Sustainable Agriculture Research Education (SARE)
Research funded by the Western SARE Farmer/Rancher Grant Program is helping us look at alternative harvesting options for our hazelnuts. Conventionally, hazelnuts are harvested by sweeping them off of the orchard floor every fall. This “sweep harvest” method necessitates keeping orchard floors very flat and free of vegetation/debris that may interfere with harvest.
Keeping orchard floors “clean” is achieved through frequent flail mowing, leveling, and herbicide applications, which can lead to soil degradation. Additionally, because sweep harvesting cannot begin until all nuts have fallen from the tree, harvest is often conducted after the onset of the fall rains, which can lead to additional compaction and difficulties separating the nuts from debris and mud.
Shake & Catch harvesting could allow for a whole host of environmental benefits, as well as increase the economic viability of small to mid-size hazelnut orchards. With shake and catch harvesting techniques, nuts are harvested straight from the tree by shaking the trunk, causing nuts to fall onto an inverted umbrella and into a tote. Deep-rooted cover crops could be grown to maximize their soil building potential, and our pigs and bison could be integrated after the harvest to help control disease and maintain fertility.
In order to test the viability of shake and catch harvesting, the project will compare yield and timing of “shake and catch harvesting” vs “sweep harvesting.”