Monday, July 30, 2012

Hazel Ripening- Early Warning...

Thanks to Lois Braun for the nudge that we'd neglected to post our observations on hazel ripening this year.  Sorry about that; I'd actually thought we had.

Yes- the hazels are ripening well ahead of "normal" this year, due to the extreme heat, and likely also due to drought.  The drought here at Badgersett has been sufficiently severe that we have immediate neighbors whose corn is looking like a dead loss; maybe salvageable as silage, but no grain; but the hazels, chestnuts, and hickory/pecans are just unaffected (vegetatively) by it.

The hazels ARE getting ripe early, though; and some of them are ripening this year before the nuts turn fully brown.  I've seen that happen both in hazels and chestnuts, in years with varying kinds of stress; "color" is not as important as other factors, apparently; and nuts may be fully ripe and separated from the tree long before they turn the colors you expect.

The critters, however, know perfectly well when they are ready, and don't wait for the color.  Be aware; and beware- the drought and heat may INCREASE the critter pressure on your nut crops.  When other food sources fail, they will come where the food is.

When watching out for animal thieves, also keep in mind- their behaviors will change, from year to year.  Old crows teach young ones- this is now accepted by the fussiest scientists; and they learn how to avoid YOU.  Crows learn when you are likely to be in the field; and will time their visits so you'll never see them.  They carry clusters away; so you won't see nut shells or husks; the clusters will just gradually vanish from the field.  Our crows are in the hazels field at dawn- until we convince them we're there too; waiting for them.  They are also smart enough that they will stay away, if they know you're waiting with the shotgun.  But you have to prove it.

Our biggest pest problem right now is red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus).  When I moved here in the '70s, no one had ever seen one here.  But; maybe it's climate change? - they have invaded, and are now established; and are much faster and more evasive than gray or fox squirrels.  Harder not only for us to catch; but harder for the hawks, too.  They're getting more hazels than I like right now; and they don't wait for full ripeness before starting to steal.

Other pests will also vary from year to year; bluejays, deer mice, and "striped gophers" - will do varying amounts of thieving; changing with the year, the acorn crop, and the size of your planting.

So- NOW is the time to be checking your crops!  Don't take it for granted that just because there was a heavy crop on last week- it will still be there next week.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Field Day, Oil Drum

We've got an article posted today on The Oil Drum, where we address Woody Ag and energy production more completely than has been available in print before. For those of you who made it to Philip Rutter's talk at the International Biomass Conference in Denver earlier this year, this article started with that talk as a framework.  Welcome new visitors, and if you haven't visited that site, go on over and take a look at The Oil Drum.

Also of import, the field day page has been updated with a tentative schedule and tour info.  New this year: a completely harvest-oriented tour, and of course a demonstration of the mechanical harvester. Our hazels have a very serious crop set this year; come and see a little bit of what they can do!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Prairie Plum Farm Hickory-Pecan Plantation 2012

Many folks are aware of the NeoHybrid Chestnuts and Hazels being bred and tested at Badgersett.  Less well-known is the hickory-pecan group (Carya).  A major reason for this is the longer generation time - typically 10 years to first seed crop from a seedling - resulting in fewer generations present on the farm.  (That is, in addition to just not enough personnel or hours in the day...)

Now - I really like wooden items - their lasting beauty and luster pay tribute to the tenacity of trees overcoming the odds to persist to lumber or even veneer size.  When I lived in Illinois, I joined a wood carvers' club and had chosen hickory as the flooring of choice if I had been able to afford the upgrade to my tiny ranch home.

Soon after coming to work for Badgersett I learned that Philip shared my admiration for hickories.  He has a grove of hybrid hickories, both shagbark and bitternut, interbred with pecan.  Compared with the other nut crops, they are easier for the smaller grower to harvest/gather (unless renting a blueberry picker for hazels), and easier to extract from the husk.  In my humble opinion, the flavor is better and the range of culinary uses is as wide or wider than the others.  The wood of the bole is downright gorgeous as lumber, smaller parts yield great btu generation per unit, and the branches are valuable as smokewood. 

I decided, when provided the opportunity, I wanted to plant a bunch for myself.  Well - a year or so ago I purchased a 14.5A former Amish farmlet and am working towards the goal of becoming at least 80% energy and food self-sufficient.  I don't aim for 100% - at least not until I find temperate strains of coffee and chocolate.  The dairy end of things will also, at least for now, need to be bought or bartered for.

