Suitable areas to grow hazelnuts
Hazelnuts are deciduous, requiring a cool winter to provide sufficient chill to break the dormancy of the flowering and vegetative buds. This crop is best suited to the cooler, southern parts of Australia and the ranges, where summers are not excessively hot. An average annual rainfall of over 600mm is desirable, with supplementary irrigation available to overcome moisture deficits in the years of below average rainfall. In the winter and early spring, the female flowers tolerate temperatures down to -9 Celsius.
In Australia, frost has not been noted as a problem, even where there are late, heavy spring frosts.
Potential production areas are the cool and high rainfall areas of NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, as well as areas of S.A. and W.A.
Climate data evaluation forms part of our consultation process for commercial plantings.
Soil type required
Hazelnuts do best in a very well-drained soil nutrient rich soil. However hazelnuts are tolerant of a range of soil types provided they are not poorly drained. Soil for the hazelnuts should be in the slightly acidic (pH 6.5) to neutral range. A soil test is a definite requirement before planting
Hazelnuts are fibrous rooted and so draw moisture primarily from the upper soil layer. Deeper roots provide the structural strength to resist wind damage.
A sunny aspect should be chosen to allow complete photosynthesis and production of starches and sugars for the nut crop.
Irrigation is beneficial when establishing an orchard to obtain large trees more rapidly. Later its main use is ensuring adequate soil moisture during the nut filling stage.
The nuts are developing the kernel December through February and it is therefore very important they have sufficient soil moisture in the top root zone during this period. This is discussed in detail in the Grower seminars and in the Hazelnut ebook.
How hazelnut trees produce hazelnuts
Good pollination = nut production
The hazelnut tree blooms and pollinates in the middle of winter. Wind carries the pollen from catkins (male flowers) to small red female flowers, where pollination occurs. The flowers remain inactive until spring, when fertilisation completes and the nuts begin to develop.
The natural growth habit of the hazelnut is a bush, or multi-stemmed small tree as found in Turkey and Southern Europe. In the US, hazelnut trees are grown as single trunk trees that can grow to 5 metres or more.
All varieties of hazelnuts require cross-pollination in order to produce nuts, so every planting requires several compatible varieties.
Ennis, a later and heavier yielder compared to Barcelona, produces a larger nut suitable for both in shell and out of shell production. Lewis produces a medium nut, whilst Casina produces a small nut.
Hazelnut trees should be in commercial production when they are about 6 years old, and a well managed orchard should remain active for 40 years or more.
The nuts mature during the summer months (turning in color from green to hazel) and are harvested in late summer and early autumn when the nuts fall to the ground within a short period. The nuts are picked up by hand or harvested mechanically, washed, dried and sorted by size.
There are very few diseases or pests in Australia that harm Hazelnuts, due to our strict quarantine laws. For example; a significant problem disease affecting the USA hazel crop, Eastern Filbert Blight (EFB), is not present in Australia.
The need for pollinisers
Pollinisers are required in Hazelnut orchards because the cultivars are self-incompatible. There must be enough genetic difference between the pollen providing variety(male), and the main nut producer(female) for fertilisation of the flower, and subsequent production of a nut, to occur.
Thus polliniser selection is very important. There is some detail on compatible varieties on our sales page, and further information in our ebook on Cultivating hazelnuts in Australia. Contact us to purchase a copy of the ebook.
Whilst we recommend a ratio of at least 20% of pollinisers to the main cultivar, in Australia, we find that spacing is also a relatively important issue. Hence it is advisable to use 15 - 20 metres as the maximum distance from any main cultivar to a polliniser. Generally hazelnuts are planted 3 metres apart and 6 metres between rows.
Establishing a productive hazelnut plantation requires matching of the main nut variety with appropriate pollinisers. Three to six polliniser varieties are planted for each main crop variety, which includes Early, Mid and Late pollen shed varieties.
Choices of varieties to suit intended market; such as table nuts, confectionary or oil production, as well as maximization of yields form part of the consultation process.
The below table is not an exhaustive list and there are other alternative varieties. The polliniser varieties are commercial varieties that also produce nuts.
|Main crop||Size||Use||Polliniser variety - Early pollen shed||Polliniser variety - Mid pollen shed||Polliniser variety - Late pollen shed|
|Ennis||Jumbo||in-shell, snack, table||Butler||Casina||J5, Halls giant|
|Barcelona||Large||in-shell & kernel||Lewis||Casina||Halls giant|
|Butler||Large||in-shell, snack, table||Lewis||Casina||Halls giant|
|Willamette||Medium||Blanching, confectionary||Barcelona||Ennis||Halls giant|
|Tonda di giffoni||Medium||Oil, confectionary||Willamette||Barcelona||Epsilon, J5|
About the Hazelnut Industry in Australia
Australia imports about 2000 tonnes of hazelnuts a year, worth around $10 million dollars, but only grows around 200 tonnes. So there are currently less than 75 hectares of hazelnut trees planted commercially.
Based on a yield of approximately 2500 kilograms a hectare, Australia would require about half a million trees, or 800 hectares planted, just to replace import levels. This is before considering the export potential from our “clean & green” environment, relatively low in pest and disease issues.
The above figures do not include hazelnuts imported in mixed nut form or as oil. Imports include in-shell nuts and kernel either whole or broken, diced, sliced, meal, butter or paste. Major users include chocolate manufacturers such as Ferrero Rocher, Cadbury Schweppes and Nestle, as well as many smaller boutique manufacturers. Hazelnuts are distributed throughout supermarkets and health stores, either in-shell, roasted or raw. They are used by bakers, chefs, food manufacturers and confectioners, and can replace most other nuts in recipes.
Since Australia currently imports the majority of its hazelnut requirements, there is a great opportunity for import replacement by planting, cultivation and distribution of fresh hazelnuts. "Fresh" is particularly noteworthy as most imported nuts are several months, or even as much as two years old, at time of importation.
Hazelnuts are rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, contain no cholesterol and are an excellent source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Hazelnuts have an excellent flavor and very suitable for use as a healthy snack food.
There is an excellent opportunity for the planting, growing and cultivation of an Export Crop in the Southern Hemisphere. This would allow the major Northern Hemisphere producers to have at their disposal a second crop midway through the year which would greatly enhance their cash flows.
Recent years have seen very impressive price rises worldwide due to the growing demand for Hazelnuts for use as a “Health Nut” combined with an upsurge in confectionary use.