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Hazelnut is the fruit of a hazelnut plant, also called an ordinary or forest hazelnut. It is a shrub or deciduous tree with rounded leaves that can be 2 to 5 inches long and covered with hairs on the sides. The fruits of the hazelnuts grow in bunches and there can be up to five pieces on each. Each of the hazelnuts is in the shell, and when removed, their size is about one inch. The hazelnut shell is brown in color, while the fruit is yellowish in color and with a white notch in the middle. Like all nuts, hazelnuts are crunchy, but not so much that they can’t be eaten without problems.
The hazel blooms in winter, which is quite unusual, and begins to bloom before it leafs start growing. The flowering period runs from December to March. The flowers may be male and female, with the female being smaller, having light red petals and generally lagging in the bud, while the male flowers are yellow in color and may be up to 5 inches long.
There are many types of hazelnuts, but the ones most commonly handled and encountered are these three species. The goal is to combine the best characteristics of these plants to create a commercial hazelnut hybrid.
Bean hazelnut has smaller fruits and thicker shells that make it more resistant to various diseases and pests. With various crosses with American and European hazelnut, it is almost resistant to every disease, and quality stands out from other varieties.
Besides having small and thick scales, native hazelnuts display widespread adaptability and disease resistance. With a cross of cold-sensitive but commercially more qualitative (larger nut size) European hazelnuts, with American or beaked hazelnuts, we can greatly expand the range of commercial hazelnuts that can be grown, because the hybrids are disease resistant and well adapted to the American climate with significantly better nuts.
European or common hazelnuts are indigenous to Europe and West Asia. They are usually shrubs, but they can also be grown in the shape of a tree. The nuts of European hazelnuts are mostly free falling and larger in size than American or beaked nuts. By crossing cold-sensitive European hazelnuts with American or beaked hazelnuts, we can significantly increase the commercial range of hazelnuts, because the hybrids are disease resistant and well adapted to the American climate with significantly better nuts.
In a continental climate, hazelnut grows best at 460 feet above sea level, and some crops can grow at an altitude of 2000 feet. Once you have selected a hazelnut variety suitable for planting in your area, determine the parcel on which to plant the hazelnut.
It is necessary to determine the number of rows for planting hazelnuts and the distance between rows and distance inside rows. It is recommended that each variety be planted in an even number of rows, which is especially important if more than one variety is planted on a single lot since it will bear fruit at different times.
The size of the spacing is determined by the variety, that is, its lushness, and by the soil, the terrain and the growing shape of the hazelnut and the trait of the tree itself.
Planting hazelnuts before winter is an ideal time for successful planting because then there is usually enough rainfall so you don’t need to water the fruit. Hazelnut vegetation begins very early, and as climate change becomes more pronounced, hazelnut blooms have shifted to the pre-January period. It is a somewhat unusual plant, whose planting conditions are slightly different from other plants. Specifically, other species usually bloom in spring while hazelnuts bloom in winter, from December until March.
Before planting it is important to know that the roots of hazelnuts develop extremely shallow, only about 11 inches in depth, and this is essential for satisfying all the conditions to plant a hazelnut.
Plowing should be done during the summer to make it possible to ground any lumps in the soil due to heat and occasional rainfall. So the soil will be ready for autumn when the autumn planting of hazelnuts is done.
For the autumn planting of hazelnuts before winter, deep plowing takes place in the summer months, while for spring planting of hazelnuts with tillage, it is recommended to start from the summer months until winter, if the soil is moist enough and not very hard. Otherwise, spring planting of hazelnuts is not recommended, as in this case the tillage should be done during the winter, and the soil is then generally hard and frozen.
Before planting hazelnuts, make pits 20 to 30 inches in diameter and 20 inches deep. The distance between each plant should be 13 feet.
On the cultivated soil small pits are made, in which high-quality seedlings of different varieties are fertilized, because only one variety, even if more shrubs are planted, cannot fertilize on its own. Therefore, it is better to combine different varieties, and it is best to plant three intermediate varieties. The exact planting distance depends on the variety, soil, and terrain; the seedlings are planted so that there is always an even number of rows per variety. Hazelnuts that are planted on sloping grounds and those that grow taller can be planted at a smaller distance.
When planting hazelnut seedlings purchased from a nursery, you need to be extra careful. Plant them to the same depth at which they were planted. If you plant them too deep, the seedlings will not grow very long. Sometimes their growth can stop at three years.
To grow hazelnuts, you will need to provide seedlings with fertile soil. It is recommended that you feed the soil with good organic fertilizer before planting. Hazelnut seedlings must be of good quality with well-developed roots.
