Thursday, October 27, 2011

Well, the 2011 hazelnut crop has been harvested and is drying nicely in bins since Mid September. This was our largest harvest, with total yield in the tons... total yet to be determined.... With four people picking, it only took 5 days to harvest everything. Timing of the harvest is critical in order to maximize harvest while minimizing labor time.
The bins of hazels that you see here aren't the complete harvest. In fact, the bins are now stacked triple-high. They're dried down nicely and they await the arrival of the new-and-improved husker-cleaner-sorter-separator being manufactured by Pendragon Fabrication in eastern, WI.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mid-April to the end of May is one of the busiest times of the year for us here at Forest Ag and on the Farm. During those 40 or so days, we ship 99% of all our nursery stock which includes edible woody crops such as pine nuts, chestnuts, kiwi's, a wide variety of tree and shrub fruit and (of course) Hazelnuts!
We've been busy grading and packing seedling orders as well as designing layouts for other growers and custom treeplanting as well.
The Photo's that you see here are some of our "average" hazelnut seedlings. We raise field-grown 1yr old bare-root, dormant nursery stock standard to the treeplanting trade. We pride ourselves on the large, highly developed root systems on our nursery stock. Large, vigorous roots are a good sign when buying nursery stock. These roots are 18" + long by around 3ft wide. Large, vigorous roots planted into moist spring soil are quite capable of "chasing" the water down as the surface soil dries in the course of the summer. Check out how big those roots are!
Most folks plant ForestAg hazelnuts directly into mowed sod. Some folks eliminate the sod in the fall with an herbicide application, others use over-the-top herbicides as recommended by their local DNR Forester. We have never encountered a site that required tillage in order for these plants to thrive and most folks merely mow on either side of the row 3 or so times during the season for maintenance.
We have never had to water such large plants, though if you are planting on a sandy site, you might want to consider using T-tape drip irrigation tape. It's extremely affordable and one roll has 4,000ft of drip tape. T-tape will gravity-flow from a pickup truck or hay wagon mounted tank for sites not near a hose bib. T-tape is typically used only one season, but as long as you keep an eye out for leaks (mouse nibbles!) and seal them up with duct tape, you can get away with 2 or 3 years of use before the leaks get out of hand.
ForestAg hazelnut plants can be planted using a typical tree transplanter. Most Wisconsin DNR Foresters have treeplanters for rent, or at least they have lists of tree planting contractors whom you can hire. ForestAg will custom plant any sized order at reasonable rates, but why not hire your local pro's ? !
On most mid-sized planting jobs, we use a tool called a hoe-dad. (available for $75.00+/- at Matt, (the fellow in these pictures) can plant between 500 and 600 plants per day with a hoe-dad. My personal best is 1200/day and "the beast" Josh (a migratory tree planter) could plant 2000 in a day. (while alternating arms and tree spacing PERFECT)
An inexperienced crew of 3 can operate a DNR transplanter and comfortably plant 3,000 in a day. Experienced crews can easily do twice that!
Now that our plants are all in, we're getting ready for our "summer vacation". Not all that much goes on in the hazelnuts in late June and July, so we relax a bit and get ready for the rush of fall!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Renewal Pruning

Greetings again during the earliest, warmest and driest spring we've had in our 15yrs growing hazels in Wisconsin!
Attached you'll see some photographs of Mark Shepard performing renewal pruning on hazelnuts. With the bush hazelnuts that we're growing, some sort of interaction is needed on occasion to keep them producing optimally. Since THIS years nuts are produced from buds formed LAST year, it follows that the more buds we grew last year, the more nuts we get this year. On large, uniform plantings this is accomplished through coppicing... Cutting the entire plant to the ground periodically. The plant then doesn't produce for a season or two, then begins in earnest once again. We do this on many of our hazels....
Not all of them, however..... Many of our rows of hazels have plants at different growth stages....Older survivors in line with newer replacements. rather than coppice the entire row and set back the younger plants before they've really gotten going, we do renewal pruning.
The photos on the sidebar show our 40HP tractor with its 3-pt hitch mounted air compressor. Hooked to the air compressor is a telescoping, pneumatic pruner. From the relative comfort of the tractor seat the operator can renewal-prune dozens to hundreds of hazelnut shrubs per hour. We clip the oldest 3 or 4 stems in the bush, then lay the trimmings in the vehicle alley behind the tractor where they will eventually get ground to chips when we mow later on....
Below I've included a description of Renewal Pruning that can be found on the website of Johnson's Nursery in Menominee Falls, WI ( It is written with the home landscape in mind, but the principles apply to renewal pruning of bush hazels. Common Witch hazel mentioned in the article below is NOT Hazelnut!

