Worldwide demand for hazelnuts is exceeding supply and this presents an incredible opportunity for farmers. Except here in the Northeast, Eastern Filbert Blight (EFB) has made growing this valuable crop impossible…until now.
On September 24, the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Rutgers Fruit and Ornamental Research and Extension Center to announce the partnership between the County’s Grown in Monmouth program and Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station to develop a hazelnut demonstration research orchard.
The Hazelnut Farmer Demonstration Plot will help NJ farmers explore a new agriculture opportunity that has potential to create generational security for farmers in our state and perhaps the Mid-Atlantic region as well. Hazelnuts have far reaching impacts in agriculture, the environment, health, jobs and value-added products.
Presently, Rutgers has conducted R&D for the EFB resistant cultivars at a breeding nursery in New Brunswick. However, this nursery is not suited to establishing a commercial demonstration orchard where growers can learn how to form hazelnut orchards and see the various stages of growth.
“From the research side, after 23 years of focused effort, we are very excited to see our new hazelnut cultivars being planted in this new commercial-scale demonstration orchard at the Rutgers Fruit and Ornamental Research Extension Center in Cream Ridge,” said Thomas Molnar, hazelnut breeder and associate professor in the Department of Plant Biology.
Rutgers has produced six varieties of cultivars, or hazelnut tree plants, which are EFB resistant. EFB is a fungus that attacks and kills hazelnut trees. Because of EFB, commercial hazelnut orchards on the east coast have ceased to exist.
“The partnership with Monmouth county gives us even greater reach,” Molnar continued, “as we strive to provide substantial opportunities for farmers and others interested in hazelnuts to observe the plants, see how they grow and are managed, and learn alongside us as we begin to grow this new low-input, high-value crop on farms across New Jersey,”
“The County is excited to work with Rutgers,” said Freeholder Director Thomas A. Arnone, liaison to the Division of Economic Development. “Our goal is to give Monmouth County agricultural businesses the opportunity to learn about and grow the hazelnut here, which will lead to new commercial markets as there is a growing demand for the hazelnut.”
“Monmouth County and Rutgers have a unique opportunity to not only to cultivate this new crop on the east coast, but also revitalize the Rutgers Cream Ridge Research Extension Center,” said Freeholder Lillian G. Burry, liaison to the Board of Agriculture and Rutgers Cooperative Extension. “In addition to County growers, the Future Farmers of America, County 4-H members and Master Gardeners will be able to utilize the orchard and facility for hands-on, learning experiences.”
For more information about the hazelnut project see the Grown in Monmouth program.