In this episode we get updates from hazelnut researchers Mark Hamann and Dr. Lois Braun at the University of Minnesota and Jason Fischbach at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.
Mark Hamann is a Research Technician at the University of Minnesota and works as an assistant to Dr. Lois Braun. Prior to working at UMN, he worked at Badgersett Research Farm in Canton, MN.
Dr. Lois Braun is a Research Scientist in the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics at the University of Minnesota and works on hazelnut breeding, agronomics and propagation. She is also co-leader of the Upper Midwest Hazelnut Development Initiative.
Jason Fischbach is an Outreach Specialist with UW-Madison Extension who focuses primarily on hazelnut research and commercialization efforts and co-leads the Upper Midwest Hazelnut Development Initiative.
JASON FISCHBACH 0:00
This is a podcast about new crops. You’re gonna love it. Join us on the cutting edge, a podcast in search of new crops for Wisconsin.
Lois Braun 0:11
My crew is kind of saying why are we doing mound layering again, we’re sick and tired of mound layering.
JASON FISCHBACH 0:18
If I remember right last fall when we’re sorting the 1000s of plants you made you said we’re never doing this again. Glad to hear you’re doing it again. Welcome back to The Cutting Edge: A podcasts in Search of New Crops for Wisconsin. We have new faces joining us this year. Steffen Mirsky, welcome new to extension, but not new to the Upper Midwest. Tell us about yourself. Who are you? What are you doing? What’s your new gig?
Steffen Mirsky 1:05
Yeah, thanks, Jason. I’m brand new here. Just started in my position as Outreach Specialist through UW Madison, on the emerging crops team about two weeks ago. Prior to this, I spent 10 years at Seed Savers Exchange a nonprofit in northeast Iowa, Decorah, Iowa, doing evaluations on the varieties in the seed collection there. So yeah, I’m not all that familiar with hazelnuts. But I’m excited to learn about them. And I look forward to, to learning from all of our interviewees here on this on this program.
JASON FISCHBACH 1:43
Good stuff and glad to have you. I’m looking forward to working with you on the podcast. Our guests from last year or our hosts will also be joining back in as we continue this series here we’re looking forward to some hemp podcasts coming up in the near future, but today, the focus is hazelnuts. For whatever reason hazelnuts been the most popular episodes on our podcast from our first 26 episodes or so. So we thought today, kicking back off our series, we would focus on hazelnuts to just give kind of round robin update of what’s happening in the hazelnut world in the Midwest, got a couple of researchers from the Upper Midwest Hazelnut Development Initiative that we’ll be talking to today. Ready, Steffen?
Steffen Mirsky 2:23
I’m ready to go. Let’s do it.
JASON FISCHBACH 2:28
Mark, it’s Jason. How’s it going?
Mark Hamann 2:30
Hey, morning. Pretty good.
JASON FISCHBACH 2:32
Good. Hey, can you introduce yourself for the for the listeners before we get going?
Mark Hamann 2:38
Sure. Yeah, my name is Mark Hamann. I work as a research technician for the University of Minnesota’s hazelnut project. I work as Lois Braun’s assistant, basically. And I’ve been doing that job for a little bit more, or this job for a little bit more than three years. And before that, I worked for Phillip Rudder at Badgersett for about three years.
JASON FISCHBACH 3:07
Cool. Thanks, Mark. So what we want to know is what you’re working on these days, like literally let’s start with what are you going to do today?
Mark Hamann 3:14
Today, I am going to do some cleanup and organizational jobs at work water plants in the greenhouse and then probably spend most of the day hand weeding the regrowth on plants that we are going to be mound layering in a couple of weeks for making more clones of plants that we want for research purposes.
JASON FISCHBACH 3:42
Got it? So that seems like I mean for all of us right now the focus is propagation, propagation propagation. So maybe let’s start there. Tell us about the mound layering you’re doing. What are you mound layering? Why are you doing it, where are those plants gonna end up?
