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 and biodiversity decline. 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.” Stay tuned!
University of Oregon- Hallett Lab
This year, our pigs spent autumn under the canopy of oaks and hazelnuts in constant pursuit of falling nuts. We did this to explore the potential for pigs to interrupt the life cycle of our hazelnut’s most feared (and effective) pest—Filbert Worm. These worms are native to Oregon and hatch as moths in early summer to lay their eggs near nuts before their hard shell has time to develop. The worm burrows into the nut and eats the kernel all summer long before falling to the ground in October. Assuming the worm isn’t removed from the ground, it will transform into a moth the following year and repeat the process. Filbert worms are a major problem in most Oregon orchards, and they are usually combated with pesticide. If a farmer’s orchard neighbors a stand of oaks, they are often advised to remove the native host of filbert worm: acorns.
In partnering with the University of Oregon, we spent 2018 moving our pigs through different oak and hazelnut paddocks, making sure to leave control areas untouched. We found that pigs no doubt have a strong preference for both hazelnuts and acorns. We’re won’t know the full results of the project until filbert worm moths are caught in 2019, but we sure don’t see a lot of nuts laying on the ground.
For the full project information, check out this two page summary.