What do these plants look like? How big are they? One critical factor to understand is that at this point in the development of the crop, the basic answer is often "variable". Since we are dealing with a hybrid gene pool, the ancestors of which include both bushes and trees, that should be understandable.
However. In general, when these plants are mature they will average 6-8 feet in diameter, and 10- 12 feet in height. The plants in the above photo are growing in a double row, at a very tight spacing of 5' between rows, and 5' between plants within the rows. These bushes are about 8 years old.
Their growth habit will most often be similar to the common lilac, ie. many stems all arising from the ground. In most cases, the stems at the base of the plant may spread 2 feet across; narrower bases, down to 1 foot, and broader bases up to 3 feet are fairly common. They do NOT "sucker" from their root tips, like the infamously invasive multiflora rose; new stems only arise from the base.
The stems rarely grow more than 3 inches in diameter; most of the stems
will average 1-2". When established, a new stem will commonly grow
4-6 feet tall in its first season.
Detailed information and discussion on these points is provided later in the handbook; this is a quick overview.
Something to bear in mind: This handbook does provide quite a lot of detail; enough both to serve as a real guide to growing the crop, and enough to possibly seem confusing and overwhelming to those not already somewhat familiar. Don't be fooled: growing hybrid hazels is NOT more complicated than growing corn or soybeans. Not at all. It may actually be less complex. But it IS different- give it some time to sink in.
|Climate - Completely tested and adapted in USDA Zones 4-6; large trial plantings in Zones 3 and 7 are reasonable; small trials in Zones 2 and 8-9.||Longevity - The useful life of a bush is at least 50 years according to present data. Actual lifespan is apparently in the hundreds.|
|Soils - We have not yet found any soil where they cannot thrive, from heavy clays to sands. pH range - can thrive between 5.0 and 7.0; can be tested in soils up to 8.5||Markets - Midwest USA market is not established; the crop is too new. Active growers intend to market jointly processed and developed value-added regional specialties before expanding to commodity sales. Commodity markets potentially larger than soybeans. No kidding.|
|Fertilizer - They respond dramatically to fertilizer in terms both of plant growth and nut bearing.||Pollination - Hybrid bush hazels are wind pollinated and very good at it; no bees necessary.|
|Chemicals - No fungicides or insecticides are being used in any large plantings; there has been no economic need, in 25 years. Herbicides can be useful during the first 2 years; they require careful application. Mature hazels may kill grass beneath them quite dramatically. Bear in mind: all photos in this book are of plants that have NEVER had insecticide or fungicide spray||Harvest - This differs dramatically from other hazels. Main harvest is in late August, with earliest genetics ripe consistently in late July, in Minnesota; latest genetics ripe in October. Nuts are picked directly off the bushes, not swept or picked up off the ground as in Oregon. Present harvest is by hand; machine harvest is developing rapidly.|
|Crop Genetics- Cultivars - Selected seedlings are planted; hazelnut seedlings are more predictable than other woody plants. Asexual clones are in advanced stages of development; test plantings are in place, commercial plantings of clones may begin in 2 years.||Post-Harvest - Nuts and husks are dried somewhat before husking; husks are removed and nuts cleaned by machine. Sound hazels are extremely resistant to spoilage, drying to sale weight may be accomplished in storage. Nuts can be handled and stored with standard grain equipment.|
Animals - Plant damage- Bush hazels are not preferred deer food. Mature plantings need no protection from deer or rabbits. New plantings will benefit from attention to rabbit control, and sometimes deer. Mouse damage to plants seems to vary with locality, some locations have had problems; other locations none. Attention to damage levels, and prompt control action will help. In many cases, the plants will grow back. Pocket gophers (Geomys) WILL kill young plants (ages 3-5 years) if not controlled.
Crop damage- Animals leave these hazelnuts alone until they are fully ripe; then theft can be rapid. There are ways of coping, chief among them timely harvest. The biggest thieves of hazelnuts are mice. Next largest thieves are bluejays and other birds. Raccoons can be significant. Bears are known to be major feeders on wild hazels. The nuts are very good food...
Insects - Leaves - Very young, newly established plants may be attacked by a variety of leaf-eaters, particularly if buried in weeds. No economic foliage damage to mature plants has been observed.
Big Bud Mite- these tiny mites can be a major problem for hazels; genetic resistance is the best answer.
Wood - A boring beetle, related to the Bronze Birch Borer, may become significant; some plants appear not to be affected; the multiple stem nature of these bushes means most plants will quickly grow a replacement stem for any one seriously affected.
Nuts - Several weevil species may attack the nuts; infestation rate varies with year, bush genetics, and perhaps pH. Control measures may become necessary.
|Disease - No disease problems of any significance; "Eastern Filbert Blight", which is the major disease of concern, is kept at high levels in Badgersett plantings, to provide the best possible testing; the hybrids are resistant or highly tolerant of the disease.|
|Drought - In 1988 and 1989, the region officially had "extreme drought"; mature plants bore their crops anyway, with no irrigation.||Flood - In 1992, we had several instances of hazels standing in several feet of water for weeks- the plants were not harmed, and nuts above water ripened normally.|
|Hail - Heavy hail can cause some damage to crop and plants, but because of the dense structure of the bush, most of the crop will survive. In 1999 a large planting in Wisconsin withstood a storm with 2" diameter hail with less than a 50% crop loss.||Wind - The bushes are highly flexible; it takes truly extreme winds, eg. over hurricane force of 75 mph, to cause any damage. Crops on the bush likewise survive all but the most drastic winds.|