Mark Hamann 3:57
Why we’re doing it so mound layering, is a technique for it’s you cut the plants off, but are fully to the ground when it regrows and the stems are. We usually start in late June and worked for about two weeks. And the new growth we add rooting hormone to it and bury it under sawdust and makes can turn one plant into maybe a couple dozen copies. And who gets them we’ll use some of them for research trials. We have other partners on farm trials. That’s That’s mostly what they get used for and we want them because they’re most of the plants that were mound layering our top selections that we would like to to propagate clonally for commercial purposes.
JASON FISCHBACH 4:52
I just heard your phone. Did you just get a text from Lois wondering where you are?
Mark Hamann 4:59
No I got a text from our new student worke
JASON FISCHBACH 5:05
All right, well, I better not keep you long. All right. Okay, so mound layering, what else have you got going on? How’s the seed layering project going?
Mark Hamann 5:18
Yeah, at this point a project that we attempted this winter and spring. So we basically have the issue of needing to make more clones of plants that we want mound layering is reliable, but the major issue with it is that it just doesn’t multiply pant plants fast enough, if you have one full size plant, if you mound layer it, you might get, you know, a handful to maybe 30, 40, 50 plants off of it. And you can only do it once a year. So it’s it’s reliable for many of the varieties that we want to make more clones of, but it’s slow. And so the project that we were working on this spring was grafting. And then so grafting to newly germinated seeds of variety that we want. And then if the when the graft takes, and the new shoot of the variety that we want is growing on the graft trying to layer that which basically means just burying it within the pot and applying rooting hormones that it pops its own roots with the idea that we would then detach it from the sibling root system, and then we have a clone of what we want on its own plants. And it was a lot of work and the basic but the basic idea of it is that we can with grafting, we’re only using a couple of buds and the plant has 1000s of buds on it, so it could have a higher multiplication rate, it hasn’t really worked all that well. There’s just multiple points in the process where there’s attrition some of the grafts don’t take some time to grow vigorously enough some of them get hurt with rooting hormone we were trying to do growing the plants in the dark for a certain portion of their the beginning of their life basically with the hope that that so they growth that looks like a beansprout almost growing in the dark would be easier to root but what it what has made a some of it works but probably not at a high enough rate to do that exact technique again, but it has made a lot of plants that we can continue growing as stock plants for other techniques for propagating them primarily cuttings. So at this point, it’s just keeping track of the plants that are still actively running not many of them are at this point and just maintaining them for using his stock plants for cuttings in a couple of weeks and then continuing to grow them for next year basically for cuttings.
JASON FISCHBACH 7:52
Got it. So are you doing some of the cuttings work to now that you’ve got some of those stock plants?
Mark Hamann 7:58
Yeah, we were also doing preparing plants in the field for taking cuttings from that will probably be taking ones from the grafts at the same time and I’ll probably be in about two weeks from now. And then it takes we’re expecting it to take three to four weeks for them to root and so we’ll we’ll be maintaining those plants for using its cuttings for most of the summer.
JASON FISCHBACH 8:23
Okay. Yeah, so you’ve got mound layering, that’s going to start up soon you’ve you’re maintaining the stock plant stem cuttings. What else is going on?
Mark Hamann 8:34
Lots of the normal summer maintenance jobs. We have a good size new research planting that are all controlled cross seedlings. That’s up in Becker, Minnesota, which is about an hour northwest of the Twin Cities where I live and those were planted in the fall so there’s you know, weed whacking and staff there does the mowing but weed whacking spot spray weed control when it’s necessary. And yeah, our other Rosemount and St. Paul. Just keeping them mowed, doing woody weed control, things like that.
JASON FISCHBACH 9:16
So that new Becker planting, that’s the controlled cross stuff, the good stuff, how many plants are there? From the fall?
Mark Hamann 9:23
From what we planted? Yeah, the Becker field has also has plants that were planted about four years ago. I think we planted about 1500. Okay.
JASON FISCHBACH 9:33
Any idea and survival call that came through the winter? On a percentage?
