OSU develops filberts resistant to blight

| Print |  Email
Archives - April 2009
Wednesday, April 01, 2009

hazelnuttrees A lethal hazelnut fungus started showing up in
Oregon trees 22 years ago.

WILLAMETTE VALLEY The Oregon hazelnut industry, which not that long ago appeared doomed at the hands of a deadly fungus, has turned the corner thanks to two disease-resistant varieties recently released by Oregon State University.

That hazelnut growers are once again optimistic about the crop is evident in this year’s planting figures, which show that for the first time in over 20 years more trees went in the ground than were taken out.

Hazelnuts, or filberts, which were declared the state nut in 1989, were first grown commercially in the Springfield area in 1905. Since then the crop has grown to more than 30,000 acres spread throughout the Willamette Valley.

In 2007, the crop earned some 650 growers around $75 million, and accounted for tens of millions of dollars more in the processing sector. Close to 100% of the hazelnuts produced in the U.S. are grown in Oregon.

Which is why the industry was concerned 22 years ago when the lethal hazelnut fungus called eastern filbert blight (EFB) began showing up in orchards. EFB, which attacks in the spring and cripples and kills trees if left unchecked, was somewhat of a novelty at first until it began picking up deadly momentum and by 2006 had invaded the majority of orchards in the Willamette Valley.

Polly Owen, administrator of the Oregon Hazelnut Commission, recalls the terror that pervaded the industry 15 years ago. “Many, many growers felt they would not have orchards still in production today,” she says.

But it never happened, thanks in large part to a two-pronged attack launched several years ago against EFB by OSU’s College of Agriculture.

While OSU horticulture professor Shawn Mehlenbacher has been breeding new hazelnut varieties that stand up to EFB, plant pathology professor Jay Pscheidt has developed a crop protection program that helps growers combat the disease in existing, susceptible orchards.

Pscheidt’s program, which is being practiced throughout the Willamette Valley, involves the use of anti-fungal chemicals and a pruning program that calls for the immediate removal of infected branches and even whole trees.

“The breeding program, as well as Jay’s work, has given us a light at the end of the tunnel,” Owen says. “We’ve reached this very critical juncture by having a variety released that will work in the in-shell market. We also have a very good kernel variety, so that’s major and we’ve kind of got the bases covered.”

What makes the Jefferson variety for the in-shell market such an all-important find, says Owen, is that it is the first EFB-resistant, in-shell variety deemed worthy to replace Barcelona, Oregon’s longstanding flagship variety that is susceptible to the fungus.

JOHN SCHMITZ

Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

More Articles

Reader Input: Rx for Health Care

July/August 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

We asked readers how Obamacare has impacted their business.


Read more...

Living the dream

News
Friday, August 21, 2015

smugglespearsthumbRenee Spears, founder and owner of Portland-based Rose City Mortgage, is hot to trot to sell pot.


Read more...

Up on the Roof

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

In 2010 Vanessa Keitges and several investors purchased Portland-based Columbia Green Technologies, a green-roof company. The 13-person firm has a 200% annual growth rate, exports 30% of its product to Canada and received its first infusion of venture capital in 2014 from Yaletown Venture Partners. CEO Keitges, 40, a Southern Oregon native who serves on President Obama’s Export Council, talks about market innovation, scaling small business and why Oregon is falling behind in green-roof construction. 


Read more...

Storyteller in Chief: Natural Prophets

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY SAM BLACKMAN

Storyteller-in-chief with the CEO and co-founder of Elemental Technologies.


Read more...

Greenpeace (temporarily) prevents Shell oil ship from leaving Portland

The Latest
Thursday, July 30, 2015
hangersBY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Greenpeace activists suspended themselves from the St. John's Bridge in an attempt to prevent a ship from heading to the Arctic.


Read more...

Car be gone

Linda Baker
Thursday, August 06, 2015
070615car2goblogthumbBY LINDA BAKER

Car and ride sharing services have taken urban areas by storm. Low-income and suburban communities are left at the curb.


Read more...

The Private 150: From Strength to Strength

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

Revenues in Oregon's private, for profit sector maintained solid growth as the economy continued to rebound.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS