Wednesday, July 11, 2012

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!

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