Mark Hamann 9:37
Yeah, we were there about a week ago. We didn’t take full numbers, but pretty good. You know, somewhere between 80 and 90%, I think. And the plants that look like they haven’t survived or either are starting to regrow really, really slowly were generally the plants that look like they were weak going into it. So not necessarily a cold hardiness thing, probably just a problem with how it was growing in the pot.
JASON FISCHBACH 10:06
Sure. And the question all growers wrestle with in for fall planting, do you put a tree tube, a tree shelter, on it or not? Did you guys use them?
Mark Hamann 10:15
We didn’t the because we would have been purely for for like wind protection or something like that, because the the site is deer fence. So that wasn’t not having to worry about the animals wasn’t a factor for us.
JASON FISCHBACH 10:37
All right, and they can’t do the winter. Okay, without them. Good to know.
Mark Hamann 10:41
Yeah, there was I mean, I would say, you know, most of them did not leaf out on the full, like the full length of the growth that they were growing on last summer. So a bunch of them, you know, got knocked back by at least a couple of buds. But the growth at this point for most of those plants, you know, looks good. So it doesn’t seem like it’s been much of a problem and exactly how to attribute that to a tree tube or not, you know, we didn’t run an experiment, so we can’t say one way or another. Yeah. It seemed it seemed acceptable.
JASON FISCHBACH 11:13
Yeah. All right. So I know you’re always thinking about hazelnuts, and what’s next, and blah, blah, blah, what, uh, what’s on your mind these days when it comes to the overall hazelnut project? What’s got you excited? Or are you intrigued by?
Mark Hamann 11:28
Yeah, I’m really encouraged by the success that Dane Houser is having so far with semi-softwood, semi-hardwood cuttings. And I think being able to partner with other people with other expertise in the in the private sector is really important. So that’s, that’s, that’s definitely promising, because propagation has just been this really difficult issue for a lot longer than I’ve been involved with hazelnuts. So it’s, it’s exciting to see some stuff that looks like progress there.
JASON FISCHBACH 12:07
Yeah. You know, that’s a good point, I think we should call Dane and chat them up, see how things are going with the propagation, because that’s, like you said a huge bottleneck right now. All right. Well, we’ll let you get back to work. Thanks for the update. All right, and say hi to Lois and the crew. All right. We’re gonna stay in Minnesota. We just talked to Mark Hamann, who’s been working on a lot of propagation stuff recently. And now we’re talking to Lois Braun. Lois, you want to introduce yourself quick?
Lois Braun 12:38
Actually, it’s Braun.
JASON FISCHBACH 12:40
Fine. Louis Braun.
Lois Braun 12:43
Sorry about that.
JASON FISCHBACH 12:46
Everyone calls me Fitchbach. And I let it slide.
Lois Braun 12:49
Well, I’d totally let it slide. It’s just that it’ll propagate itself.
JASON FISCHBACH 12:55
And I should know by now.
Lois Braun 12:56
Plus, you should know by now. Right. So I’m Lois Braun, I work on hazelnut breeding and agronomics and propagation here at the University of Minnesota. Basically, if the work is outdoors, I’m involved in the greenhouse, I’m involved.
JASON FISCHBACH 13:21
So what are you doing today,
Lois Braun 13:22
Um, we are working on gearing up for two big projects. One is the mound layering, which we have been doing. Every year, I think this is the fourth year in a row, we’ve done mound layering on a fairly large scale. And this year, we’re doing it on an even larger scale than last year, but only by a few plants. The mound layering is, as many people in the hazelnut world know. It’s the only currently reliable method of hazelnut propagation. It involves lying down in our stomachs in the field, amidst the itchy grass and insects and tying twisties to the bases of stems of hazelnuts, and then applying rooting hormone right above that and piling it all with moist sawdust.
JASON FISCHBACH 14:18
And just to clarify, this is the only proven propagation method that’s been working for our Americana derived material. But worldwide, there are other methods like tissue culture. Those methods just haven’t worked for our material yet.
