Stewardship has always been at the root of Oregon hazelnut production, from caring for the land and water to ensuring the most responsible growing, harvesting and processing practices.
Maintaining the long-term viability of the orchard land is a priority for Oregon hazelnut growers. Many Oregon hazelnut trees have been producing nuts for decades and continue to thrive via responsible management practices. In 2019, the Oregon Hazelnut Stewardship Program was launched to chronicle these practices and better illustrate how hazelnut farmers care for the land, water, air and wildlife and strive to be good neighbors in their communities.
Oregon hazelnut trees benefit the environment in a number of ways:
- Hazelnuts use less water and are drought resistant than annual crops. Massive root systems allow perennial plants to avoid short-term droughts that would adversely affect annual crops.
- After pruning or removing trees, hazelnut farmers will often mulch the downed branches back into the soil. This enhances the organic matter and overall health of the soil.
- If irrigation is needed, drip or trickle irrigation can be used with hazelnuts to greatly increase the efficiency of water use, conserving this vital resource.
- Hazelnuts sequester more carbon when compared to annual crops; the extensive root systems of perennial crops help build and increase organic soil matter, sequestering more carbon from the atmosphere each year.
- Hazelnuts have a much greater period of photosynthetic activity than annual crops. Because of the full-leaf canopy present in hazelnuts from early spring to late fall, there is a much longer period for photosynthesis and subsequent fixation of carbon dioxide. With annual crops, canopy closure doesn’t happen until summer: bare soil does not photosynthesize and fix carbon dioxide.
- Hazelnuts reduce soil erosion. There is no yearly tillage required with hazelnuts. Oxidation of soil organic matter, which occurs during tillage, is eliminated, thereby lessening carbon emissions and helping to build soil organic matter.
- Hazelnuts are classified as a riparian buffer zone species. Hazelnuts are classified by the USDA and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as a riparian buffer zone species, acting as a natural biofilter that protects aquatic environments from excessive sedimentation, polluted surface runoff and erosion.
- Compared to annual crops, hazelnuts provide complete soil cover much longer throughout the year. In addition, dormant vegetation and leaf litter prevents erosion from raindrop splash and wind throughout the winter months.
- Large perennial root systems are active most of the year, allowing little nitrogen leaching. Besides the environmental health benefits of greatly reduced nitrogen leaching, reduced nitrogen loss–and better plant efficiency–means less use of fossil fuels. This translates to reduced carbon emissions.
- Researchers and scientists are routinely exploring biological controls–such as samurai wasps for controlling invasive pests–to use in hazelnuts orchards. These methods help limit the use of chemical applications.