Sunday, October 19, 2014

The price of peanuts in China—

When you're thinking about neohybrid hazels as a "crop"; it's a really good idea to starting learning about nut crops around the world.  At the moment; what happens to one crop, anywhere, is likely to affect almost all other nut crops, everywhere.  A good example; the peanut crop in China may be the lowest on record- due to drought in the interior.

It's also good to see, and learn, what an "industry" is--

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

2014 Key Hickory Data to Be Collected

Hurrah!  We are anticipating a bumper crop from the hybrid hickory-pecan (a.k.a hickories)plantings... both the one near the picnic area and on the back hill.  Data from this crop will be the first of multiple years of data collection that will enable us to make well-informed decisions for our first selection cycle in this "crop-in-the-making". As with the hazels and chestnuts, we need to have baseline data as we begin/continue the process of crop domestication. 

Because of the bountiful harvest and the need for attention to detail, we are in serious need of additional staffing, (volunteers), who would be interested in being part of this substantial effort.  I am changing  my schedule for the next 4 to 6 weeks to work Sundays from 10 to 5 or so collecting, husking and collecting data from the hickories. The one exception is October 12th, when I will be showcasing my Babydoll lambs on a regional Sheep and Fiber Farm Tour.

For individuals interested in obtaining credit for future Badgersett plant purchases (not restricted to hickories), our arrangement is this: the first day is considered training = no credit given.  After the first day, credit will be given at a rate of $10/hour.

Overnight option: For those who may be interested, campsites and water can be made available should you wish to stay here the night before or after the day worked (or both). There is also an Amish B&B that may be of interest to you that is very near by.

PLEASE let me know if you are coming so I can plan accordingly.  During harvest season there are many competing demands and I may be putting out fires elsewhere if I don't know you are arriving.  I plan to make the trip worthwhile for anyone interested in working with me on this fascinating, multi-purpose crop.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Permaculture Voices Podcasts

After speaking at the Permaculture Voices conference last March near San Diego, Philip met online with the organizer Diego Footer to record a podcast episode. As is often the case in interviews with him, it went a bit over! Diego turned it into two, and they are available at

Go ahead and scroll down on one of those pages; there are a bunch of linked articles and videos, some of which could be new to you.

From the introduction:

"This interview is with Phil Rutter of Badgersett Research Corporation. We talk about why perennial based woody agriculture is important and how chestnuts and hazelnuts fit into that system. We also talk a lot about plant breeding using mass selection to find genotypes of plants that have the traits that you are looking for. This episode is pretty dense and has a ton of information in it for anyone looking to breed plants. Phil is brilliant and I think I learned more about plant breeding in my conversations with him than I ever have anywhere else. Given how much information is in this podcast and how long this podcast is, I have split it into two parts. This is part one, with the second part coming in episode 58.

Take it all in, enjoy it, and most importantly do something with this information."

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Tubelings Available

We've still got tubelings for the 2014 summer planting season! Most types of hazel, chestnut, and hickory-pecan are still available, though Select tubelings are essentially sold out and we're running low on a few others. If you've been thinking of putting in some top-of-the-line genetics this year, you could still make it before we run out.
We've worked most of the way through the order queue, so many new orders that allow substitutions should ship out in about 2 weeks. Some types may take longer; take a look at to see when we recommend planting these actively-growing seedlings. Then order plants by following the catalog links at .  As always, we take orders up to 12 months in advance of desired ship date, and payment locks in the current prices.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The hazards of an industry built on "the best" clones-

Good lucid article today in the NYT on all the reasons the Florida grapefruit crop used to be around 40 million boxes; and this year will be around 19.

Besides hurricanes and bad health press, there is citrus canker and now citrus greening, invading pests.

Cost of production has tripled.

You are very unlikely to hear this point anywhere else- but a major part of this disaster is the near total lack of genetic diversity in the crop.

It's known- it's not a guess- that diseases spread in genetically uniform plantings far, far faster than in diverse ones. And with enough genetic diversity, you have real hope of finding some resistance - or an antagonistic organism that eats the disease.  They like diversity too.

All of which is why we recommend planting seedling hazels etc.

The dogma that "consumers won't buy them" is uninformed bull.  The consumers will believe what you tell them; most times.  Tell them "this one is the best, those are lousy" - and the believe it.

Tell them "These are all different- which makes eating them much more interesting." - they'll believe that just as fast.  We've done it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Replicated Clonal Planting in the Works for 2014

The division-based cloning has been quite successful allowing us to plan for the first ever block of strictly clonal plants at Badgersett Research Farm in 2014.  We have 6 genotypes that will go in this year with another 6 to follow next year.  Fortuitously, 2 of the clones going out this year are of high interest.  One is of a plant that held the record for production for a while.  The second is nick-named Jackie Chan because if "kicked all the others' butts" in nut production - until it became shaded by our big Northern Pin Oak.

