wind one; usually Southwest is best to obtain height
Select wood with a good diameter at the best height possible
Choose one scaffold leader until apical dominance becomes lost or the centre scaffold is crowded, then remove it for better air and light penetration.
A multiple scaffold structure can be selected: 3 to 5 branches, fewer is best in 3-4 compass directions for balance
Ground stems for scaffold trunks are less preferred but serve for regeneration backups
Find branch crotch areas that need pruner cuts to remove secondary shoots on older trees.
Established branches may need shoot or secondary branch cuts 1-2 feet from their origin to increase light and reduce entanglement
Use a pruner or saw
Single out branch leader ends; sometimes side shoot removal is necessary to continue branch growth.
Remove branches with inclusion crotch angle lines to eliminate weakness.
Reduce excessive density of parallel or crossing branches & shoots.
Hazelnut production occurs on 1-year-old bud wood; do not excessively prune once the trees establish a larger network of branches
Structure cuts may suffice. Balance prune for vegetative and fruiting buds when younger
This is less necessary as trees grow older, and varietal differences are common.
A systematic approach makes for efficiency, uniformity and job satisfaction from consistent decision making
The tree at hand will lead you in the direction that is best if you can recognize the five or so points laid out above.
As you prepare for the hazelnut season, A.M.A. is here to help set you up for success. Get in touch with Craig for all your propagation, planting and pruning needs.