Renewal Pruning Benefits
-Plant's natural form maintained
-Plant's height reduced
-New growth initiated below each cut resulting in a denser plant
-Old and diseased wood removed resulting in a vigorous, healthier plant

The best time to prune most shrubs is when they are dormant. Just prior to bud break in March or April is the best time, although it can be done anytime during the dormant season. When pruned at the proper time, the cuts readily seal over and new growth quickly arises. If done later, there is less of a response to renewal pruning. Do not prune in late summer or early fall because the new growth will not fully harden off before winter.

How often do you need to renewal prune shrubs?
Normaly, over the life of the shrubs, you should only have to remove a few canes per year.

The benefits can be easily observed on redtwig dogwood. The younger wood of redtwig dogwood is more colorful, while the older, heavier canes are more woody and less colorful. Simply remove the largest diameter canes with the least color at the ground line, leaving behind the younger, more colorful stems. The following season more new, bright red stems will be produced giving the plant more visual impact.

Renewal pruning is very useful on most leafy (deciduous) shrubs. Lilacs, honeysuckles and shrubby dogwoods respond very quickly to renewal pruning. However, it does not work well for all shrubs. Burningbush should never be renewal pruned, while other large-scale, specimen shrubs such as cornelian cherry dogwood and common witchhazel may never require it

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hazels in full bloom

Well, it seems a little early, but the hazels have been in bloom for a full week now. Typically our hazels have flowered the first or second week of April. Evidently the warm March weather has been enough to get them going.
In our early years of growing hazels, I would get nervous during the bloom period...probably a vestige of my apple growing experience while growing up. Apples in bloom when hit with 26º temps will have nearly 100% crop loss. On several occasions during hazel bloom we've seen the temps hit zero degrees and once it reached -4ºF. The tiny red female flowers withered away and I thought that all was lost. As soon as the cold snap was over, though, they came out again. Were they the same blossoms? Did the plant make new female flowers? I don't know. Whatever happened, there didn't appear to be any crop loss.
So... it's cold, and yet the hazels are blooming merrily away.
On the side bar you'll see some pictures... The tiny, pink-red starburst feature on the tip of the bud, is a close-up of the female flower. (the male parts and female parts are separate on hazels) This is the structure that will develop into the future nut cluster.
The other picture shows both male and female flowers... The male catkins are the long, yellow-ish structures in this picture. They were elongated and shedding pollen when I took this picture. Higher up on the stem you can see the female flowers. If you don't know what you're looking for they're hard to see sometimes...
The plants in these pictures were of 3yr old ForestAg Hazelnut seedlings that had been planted directly into sod in the spring of 2007.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Getting ready to "stool"

It's the time of year when we've just finished de-tasseling (for breeding purposes... not necessary for production purposes) and we've begun setting up for "stoolbed layering" . In stoolbed layering, one superior plant can be multiplied over and over. The first photo in this series is of one of our superior plants prior to the beginning of the procedure...
In the early spring of the year, before the buds begin to swell, the parent plant is pruned to remove the most mature stems. Once this is done, the base of the plant will be covered with 6-10 inches of sawdust and left to its own devices. As spring advances and the plant begins to grow it will send dozens of shoots up from the root crown through the sawdust. Some time in Mid-June, these shoots will be treated with a rooting hormone and a constrictive band in order to stimulate root development. In the fall or the following spring, these new plants will be dug up and transplanted to their new home. This is a simple and effective way for growers to multiply their "best" plants.
The plant in these photographs is one of our "show pony" hazelnut plants. It has produced very steady crops of large and extremely beautiful nuts from a very early age. These nuts are perfect for in-shell markets. Once we have enough of these plants to satisfy our own needs, we will make them available for sale...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Forest Ag's Hazelnut Blog: Introductory post

Forest Ag's Hazelnut Blog: Introductory post

Introductory post

This is but one of the blogs to which I occasionally post. For those who wish to keep things neatly categorized this blog will stick strictly to all things hazelnut... Links to my other blogs will be posted eventually.

The past two days of GORGEOUS March weather have been spent de-tasseling hazelnut plants that we don't want to cast pollen. Only our top producers get to do that. A few catkins have begun to elongate, but none are shedding pollen yet.
On the agenda for today is to coppice several "prize" plants to begin the stool-bed layering process.