Although hazelnuts can grow and yield low-quality soils, if you plan to raise crops and ensure good fertility, the hazelnut must provide sufficient nutrient, rich soil and sufficient moisture.
Soils that are ideal for the cultivation of the hazel and on which it is possible to achieve full fertility are medium-deep, moderately moist soils of favorable structure and pH values of 5 to 8. Skeletal soils or carbonate loam are favorable for cultivation. Given that it is recommended to raise plantations on slightly sloping soils, you can raise the plantations of hazel in positions that are suitable for growing vines.
Soil before planting hazelnuts should be well prepared, and this includes the supply of nutrients, especially potassium and phosphorus. Mineral fertilizers are added depending on the soil quality, which is determined by analysis. The chemical composition and soil quality are first examined. The soil should not be too acidic or lack phosphorus and potassium. If the analysis determines that it is necessary to add fertilizer, it is evenly spread over the previously deeply plowed and aligned field.
Before you plant the seedlings, inspect them well. Shorten the small shoots of roots and remove any damaged parts with scissors.
Place the hazel seedlings in a newly dug pit and previously well prepared soil, making sure that the site where the plant is grafted is 4 inches from the ground surface.
Cover the root with a layer of loose earth and press it well, then add manure. After that, cover the fertilizer with soil and water the fruit abundantly. If the soil is moist and rainfall is frequent, you do not need to water much.
Since most varieties are not self-fertilizing, another variety needs to be planted nearby to be able to poll the plant. Some of the best choices, in this case, are lambert red and lambert white.
Hazelnut cultivation and plantation maintenance
Although there are better winter-tolerant varieties, temperatures should not drop below -20 °F during the winter as freezing of one year nut is then expected. After the tree begins to bud, the temperature should not be lower than -13 °F, otherwise, the vegetative buds will collapse. When flowers bloom, before their opening, the hazel can withstand temperatures up to 3 °F, after opening up to 20 °F, and when the buds and leaves start, the temperature must be above 23 °F.
The hazelnut does not tolerate drought well and needs optimum humidity throughout the year. It needs a total of 30 to 50 inches of rainfall annually, 14 to 16 inches of which is in the vegetation phase, which lasts from April to September.
In the first and second years of cultivation, the hazelnut plantation should be plowed and cultivated in the interim. After the sixth year, a low-cut lawn should be maintained in the row space. The area where the bush or hazel tree grows should be regularly fertilized and mulched.
Hazel can be shaped into four basic breeding forms:
- natural bush
- a bushy vase
A bushy vase and a natural bush are grown without a stem, while the pyramid and vase forms are grown with a stem 10 to 30 inches high.
Of all the growing forms, the most commonly recommended form is the bush vase. It is a form usually formed in the initial years of hazelnut growth and is adorned by four main branches along which secondary branches are formed every 20 inches. Such branch formation satisfies all the conditions of growth of the hazel, which include favorable illumination of the bush, rejuvenation, and shaping.
If necessary, the soil should be fertilized before planting and fertilized only with nitrogen after planting. Nitrogen fertilization is done in the spring before the plants start vegetation. Fertilizer is applied around shrubs, as wide as the canopy or slightly wider. In the first year, one pound of KAN fertilizer is added to each shrub or tree, and the amount is increased by 0.2 to 0.4 pounds a year.
From the fourth to the eighth year of cultivation, the hazel should be fertilized with NPK and KAN fertilizers. Fertilizers are planted with complex NPK fertilizer in the fall with an additional 40 pounds of phosphorus and 330 pounds of potassium per hectare, and in spring 770 pounds of KAN fertilizer and 220 pounds of nitrogen per 2.5 acres are added. Fertilization is done after the eighth year, in the same way, only the proportion of nutrients is increased by 35%.
Pruning a hazel
In order to encourage and preserve the productivity of the hazel, plantings should be pruned regularly. When pruning, it is important to provide each light branch with enough light, because in this case, it brings up to three times as much fruit. Pruning is done in the summer months and the branches are not shortened, they just need to be thinned. The truncation applies only when a particular shape is desired to be retained. Summer pruning should be done gradually so as not to remove too many leaves at a time.
After the age of ten, it needs to be rejuvenated. Shrubs are pruned almost to the ground when rejuvenated and canopy three to four eyes above the stem. Since the rejuvenation year can be fruitless, not all plantations should be rejuvenated at the same time. Rejuvenation is best done gradually, or every second or third row, every year.
Once the hazelnut cultivation form is formed, pruning is not required every year. Hazelnut will naturally form a shrub or small low tree, yielding fruits on annual shoots.
Hazelnut pruning is done manually, and given the high cost of workers per hour, it is considered that it is not profitable at the initial stage of the hazel development. After two years, hazelnut fertility begins to decline, so it is no longer a small difference, and pruning needs to be done to encourage growth and better fertility.
