Check It Out: Ensuring that Hazelnuts in Oregon and Washington Stay Resilient

Morgan Lawrence, USDA Northwest Climate Hub

Mowed vegetation between rows of hazelnut trees
Cover crops grow between rows of hazelnut trees on Ioka Farms in the Willamette Valley. Photo: Robert Hathorne, NRCS Oregon.

You may know hazelnuts (also called filberts) for their starring role in everyone’s favorite hazelnut-chocolate spread. Or perhaps you’ve enjoyed a delicious hazelnut latte while eating a hazelnut-filled truffle. But did you know that Oregon produces 99% of U.S. hazelnuts, and Washington produces the other 1%? Under the right conditions, hazelnuts are a climate-resilient crop that can be used for food products, cooking oils, livestock feed, and even bioenergy. With the development of pathogen-resistant cultivars, the hazelnut market in Oregon and Washington has the potential to expand. However, expansion will require some climate-smart management.

Because reliable hazelnut crops can only be produced under moderate climatic conditions, they will need some help in adapting to the challenges of climate change. Hazelnut trees do not grow well under extremely hot or cold temperatures, high winds, or with pathogens like eastern filbert blight. However, they are drought-resistant trees, and they can be grown in soils not suitable for a lot of other crops, like hilly or sloping soils. Hazelnut trees also provide many benefits, including storing carbon, reducing soil erosion, improving water quality, and providing wildlife habitat. There are methods to ensure the resilience and growth of the hazelnut industry under climate change in our region. For example, producers can choose a planting site with soils that have good drainage and are not south-facing. To learn more about this delicious Northwest crop and considerations for keeping it resilient, check out this article I wrote for the Northwest Climate Hub.