Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Proactive approach helps farmer stay ahead of tree blight

                                               Hazelnut Seedlings

When news came that the Eastern Filbert Blight had reached farms in the Fraser Valley in 2005, BC hazelnut growers like Peter Andres of Poplar Grove Arbour in Agassiz knew they had to act. The blight, originally introduced by imported trees from Oregon to the Northwestern US, does not attack the hazelnut fruit but harms the tree itself. "It's not in my orchard yet, but it's in orchards 0.3km away", says Andres. The good news is that the blight only attacks European varieties of hazelnuts, leaving species native to the Americas relatively untouched. "With replanting we can be proactive as well as adapting to new realities in farming techniques", says the hazelnut farmer, whose been a vendor at the Vancouver Markets since 1998.

At Poplar Grove, Andres has already removed 1 acre of trees, with another two set to be cleared next year. About 600 trees of 3 new varieties will be replanted as part of a research project Andres is leading on behalf of the BC Hazelnut Industry. The new varieties were developed in Oregon, but could not be brought to Canada as nursery trees due to government restrictions. "We had to import phyto-sanitary leaf tissue, and then we got the tissue growing into trees", says Andres. This was no small feat for the farmers but was aided in part by the Investment Agriculture Foundation. "The new trees are smaller and bear more fruit", says Andres. "They're also better tasting, will ripen earlier, and have less of the brown skin, which many customers ask for".

The new hazelnuts should be in full commercial production in about 5 years, with small quantities available for market in 3-4 years. In the meantime, Poplar Grove Arbour will continue to provide their organic range of hazelnut products, including raw and roasted nuts, hazelnut butter and oil, a high protein hazelnut powder, and a hazelnut skin care cream. You can find them this summer at the East Vancouver, Kitsilano,  and West End markets as well as other markets in the Lower Mainland.

                            Clearing the land at Poplar Grove Arbour

                             10 year old orchard of new hazelnut trees

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