Lois Braun 14:34
Correct. And my crew is kind of saying why are we doing now layering again, we’re sick and tired of mold layering.
JASON FISCHBACH 14:44
And if I remember right, last fall when we’re sorting the 1000s of plants you made you said we’re never doing this again. Glad to hear you’re doing it again.
Lois Braun 14:56
Well, I’ll tell you, it does, it is satisfying in the sense that you get results. It’s painful when we do it. But we, it’s very satisfying when it works. And it does work the most majority of the time. And I have been saying, however, that this will be our last year. So and the perk is that some of the out, out of state sites where we work are very, very pretty. And I like excuses to go to these pretty places.
JASON FISCHBACH 15:36
And you’ve put out some really nice publications about the machine learning methods that you’ve you’ve optimized, are you making any big changes to your systems this year?
Lois Braun 15:47
Um, last year, our biggest change was figuring out how to how to harvest the stems more efficiently. Because as uncomfortable it is setting up the mound layers. The problem with harvesting them is that we are under a big time crunch because we’re pushing the edges of winter. We’re trying to get it all done, the plants in, sorted, graded distributed before winter comes in. And so we’re under such time pressure at harvest time. So last year, our biggest innovation was using pruning saws, two person project a process one person pulling back on the stems with a rake or a corn fork. Don’t get me started about corn forks. They’re very, very dangerous tools. But anyway, a corn fork works really well. You pull back on the stems underneath the root mass and another person saw that with a very long pruning saw, it works. It’s still a lot of work. I mean, it’s still a lot of effort. But compared to our previous method, I think it actually produces healthier roots because there’s less tearing, so that was our biggest innovation. We were hoping to recruit commercial nursery to start doing it with us. They look at what’s involved and they are not interested. They are interested in stem cuttings. So we have to develop that method. So the other thing that’s making us go crazy right now is we are gearing up for stem cutting research. And we’ve already implemented two treatments. This is in collaboration with Dr. Brandon Miller, who is a new horticulture faculty member. And so we’ve implemented etiolation, which is going on three weeks ago, we put 10 totes, you know the plastic tubs upside down out in the field over the emerging crown suckers of hazelnuts. To completely shade out the light. We covered the totes with white plastic so that they wouldn’t overheat. We left them on for two weeks. Last Friday, we took them off and we replaced them with other totes actually laundry baskets from which we had cut the bottoms out and then we put shade cloth over the laundry baskets so that they’d get filtered lights. So the idea of this is that we develop etiolated stems which are basically retain their juvenility. So we take the totes off and the stems, the crown suckers, which normally are bright green at this point are this ghostly yellow. They’re tall and skinny, they’re looking for the light and they can’t find it.
JASON FISCHBACH 19:04
How tall do they get in those tubs. Do they reach the top of the tub?
Lois Braun 19:09
They reached the tops of the tubs. Well surprisingly they were quite stiff. And so anyway, we the reason why we replaced the tubs with shade cloth is because you don’t want to take the tubs off and have them instantly get burned by by the sun. So today, Mark and a student worker are out there removing the shade cloth because the shade has been on long enough. And then last week, and again we will do this tomorrow. We put on velcro bands. We put some Velcro bands. These are an inch wide. by one and a half inch long bands of Velcro, two pieces sandwiched together, clamped against the base of the hazelnuts, the suckers stems. And we had, we put some on the etiolated stems, some on the nonetiolated stems, and then some on canopy shoots to see how those work and half of the half of the Velcro bands had IDA on them, and half of them did not. So we’ll see how that works. So we put those out last Friday, and we’re going to put additional ones out tomorrow. So part of what I’m scurrying around doing, it took a long time to figure out the right kind of band and where to buy them. And so last week, we used up everything we’d bought, so I had to buy more. So I’ve got to I’ve got to go and buy some paints that we can distinguish, we can paint the bands as well. So we can distinguish the bands that we apply tomorrow from the ones we applied last week, because we don’t want to get those mixed up. Because we want to know the duration of the bands on them.
