Blight nearly ruined Oregon's hazelnut industry a few years ago, but the industry managed to rebound.
Orchardists are adding about 3,000 acres of trees per year, a 10 percent annual gain, and now farm an estimated 30,000 acres. A nut growers' society counts 40 new members, adding to 650 Oregon growers. The price paid to growers three of the past four years was well over $1 per pound, more than double the previous average. Sixty percent of the crop is exported, and China is gobbling about 85 percent of the shipments.
"The real story is expansion," said Polly Owen, manager of the Oregon Hazelnut Commission. The OSU breeding program "opened the floodgates," she said, with the promise of blight-resistant varieties giving longtime growers incentive to keep diseased trees alive for three or four years until new trees begin producing, rather than yank them out.
Read more at OregonLive.com.