Last month I purchased 5 dozen of Badgersett's last year's hybrid hickory tubelings and began my orchard!
Being a geneticist, I set it up as a progeny test plot, with blocks and reps and all that.  Contrary to many recommendations, I did minimal field prep - planting into a recently mowed alfalfa/grass mix.  We hand dug  the holes using a tile spade at 6 foot within and 30 foot between row spacing.  Since then we've had NO rain and temperatures in excess of 100F.  Watering has been done approximately every other day with water pumped to a former ethanol industry carboy and gravity fed through a series of garden hoses.  I started with 5 gallon buckets and jetisoned that approach real fast.  So far I have about 10% looking peaked, but resprouting could still occur. 

Having attended Badgersett field days and short courses, as well as seen the perpetrators and consequences in the fields there - I'm paranoid.  Already I'm seeing burrowing in gthe vacinity and even IN the planting holes.  The next step I'll be taking to counter the Enemy is to erect some wiring fence exclosures aimed at large herbivores (deer and my flock of sheep).  As all other vegetation seems likely to dry up, these succulent tidbits could become beacons in the landscape to any and all hungry plant eatters.  Stay tuned for later developments...

8th International Hazelnut Conference - Temuco, Chile

For those of you who wonder what a Research Associate does... one noteworthy activity I engaged in this early spring was to attend the Eighth International Hazelnut Conference in Temuco, Chile.  In addition to making and renewing contacts in the world of hazelnuts, I presented a poster on the preliminary results of my research on vegetative propagation.  (You can see the full poster at the end of this posting.) Interestingly, once I got there I found they had tagged on the words "europeo Avellano" to the conference publicity.  This was indicative of the focus of the majority of the presentations. With this blog I hope to share some of the interesting bits of information I gleaned from the proceedings.

Why Chile for a hazelnut conference you might be asking.... (this blog will be the first of a number...)

  • Chilean aspirations  Chilean growers are intending to become major growers of European hazel and surpass Oregon, Spain, and Italy in production.  Currently they have about 15,000Ha (37,000A) in cultivation and they are adding about 1,000 Ha annually. Most of these plantations are not yet bearing fruit. They do not have Easten Filbert Blight in Chile and feel they are geographically protected from its introduction.  Consistent with this - they are planting large acreages of EFB-susceptible clones such as 'Barcelona' and 'Tonda di Giffoni'.  Some of the newer Oregon State University introductions are also being planted on a smaller scale - thanks to a Chilean tissue culture industry.  These cultivars have major gene resistance to EFB.
A stumbling block or two are being encountered along the way...
  • Chilean challenge  A beetle of the cucurlio type (Aegorhinus superciliosus), commonly found in Chilean Nothofagus forests, has found the non-native hazelnut bushes to its liking.  The insect larvae feed below the bark on the crown tissue.  As the larvae grows to 2cm in length it does serious, often lethal, damage to the vascular tissues. 
  • Some innovative work is being done to isolate soil fungi that have been found to be effective controls of the insect in laboratory tests.  In order for this to work effectively, however, the beetle needs to be precisely identified (there are some look-alikes) and the complex life history carefully attended to to actually deliver the fungi to the insects in field situations.  Unlike systemically translocated chemical insecticides (e.g., Marathon, etc.), the fungal spores or hyphal suspensions need to actually contact the insects.  Thus, knowing what time of day and under what temperature and light conditions the beetles exit the plant are critical.  Some poor grad student is probably camped out in a hazel orchard right now with a flash light!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

For August 18: Field Day Poem

Actual details coming in the next couple of days, but here's your first reminder that our annual field day is on August 18. In poetic form, by our secretary Sara West:
You're invited to the Annual Badgersett Field Day
A chance to come learn and play
With friends old and new
And bring the family too!
There will be tours of the farm
That will cause little harm
We'll have plants available
Have lunch at a picnic table
So come one and come all
To the kickoff event of the fall
We know it's a bit early
But we need to beat the squirrelly's

Finally, a catalog update!

If you're on our catalog email list, you should already have seen this little note from If you want us to add you to the list, just send an email to that address! And, so you don't have to go looking any further, here is a link to the YouTube full preview of the 2011 Short Course introductory talk.

Hello Folks,

For the first time in six years, we've updated our plant catalog! And in addition, we once again offer other products for order on the web. This includes the 2011 SHORT COURSE DVD-ROM, which I know many of you have been waiting for. This crazy weather may be too hot and dry for some of you to plant, but now is a great time to get your order in for 2013 so you can be close to the front of the shipping queue come next May. If you're in a place where it is less extreme, or you have no problem getting enough water on, we do have quite a few plants available– the availability notices on the catalog pages are now current.

Scroll down for a little more info on the updates, or go straight to a page with the newest catalog links at

As always, check for the latest news and plant availability at

Good Growing,
From the Folks at Badgersett Research

NEW! Badgersett Marketplace
This new order page has products grown and made here Badgersett Farm, and a selection of excellent other products we've found for Woody Ag growers and nut enthusiasts. Badgersett T-Shirts! The best hazel oil from France! Visit the link above to see more, and there'll be even more than that coming soon.