JASON FISCHBACH 21:15
So just to circle back a little bit. So you’ve got a mound layered plant, you grew it in the tub, how old were those plants, like 10 years old?
Lois Braun 21:22
There are plants that were mound layered last year. And these plants were most of them were planted sometime between 2008 and 2011. Okay, so they’re pretty, they’re 11 to 13 years old.
JASON FISCHBACH 21:36
So roughly how many bands did you apply per plant? Like 100, 50, 10?
Lois Braun 21:42
We put out 900 bands total last week.
JASON FISCHBACH 21:50
Wow. No wonder your employees love working for you.
Lois Braun 21:53
Yeah, exactly. And we’re hoping to put out another 900 tomorrow.
JASON FISCHBACH 21:58
Okay, so each one of those bands then will be a stem cutting that you’ll try to root?
Lois Braun 22:02
Correct. And some of the some of the stems have multiple bands per shoot, and some of them only have one. And the problem with this line of research is that there are so many potential variables, that it’s really hard to keep track of them all. Right, so we can design an experiment where we have, you know, two node cuttings, and we have eight, eight stem for each treatment within yeah, for eight treatments. So we’ve actually got a three by three factorial. So it’s nine treatments. But then you get to the plant and you say this plant doesn’t have enough stems to do that with. And so you alter the design on that plant. But you know, each individual stem itself is unique. So I’m regarding this year as kind of the let’s make all our mistakes this year, but get a ballpark idea of what works. And then we’ll hold it down next year when hopefully we’ll have funding for graduate students to do it. Because it really does need to be a graduate project.
JASON FISCHBACH 23:14
I’m glad you’re doing this work, not me. I mean, this technique is intriguing, because instead of getting, let’s say, you know, 30, plants max, if all those shoots were to layer, you might be getting a couple hundred. Right? If all those cuttings take?
Lois Braun 23:35
If it works. Now here’s the deal. The banding, when we did the banding last week, Mark said, this is just as miserable as mound layering, which was exactly my reaction when I heard about the method, I actually don’t think it is quite as miserable because you’re working, potentially you’re working six inches above ground level instead of at ground level. But it’s, it’s nearly as bad. And so Mark and I are both excited about the idea whether this is realistic or not of seeing if we can get stems from the canopy to root when I did stem cutting work years ago, actually, I had better success with canopy sucker canopy shoots than I did with crown suckers. But there were other factors that might explain that. So if we can get canopy sucker shoots to work, then that’ll eliminate the stoop factor, which will be huge. But one thing we’ve already figured out is that to do that, we won’t be able to do it from just any plant because most of the stems at the canopy level are not suitable for the projects. That’s because they have not at developing nuts at the apex of the stem. And we could pluck those off, which would be a lot of work. But we don’t know in terms of the plant hormones, what through that might have an influence, but generally the ones that have nuts developing on them are shorter and not not likely to be as effective for for stem cuttings as ones that are purely vegetative. But to manage a plant for vegetative stem production would involve pruning it, probably pruning it pretty heavily. Sure, but because of my previous hedging trials, I know how we can do that pretty quickly and effectively.
JASON FISCHBACH 25:52
Yeah. Well, regardless, it seems to me like any of these methods that have, you know, low tech, high labor propagation, are probably best suited as a means to generate a lot of stock plants that can be then grown in a greenhouse on a bench at, you know, at chest height, where then you can use that as your source of stem cuttings rather than doing all this in the field. Hopefully it works. So moving on to other projects, rumor has it you all have potted a boatload of seedlings. Is that true and where did they come from?
