Managing nutrients for Ontario’s hazelnut trees

Hazelnuts are a new crop for Ontario agriculture, but one with potential. A large Ontario hazelnut products manufacturer is interested in buying locally produced nuts, there are farmers willing to grow the crop, and there’s suitable land that formerly produced Concord grapes that is now sitting idle.

Missing are nutrient management benchmarks for growers that reflect Ontario’s soils and climate, and the hybrid hazelnut cultivars being grown here.

That need led plant material supplier Earthgen International to form a collaboration with interested hazelnut growers to access Growing Forward 2 funding for a multi-year feasibility study to look at the nutrient needs for Ontario hazelnut trees planted in soils with varying levels of clay.  

Independent researchers are looking at impact nutrient management during container propagation (growing young seedlings in containers rather than in the ground) has on nursery tree quality, as well as if there is any difference in tree growth between container and bare root nursery trees in the field.

They will also evaluate how nitrogen fertilizer affects tree survival, growth and yield, and whether potassium availability in the soil is affected by the soil’s clay content and fertilizer application rates.

Early results to date show the varieties to be sensitive to water hardness and salt levels, particularly in their early stages, meaning growers will have to pay attention to water filtration to avoid tree damage. The hot, dry weather of summer 2016 had an impact on tree growth at all sites and in some cases, resulted in tree loss.  Work will be completed in 2017 with site specific fertility programs and assessment of tree growth and vigour.

This collaboration project was led by Earthgen International Ltd. The collaboration members included five farms interested in hazelnut production: Hofstede Farm; Tuddenham Farm; Tchorz Farm; Wilson Farm; and, Tamminga Farm.

Funding for this project has been provided by Growing Forward 2 (GF2) a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists with the delivery of GF2 programming in Ontario.