Our NeoHybrid(TM) hazels were the first, and still offer the widest selection, best-tracked, best-vetted and most advanced genetics for hybrid hazels available anywhere.
Now includes MACHINE PICKED (first time available anywhere) and JUST PLAIN HAZELS (so you don't have to worry about all the different types).

Our chestnuts are the most cold-and-dry adapted available. Now includes SELECT PARENT chestnuts so you can be choosier, as well as JUST PLAIN CHESTNUTS so you don't have to choose at all.

HICKORIES: Now available as regular standard tubelings.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Exteme conditions-

A few more points on keeping newly planted tubelings alive in extreme conditions.

Our regular planting instructions strive to be complete; but the reality is, the current record-breaking heat and drought are outside anything you could call "normal".  We do have some additional experience that can help you in this situation.

A.  Water deeply.  If you are only able to supply enough water to get the ground wet down 2-3"; you might be better off not watering at all.  Because: hazels normally grow roots very near, or even "in" the ground surface.  Particularly when newly planted, they have limited resources to work with; if you are only watering shallowly, they will be encouraged to grow mostly shallow roots- following where the water is.  They may not have energy enough to also grow deep roots.  So- when it gets dry again- they will be stressed, again.

Try to deliver enough water so that the ground becomes wet at least 6" deep; 8" is better.  This will encourage deep root growth- and down below 8" there will still likely be water available in the soil; and the roots will continue growing deeper.

B.  DO NOT PULL WEEDS near your newly planted tubelings.  Their roots are intertwined, and you will destroy some of the roots of the tubeling; it may not be able to recover in this extreme situation.  You can cut the weeds off; but don't pull them.

C.  NEVER HOE around new tubelings- the damage to their roots can be drastic.

D.  DO NOT suddenly remove all weed cover, if the tubeling has been buried- it will burn up.  If weed cover has become extensive, we cut off all weeds to the NE of the tubeling, leaving most of the weed shade to the south, west, and overhead.  A little shade won't slow the tubeling down at all; and a little protection from drying winds and sun may actually help.

E.  DO NOT let the tubelings remain totally buried in weeds - not only will total shade slow them; but the deep cover greatly encourages insects, which are safe from birds there.  In particular, young hazels may be skeletonized by grasshopper nymphs - if buried in grass.  Opening up just the NE side will drastically decrease grasshopper attacks.

F.  If you feel you cannot keep up with watering in these drastic conditions; consider a) covering the tubelings with a hay/straw "hat", just during the extremes, quickly removed when the weather breaks; or even b) abandoning some of the planting, and concentrating on saving a portion of it- whatever you can actually deliver enough water to.

Even in the worst conditions- there are tactics that should prevent total loss.

G.  CALL US - if you need advice.  We'll try to help; and there are a few more tricks in our bag.


Monday, July 2, 2012


We're spending a great deal of time right now watering - but only hazels (or other) that were planted THIS year.  Anything planted last year, for us, is not stressed - yet.  Though it might be.  Anything planted 2 years ago; we consider safe and not in need of supplemental water except perhaps in extreme circumstances (or on sandy soils, maybe).

But; yes; this kind of extreme heat and dry weather can kill tubelings planted this year; they're still tiny. Get them watered if you have ANY doubts about it.


Our friend Hank Roberts made this comment on the last post:

"I know you're too busy to be blogging these days, just thinking about y'all while watching the weather. I know a tiny bit about heat stress on corn and soy (both the limits during critical periods and the overall degree days, I think?), but nothing at all about what factors combine to affect success with your woody crops."

Yah, busy, but it takes a while for the pickup water tank to fill; 450 gallons-

We're expecting this to be a year when the hazel crop really shines- so far, the hazel crop is in no danger at all; not even stressed; while the prices of corn and soybeans go up every day it doesn't rain-

Take a look here to get an excellent idea of how heat and drought affect the corn crop: and note that's from August of last year.  The corn this year; having been planted earlier, may actually be more at risk.

Very quickly; the hazels share almost none of those risks.  The crop pollinated and the nuts were set in March and April.  Currently they are sizing, and filling.  Yes, it's known that some hazels may suffer decreased size, or even abort the embryo, if exposed to high heat at the wrong time.  But- our hybrids include genetics that appear to be immune to those problems.  So far.  Hazels are C3 plants, not C4 like corn- which we can and do argue is a great advantage (twice the Growing Degree Days in the same locations); but precise effects of heat are not well studied.

What is known about heat stress in hazels is only on a cultivar by cultivar basis- and our populations of diverse hybrids confound the desire to make broad sweeping statements.

One thing for growers to do- keep an eye on your hazels!  Those that come through this summer with good solid crops- are going to be important for future of food, as the climate warms.