Lois Braun 26:31
Ah, ha, ha. These were controlled cross seedlings. It’s a third year in a row, we did controlled cross seedlings this year. No, actually, let me back up. We did controlled cross seedlings this year for the we did controlled crosses this year for the third time. And our controlled crosses were this year, the objective was not so much to get seeds, because we’ve got more seeds and seedlings, and we have space for in the field. But it was to test compatibility, pollination compatibility, once we get the seeds, then we’ll figure out what to do with them. The seeds in the greenhouse were from our second year of crosses. And they were basically to fill out some of the feeling requirements for Scott Brainard. Genomics work, but we gave that seed to Scott and his team to grow out of the, but we’re growing out the remaining seeds. And some of those are crosses of Midwest hybrids, top Midwest hybrids by other top Midwest hybrids. But a lot of them are crosses between Midwest hybrids and Rutgers material. And then we’ve also got a few crosses between our top Midwest hybrids and our putatively top hybrids from Oregon State, the ones that are growing in at Rosemount. So in other words, these would be backcrosses between let me see let’s do the math. We’ve got high our hybrids, which are 50% Americana, 50%. European. And then we’ve got the crosses that we made between those and Oregon State materials, which would be 75%. European, and now we’re crossing the 75%. European, with the 50% European material, and I think the math comes out to the progeny should be 67% American and 33% European, something like that. So I’m excited about those. But the sad story is that two days after we moved them out of the greenhouse, they got hit by a hailstorm. So I was cleaning up the greenhouse when it happened. And so I was looking out the window at them frantically trying to figure out if there was any umbrella I could get that was big enough to protect them. When it was all over. It was like shredded lettuce on the ground underneath them. So we were feeling pretty despondent, we normally move them out of the greenhouse and give them a week to harden off before we start up potting them. But we gave them two weeks and they’re now shooting new leads. So I estimate we lost maybe 200 seedlings, but we had, I think 2800 remaining, we had about 3000 to start with. So we should still be okay, in a way it kind of did an early culling for. So now we’ve we filled our nursery and we’ve also got a whole bunch of potted layers in the nursery too. So we’ve, we’re busy.
JASON FISCHBACH 30:31
Yeah. Sounds like it, Steffen, you’ve been listening to us blabber on. Any questions that as a newbie to hazelnuts and haven’t worked with it really, at all. Anything intriguing. You’ve heard?
Steffen Mirsky 30:44
Yeah. Yeah, like you said, I’m, I’m just learning here. But it’s it sounds like propagation is one of the main challenges with hazelnuts. And I’m just curious on this new banding technique, and how much of an improvement that is over previous techniques.
JASON FISCHBACH 31:03
Yeah, I can chime in a little bit, the experience we’ve had or the theory anyways. So the rooting process takes a long time. So in the greenhouse with softwood cuttings, up in Bayfield, we’ve been working with, it’s about four weeks before, you see what’s called sticking a cutting in the medium and applying the rooting hormone. Four weeks later, you start to get some red, some of them, it might take eight weeks, right. So if you’re trying to do this on a commercial scale, that’s too slow, right, you’d like these things to grow roots really fast. So by putting a band on, in theory, it’s sort of acting like a pretreatment. And it’s keeping that stem dark, and etiolated. And then if you apply a little bit of rooting hormone, it can start that rooting process before you actually stick it in, or detach it from the plant sticking it in the running medium. The other part is that, when you’ve got a stem that starting to elongate, you’d like to get as many cuttings out of that as you can. So each node a cutting, but they have to be at the right growth stage. Right. So the the bud has to be well enough developed so that it’ll grow once or start to grow once you’ve established roots on the stem below it. And the other part is, the stem itself can’t be too young or too old, otherwise, it doesn’t work very well. So the problem is with with long, long stem is the middle nodes, or inner nodes usually are perfect, but then the shoot tips are too young and the stuff below is too old. So if you put bands on the bottoms of those stems, you can keep those, those internodes more viable for stem cutting while you wait for the rest of the internodes to mature. Plus, you’ve got lots of time for that bud to mature, and it’s more likely to grow once you’ve stuck the cutting. So that’s the theory. Is it worth the extra labor and cost? Who knows? That’s what we’re trying to find out. But it’s a technique that can be used in other other woody plants. And it’s not really been tried that we know of in hazelnuts, certainly not with our varieties.
