People interested in growing hazelnut trees have a number of resources. The best resource available in Australia is the Hazelnut Growers Handbook by Lester Snare, last updated in 2010. The handbook is an informative resource that supplies information relevant to production of hazelnuts in Australia. This updated edition reflects recent changes in the industry but still allows scope for producers to use different growing systems. It reflects best practices from other hazelnut-producing areas around the world and includes information from Australian research programs. The contents of the book include general climatic and soil requirements, wind shelter, orchard layout, nutrition and fertilisation, irrigation, flowering and pollination, varieties, propagation, buying and planting nursery stock, weed control, pruning and shaping, diseases and pests, harvesting, postharvest management and marketing of hazelnuts.
Hazelnut business proposition / market analysis
Current growers and business are able to provide advice about their business. Joining the HGA is a great way to get in contact with other growers through newsletters and conferences.
The Australian Nut Industry Council collates information regarding the hazelnut industry in Australia relying on survey data collected from HGA members and advice from the HGA. The current hazelnut industry snapshot is available here. Current domestic consumption of in-shell hazelnuts is relatively small at about 80 tonnes a year. Domestic consumption of hazelnut kernel is currently around 2,000 tonnes equivalent to 4,500 tonnes in-shell. Current Australian production is approximately 130 ha, including young orchards yet to come into production. Production levels are approximately 70 tonnes. By 2015, the area under hazelnut production is expected to be approaching 200 ha.
Market analysis for the worldwide crop of hazelnuts can be found in many places, this reference from the agricultural marketing analysis resource centre in the US is a good start.
DPIPWE in Tasmania have undertaken a market analysis comparison for irrigated cropping alternatives. This analysis includes hazelnuts and may provide a useful business planning tool for new and existing growers. Further information here.
Basic Growing advice
Hazelnuts are wind pollinated and self-incompatible, a tree cannot pollinise itself so compatible varieties are required. Successful pollination requires genetic compatibility as well as suitable flowing and pollen release times. Nursery’s should be able to provide advice on compatible varieties and the hazelnut growers handbook has an extensive listing of suitable combinations and analysis on varieties to choose. Hazelnuts need to have chill hours over winter to ensure nut set so cool climates similar to Orange in NSW, Myrtleford in VIC and Tasmania are suitable. See also prime fact sheet from NSW DPI.
Hazelnut trees take around 15 years to become mature and at this age typically take up 6mx6m. Hence the predominance of this spacing in older orchards. Newer varieties of hazelnuts can be less spreading or pruned to allow closer spacing of 5mx6m. The option of double planting initially and removing trees once maturity is reached has become popular in Australia, US and Chile.
How to identify a good hazelnut whip
When buying nursery stock look for an accredited nursery or member of the Hazelnut Growers of Australia. The majority of hazelnuts in Australia are available as a rooted sucker or ‘whip’ that is genetically the same as its parents ensuring that it is true to type. They are supplied from early July through to late August. Ordering material 1 year before will guarantee supply.
Whips should be free from obvious pests and diseases including bacterial blight and measure size of greater thatn 10mm at the based of the while and around 800mm high. Whips should be dormant and bare rooted. Nurserys can often be asked to prune them to your requirements though typically they are pruned to a single stem with no branches below 600mm.
Propagators of hazelnut stock for planting can be a great resource for new growers and often provide planting guidelines and advice.