I've been working on both field-to-pot (establishment) and pot-to-pot techniques (multiplication).  It also helps to have everyone on the same page regarding watering.  Our use of pyrethrin sprays and Gnatrol drench to control fungus gnats has been instrumental in keeping advantage to the plant during the winter when the unheated greenhouse can have high temps in the 40s(F) on some gray days.

Unlike others who are keen on clonal plantings for production, we are most interested in having multiple individuals of the same genotype in order to study what proportion of plant performance is due to genetics versus environmental effects.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Reminder: Woody Ag Short Course Next Weekend, April 4-6

Hello folks,
Just a reminder that our Woody Ag short course is NEXT WEEKEND April 4-6. We do have a few spots available, and there’s still time to register! Details are below and on this year's short course page.  It's a good time packed with information as usual– we hope to see you there.

In other news, the plant pricing on the web IS current. Orders for most types of plants placed now are expected to ship by the end of June. As always, check this blog for any late-breaking availability updates.

Register Now for the 2014 Woody Agriculture Short Course: April 4-6!
Held nearly every April since 2006, the two-day short course is an in-depth event covering details of both the theory and practice of Woody Agriculture crop production. This course includes considerable information focused on hazelnut production, as well as some chestnut and hickory-specific lectures. Attendance is highly recommended for current and potential serious producers. The most up-to-date and advanced material is covered, much of which is only available here or through our consulting services.
Stay for the field tour on Monday if you possibly can; potential field class/demonstrations include coppice, in-field cloning, gopher control and others.

“…The Woody Agriculture short course is full of important information for farmers, researchers, and anyone interested in a sustainable future. I was very pleased with it and recommend it very highly." -Eric Toensmeier, MA Grower. Permaculture educator and author, Perennial Solutions

"I know that you probably wanted a shorter, one-paragraph testimonial, but there was so much to brag about, that I had to include everything…"
-Matt Nowak, KS Grower. Natural Resources Specialist for Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, US Army.

Click here for more detailed testimonials.

If you're interested in learning more about the practice of Woody Ag field management, the theory behind our advanced NeoHybrid genetics, or long term pest management (to name a few things we'll cover), we encourage you to take advantage of this excellent value.  

Friday, March 7, 2014

The hybrid hazel flavor dilemma-

This is an email from 2011 - the very first time anyone EVER asked about hybrid hazel flavor.  This is my response- I've deleted the persons name and email, since I haven't asked permission-

Date: November 21, 2011 8:08:58 AM CST
To: ""
Subject: Inquiry

Hello, I am currently living in France and working for an Italian gelato company..we use Piedmont hazelnut paste and roasted nuts in the production of our different ice creams...I would be interested to know about your hybrid nuts and how they compare taste-wise to Italian hazelnuts.  I see your products are available at Heartland...I ate there in August ( I didn't notice your products at the time)...I may ask my Highland Park based brother to pick up a packet and send them.

Kind regards,

Dear Mr.--

I'm delighted to have your inquiry!  You'll be interested to know- and I hope, appalled, as I am- that your inquiry about the actual taste of the hybrid hazels is the first such inquiry I've received, from any quarter.

We do teach a section on flavor, and how to taste and rate the hazels, in our annual Short Course; so growers we educate are fully aware- but others not paying attention seem remarkably incurious- and they're going to regret it.  Of course, these hybrids differ from the European.

Short answer - it will be a decade, at least, before I would have a hazelnut I would dare to offer to any European company, except as a purely experimental experience.  I'm fully aware of the flavor, quality, and standards that apply for your type of operation, and we cannot approach it.  Yet.

Incidentally; we do not offer hazelnuts for sale through Heartland - they do not meet my own standards yet.  We do offer our chestnuts, which we can deliver reliably at the highest quality; and starting this year we hope to offer our new hickory-pecan hybrids; where quality is consistent and at least superior to commercially available pecans; but the hazelnuts, as a product, are just not ready.

The reasons for that are quite complex.  Starting out with- the process of breeding a hazelnut that can be grown in the central US has not included taste as a selection criterion until quite recently.  It couldn't.

As you are very likely aware, "flavor" is probably the most genetically complex trait breeders must deal with- at a guess, there are certainly 10 genes involved in "adequate" flavor, and another 20 genes or so responsible for exceptional taste characteristics.  In addition to the many needed to maintain a healthy plant.  Add to that the fluctuations in flavor due to annual growing differences- drought, wet, cold/hot seasons, fertilizer levels- and you begin to appreciate the complexity.

At the outset  - we didn't even have a plant.  Mathematically- the chances of finding a climatically functional plant; that also managed to assemble the 10-15 genes responsible for noteworthy flavor - are worse than vanishingly small, they are "compatible with zero", as it is phrased in statistics.

