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Nuts for Research

The Arbor Day Foundation Hazelnut Project collaborates with members to develop sustainable strains of hybrid hazelnut plants.

hazelnut

I love hazelnuts. Since childhood, they have been one of my favorite nuts. So, of course, I wanted to plant some hazelnut bushes as part of my fruit and nut micro–orchard. Then I discovered that, not only could I get little starts from The Arbor Day Foundation, I could participate in their hazelnut research project at the same time.

The Arbor Day Foundation is involved in research toward developing strains of hybrid hazelnuts to be used for food, livestock feed, and bio–energy. Their goal is to breed high yielding hazelnuts that can be grown in a variety of settings, soils, and locations. For a donation of $20, anyone can become a member of The Hazelnut Project, get three hazelnut seedlings, receive periodic updates on the research project, and be a research participant by annually reporting how the hazelnut bushes are doing.

In 2012, I received my first three hazelnuts seedlings. My seedlings arrived in late May right at the start of that year’s summer drought. Sadly, my seedlings did not make it. This spring I received three replacement seedlings. I also planted three additional Arbor Day Foundation seedlings that I got from a friend. All six did well for a few weeks, growing and sprouting new leaves, but then, on some of the seedlings, the leaves began shriveling up and dying. Other seedlings looked like they had become a meal for the wild rabbits that live in my garden. Fortunately, and rather surprisingly, four of the six recovered and small leaves emerged from the tiny remaining stems. Once I saw these little leaves, I quickly put up some rabbit fencing around the tiny plants to mark them and protect them from the hungry rabbits. Over the course of the summer, I watched my little seedlings, watering them when they needed it, weeding and mulching around them. The seedlings are still very small, only a fews inches tall, and the leaves are starting to turn in preparation for winter’s dormancy. I do hope they make it through the winter. If not, I’m sure I will try again next spring.

A few days ago I received my annual survey to report on my seedlings’ progress. There were questions about the survival rate of the seedlings and about the nut production of any larger bushes from prior years. Since this is the first year for my little plants, I wrote about what I observed and what had occurred.

It’s fun to be able to participate in this research project to promote and develop food crops such as these hazelnuts. I love growing food crops and it is gratifying to also be able to contribute to a larger endeavor.

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