Lois Braun 32:59
It has actually been tried in hazelnuts by Brandon Miller’s major professor, but not hybrid hazelnuts.
JASON FISCHBACH 33:08
With European hazelnuts?
Lois Braun 33:10
It may have been American hazelnuts. I don’t remember I’d have to look back at that paper.
JASON FISCHBACH 33:14
Did it work? Must’ve.
Lois Braun 33:18
Yeah, it did. And then beyond rooting, the next step is having the the stem continue to grow. Actually, that’s key. Rooting alone is not enough. You got to have the plants survive and thrive after that.
JASON FISCHBACH 33:33
And do it in time before it goes dormant. survive the winter. Well, Steffen, anything else?
Steffen Mirsky 33:42
Oh, so many questions. I’d love to see this in practice. I’m having a hard time visualizing what the band looks like and how long these stem cuttings are. And I think it’d be helpful just to go out into the field and actually see it being done.
JASON FISCHBACH 33:58
Which reminds me, Lois, you and Mark, always forget to take pictures. So take pictures.
Lois Braun 34:05
We are attempting that. When Less is along, he’s much better at remembering to take pictures than we are.
JASON FISCHBACH 34:11
Yeah, good. Good. Well, this has been great. Thanks, Lois.
Steffen Mirsky 34:18
All right. Well, Jason, now that we’ve had the opportunity to hear about all the cool projects that Lois and Mark at the University of Minnesota have been doing with hazelnuts, it’d be great to get updates from you to hear about what you’ve got going on. So why don’t you just go ahead and just take it away.
JASON FISCHBACH 34:36
Yeah, thanks for the opportunity to to give an update. So I’ve got four projects that we’ve been working on. Right now. These days. My focus is all hazelnut propagation, trying to make copies of our best plants. And as you may know, tissue culture has not been working. And our other method of of mound layering works and it’s working really well for some varieties. Not all but some But it’s super slow and super labor intensive at least the way we’re doing it. We don’t have big stool beds set up with automation, everything’s by hand and relatively small numbers. So anyway, we’ve been looking for other methods and so stem cuttings have been tried over the years, but never really in our research program are here in the upper Midwest. So we in stem cuttings, you got to start with stock plants. Stock plants would be your vigorous actively growing ideally juvenile plants that you can harvest stem cuttings from softwood or hardwood, but in our case softwood cuttings, then you root those cuttings and get them to grow and that can make copies. So we had to start with stock plants. And we’ve, we’ve got stocked by us for two methods one, we get them from the mound layering, and then we’ve been making our own stock plants with grafting. Instead of grafting, one bud onto a mature rootstock, we’ve actually been seed layer grafting it’s called our seed grafting where we graft a one bud cutting from a plant in the field. Let’s take take one that works well Stape N76, is the breeding id, take one bud cutting and we can graft that onto a seed that’s just sprouted the seeds like you know, a couple days old, it’s sprouted in the hypocotyl it looks like a bean sprout. You graft that on there, you transplant the seedling, you grow it and then the sign on little piece of budwood that you you grafted on grows. Then if it grows tall enough and long enough, you can actually put that piece of stem as a stem cutting and we try to method what you’d call air layering into a cube plug. It’s like a peat moss plug in and it didn’t really work which is okay because it doesn’t necessarily have to grow on its own roots to be a stock plant. As long as we’re only harvesting tissue from that original scion stem, then we’ve got stem cuttings, so we’ve got a couple 1000 stock plants that we made this spring that are in the greenhouse actively growing and that’ll serve as our base material for stem cuttings next year. The advantage here is we went from like one plant to a couple of 1000 versus mound layering, it’s just like, each year it’s one to like 20. And so now with stem cuttings, we can even further that multiplication rate. So we’ve also been doing some work with soft stem cuttings, we’re getting good success with running close to 80-90% on some genotypes, and now we wait to see if they’ll regrow their buds. Because these are one node cuttings, meaning they’ve got one internode one node, that’s where the bud is and where the leaf is attached. And then in that axle, the leaf is the bud and if that bud doesn’t grow that cuttings worthless, so that’s the that’s the second part of the process, get that little piece of internode