Researchers in the University of Minnesota's Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics are working to develop hazelnuts as an alternative crop for the Upper Midwest. We are taking a two-pronged approach: 1) hybridize American hazelnuts, which have the cold hardiness and disease resistance needed in our region, with European hazelnuts, which have been selected over centuries for high nut yield and large size, and 2) select the best American hazelnuts from the wild and develop them into a new crop on their own merits. It is for the latter effort that we seek your help.
We are looking for people to send us seeds collected from wild American hazelnuts all over the state (and beyond). If you know of some productive stands of hazelnuts, please send us some seed!
What we are looking for is high yielding bushes that produce good quality nuts. We define quality as "anything that is good enough that you would want to eat it." Nuts with thick shells and small kernels are probably not going to be worth your effort to shell them so we're not interested in them. But we'll let you be the judge of what is "good enough".
Although we'd ideally like nuts only from high yielding bushes, we've learned that in the wild that's nearly impossible to evaluate because they often grow as thickets, so you can't isolate one bush from its neighbor. So we're simply not going to worry about yield at this stage. That will come later when we evaluate the seedlings under controlled conditions in a managed orchard.
Harvest the nuts as soon as they are fully mature. You can tell because the nuts will come loose from their husks with gentle pressure. This often happens when the husks are still green. If you wait for them to turn brown or dry down then squirrels and mice are likely to get them first.
They usually mature some time in mid to late August, but maturation date varies widely. This year it may not be until September.
It is not necessary to keep nuts from different bushes separate, but it would be best to keep nuts from different locations separate.
Label them with information about the location they came from. GPS coordinates would be appreciated if possible, but are not essential.
Mail them right away in their green husks, or keep them for a week or so until they separate from the husk easily and just send the nuts. Either way, do not let them dry out and do NOT expose them to high heat which will kill the embryo.
10 to 50 nuts per sample are enough.
U of M Dept of Agronomy and Plant Genetics,
1991 Upper Buford Circle,
411 Borlaug Hall,
St. Paul, MN 55108.
Thank you very much for helping advance a potential new alternative crop for Minnesota