Growing Shrub Form
Hazelnut on the root creates many shoots, so growing on the root is ideal for shrubs or hedges.
Hazelnut cultivation is common in the form of shrubs, which has remained since ancient times when grown on its own root, which had the potential to produce strong shoots. Maintaining bush-shaped hazelnuts was considered easier, and since the plant was able to expand to larger areas, fertility was higher. However, looking at the area unit, today it is considered that the yield is higher only when growing a hazel tree because in this case, it is possible to achieve a denser assembly.
The cultivation form of the bush can also be achieved from those seedlings that are grafted on a bear hazel. In this case, three to four seedlings should be planted in the same place. The form of a bush vase will have three to four main branches that will be easy to maintain as it will not have as many shoots as it does when growing hazelnuts at its root. This type of cultivation is recommended only for cultivation for own consumption, that is, on gardens. Otherwise, it would be too expensive and unprofitable, since more hazel seedlings are needed to grow.
You will get the bush shape by shortening the seedling to 8 to 12 inches. Then the sprouting at the root will be encouraged. Of the root shoots that have just been created, it is necessary to leave three or four of them, which will be the basic branches. Remove all other new shoots unless you want to use them to form a hedge or to restore shrubs.
Pests and diseases of hazelnuts
Diseases that can occur on hazelnut plantations, especially in years with increased rainfall, are bacterial cancer and bacterial arson. Plants suffering from these diseases receive dark spots on the tree, leaves, and fruits. A yellowish discharge also develops over the spots, and as a consequence, the parts of the plant dry. If the disease spreads, the entire shrub or tree can be dried.
The diseased plants at an earlier stage of the disease should be treated with copper-based fungicides after all infected parts have been removed from the tree. They can be preventively sprayed at the beginning of the growing season and at the time when buds start to open. In years where there is an increased threat of disease, another syringe can be made in late summer. Only organic fungicides are used in this case.
In addition to the onset of the disease, the hazelnut is also susceptible to attack by various pests. The most widespread among them is a hazel mite, which causes major problems for growers every year. It usually occurs in times of high humidity and cold during the spring months. The mite attacks the plants and can hibernate in buds, and at the beginning of spring, it starts to suck up the plant juices and multiply. It’s big enough that we can spot it with the naked eye. The infested buds swell, deform or develop deformed leaves, and ultimately dry before flowering. After that, the mites move to other plants, usually in May when up to 10 leaves have already been developed. They can also be transmitted by seedlings.
The control of hazel mites is carried out in May. Usually, two treatments are required every two weeks. Given that there are no agents that have the effect of controlling this type of mite, agents that are otherwise used against the mites of cones can also be used to combat them. Sulfur-based fungicides can also be used, and protection must be carried out during the summer, specifically in July, when mites migrate to buds. Once they are closed in the buds, protection will no longer work.
Another common pest that occurs on hazelnut plantations is nut weevil. Nut weevil causes wormwood and loss of fruit. It occurs from May to August, when it lays eggs and feeds on the leaves and the newly harvested fruits. Larvae that develop from the eggs eat the nucleus of the fruit. They hibernate in the ground beneath the hazel, so they reappear in the spring as adult insects. They cause great damage to the fruits, whose market value is declining. Insecticides are used to control them, and they are sprayed several times during the vegetation of the plant, ie from May to mid-August.
Hazelnut harvesting and storage
The time of harvesting hazelnuts depends on the variety and location of cultivation but is mostly done from May to October. The fruits that are ripe for picking change color to yellow and are easy to remove from the sheath. When harvesting hazelnuts, the problem is that not all fruits ripen at the same time, and unripe fruits after harvest are not of good quality because their kernels are still tough and wrinkled.
Hazelnuts should be dried after harvesting as their percentage of water from 30 or 35% should be reduced to 10%. Drying is carried out at a temperature of 104 °F.
When it comes to storing hazelnuts, it is best to store the fruits in the bark in a nitrogen atmosphere, because that way their shape, color, and acidity are preserved. To prevent rancidity, the storage temperature should be low, around 35 °F. Those who do not have these conditions can store uncleaned hazelnuts in an airy place, stored in ordinary jute bags. With air humidity of 8% and occasional turning, hazelnuts can be stored for up to two years.
Cleaned hazelnuts should be stored in a cool place so that they do not become rancid. Ideal storage conditions are a nitrogen atmosphere and a temperature of 40 °F, as the fruits will not lose their properties then.
If you are going to store the cleaned hazelnuts at home, store them in a dark glass jar and keep in a dark and dry place. Ideally, they can be stored for up to a year without breaking down. If you freeze them, you can store them for up to two years.