And approximately 100 years of amateur and university breeding attempts showed exactly that; F1s do not contain adequate flavor; backcrosses to the European are not climatically functional.  It was necessary to first create a large gene pool of plants that are reliable in this climate; then those that produce reliable crops, and only later search for flavor once those characters were "fixed".

Without going into complete detail, which would tend towards the "encyclopedic" end of things; we've now reached our 4th cycle of selection, and taste IS a primary selection factor in that cycle.  It has always been measured; and never been ignored; but could not be a primary factor, until now.

One thing we know about the majority of our neohybrids - they do not have their full flavor at harvest.  At the moment, we believe it takes 3-4 months post harvest for flavor to develop.  Then- indeed, many of them have genuinely excellent flavor.

But you'll appreciate the difficulties in getting new growers (all our growers here are completely new, of course) to fully comprehend storage requirements, and control them to the degree necessary for elite food uses- it's going to take years yet.

The neohybrids do contain excellent flavor - some of them.  Some, definitely, do not.  Which is not at all unlike the breeding pool for pure European hazels, of course- the public simply never sees the breeding rejects.

In fact- this is not a secret - we've documented unprecedented flavor types in some of our hazelnuts.  Hazels that taste like - walnuts- hickories - the most extreme is a series of types we can only describe as "aromatic-floral".  They're going to be extraordinarily interesting down the road; our spectrum of available flavors is much broader than exists in gene pools containing only one species.

Our goal is to eventually be able to reliably supply the culinary industries with excellence.  We're making fast progress in that direction- when you understand the difficulty of the project.  Give me ten years more; we might be there.

Please let me know if you have further questions or interests.  If/when you are back in Minnesota, please come and visit us.  I'd greatly enjoy showing you what we have, and where we are.  And you can taste for yourself.

my best,

Philip A. Rutter
CEO/Chief Scientist
Badgersett Research Corp
Founding President, The American Chestnut Foundation
Past President, Northern Nut Growers Association
18606 Deer Rd
Canton, MN 55922
888 - 557-4211

The Long Winter

Yes, that's the title of one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder "Little House" books.  This winter for us has been nearly the equal of the one she documented- in fact, when they report weather statistics, the winter of 1886-87 is one of only a very few winters that can match the statistics for cold and snow that we've been racking up this year.  And since we live off grid entirely- with houses and greenhouses giving us a full mile of road to plow for vehicle access - it has slowed us down.  Lots of our local roads now need a  snow-thrower type plow to clear- and we rarely need that in SE Minnesota.  2 videos, then 3 photos, in case you want to actually experience it with us.  This first video goes through an intersection with a mailbox (around 0:50), so you can get some scale.  The banks are actually higher than the car... and when you get to the trees?  No drifts, no plow banks.

It's not just a few drifts, in a few places- it's extensive.

This one is on the way home, later in the day- drifting up again.  You have to drive fairly fast in order to be sure you'll get through the next drift.  And yes, some of this is "white out" blind for a few moments.

And both of those videos were made- BEFORE we had the biggest snowfall of the winter- we're now at around 3 feet deep in the woods- you cannot move without snowshoes or skis- or if you're on an old packed snow trail.  Out in the open- that 3 feet of snow has blown into drifts; also not easy to get around in.

Just a few more photographs here- to give you some idea.  I've never seen snow this deep in March; in 35+ years.
This is a full sized 45 gallon trash can.  We're not using it for trash, but to store roofing tools, nails, etc., which is why it's undisturbed.  Before this last snowfall- you could still see what it was.

This is our porch.  This is the first year we haven't been able to keep it shoveled off.  The cats and dogs get their food (all from 1 bowl) under the round table... the snow around it is actually pretty packed by the critters.

And these are our two, expensive, "big dog" dog houses- which the dogs refuse to use.  I'd think it would be nice and warm in there at this point- but they'd rather sleep on snow.

Monday, February 10, 2014

New Article on "" -

In case you haven't caught up with all your Internet reading yet; you may like to know that the website "" has been gaining a lot of traction.  It's a news and information site; very well edited, and reaching a lot of folks.

And, today, we're featured, in a great and broad reaching article by Dan Allen - who made the time to meet with us while we were at MIT - even if only for a few minutes.  Short as the time was- we had a trunk-full of solid arguments to show him.  Take a look; he's done a great job.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Leave that strip of grass!

Just a quick note- those of you who have been to our short course or field day may remember that we strongly recommend a) mowing as the method for weed control during establishment, and b) leaving an unmowed strip of grass along the row, with the hazels (or other infant woody plants) in it.
This is one end of the  hazel field we planted in late July; we did get it mowed according to our own directions this time around, including one high pass over the rows themselves, in order to allow a little more light down to the tubelings.
There are a bunch of reasons to leave that strip of grass, but here's another: catch more water over the winter!