the stem through it and then get the bud to grow. So we’ll know more here in a while. The other thing we’ve been working on are what are we call our joint performance trials. These we’ve taken the top selections from our breeding program from the Grimo breeding program in Ontario. We have selections from the Rutgers breeding program that are pure avellana that may or may not be hardy for our region, and then some other top selections from other breeders, growing them in common sight. So at the same location, and we’ve got six locations established and then we have a subset of smaller on-farm trials that typically just have the selections from our breeding program. These are important because it’s going to tell us how they’re performing across a range of environments to give growers more confidence to plant this material once it’s more widely available, so it’s a lot of maintenance weed control, mulch watering. So far so good. We’ve had rain but we’re ready to water. Last year the we had our first real data collection or first harvest are finally old enough. The oldest plants were planted in 2017. So last year, we had pretty good yield data from the Grimo plants. Those are the first ones that went in and Northern Blaze. Hands down the best plant so far, in our trials from the Grimo selections, the selections from our program and Rutgers and others are not yet bearing because they were added later. So once we get those, then we can really compare everything but so that’s a big piece of our project these days keeping those things going.
Steffen Mirsky 39:09
Yeah. Sorry to interrupt. So how many years of of data collection do you expect to do on these before you publish any results?
JASON FISCHBACH 39:17
Yeah, so we we publish annually. So growers can follow along and see how they perform. We definitely encourage them if they’re making planting decisions to wait for three good years of data. You know, Northern Blaze did great last year. It looks like it’s going to do well this year. So far. Lots of flowers. But you know, three years of data is usually enough to say yeah, this is this is real.
Steffen Mirsky 39:40
And where can people go to find your results?
JASON FISCHBACH 39:43
www.midwesthazelnuts.org. That’s the the one stop shopping the portal for all things hazelnuts in the Midwest. And there’s a whole section about buying plants and in that section there’s the publication’s reporting on yields from these, these trials or performance from these trials. There’s also a mailing list you can sign up for at that website www.midwesthazelnuts.org. And then when new publications like that come out, you get a notification and you’re the first to know.
Steffen Mirsky 40:12
Awesome. Well, that’s exciting. I’m looking forward to seeing some results.
JASON FISCHBACH 40:17
Yeah. Okay, so the other part of clusters, so we’ve been trying to provide outreach education to growers. So most of who we work with are beginning growers, who are interested in hazelnuts. Some are some people are really passionate about hazelnuts. But to be successful, they need good information. They need good support, they need good technical service. And that’s what we try to provide through our grower clusters. So we’ve got seven of them across the Upper Midwest. Each cluster has a cluster coordinator, who leads the the outreach, education and networking. And it’s a good place if if somebody’s interested in hazelnuts to get started and meet other growers. You know, it’s one thing to learn from us. But we know that growers learn from their peers a lot too. And so being able to go see a real life hazelnut planting and the owner operator and learn what it takes is is invaluable. So we try to make that happen. In Wisconsin, there are three clusters. There’s Northwest Wisconsin that I coordinate, there is the Central Wisconsin area that’s coordinated by Regina Hirsch. And the Driftless region, which includes most of southwestern Wisconsin would be a David Bruce with the Savanna Institute. So if you’re interested, as a grower, anywhere in the Midwest, go to our website, go to the grower resources, and you’ll find a whole page about these cluster coordinators. Get on their mailing list so you can get connected to the network and start start learning. And then finally, what we’ve been working on is the hazelnut processing. We got started with this years and years ago, because we gotta remember, there is no nut industry in Wisconsin, or for the Upper Midwest for that matter. And so it’s not a matter of a grower or growing hazelnuts, and then they just take their hazelnuts to the processor. Processors don’t exist. You need crackers, cleaners, you need licensed facilities, sorters all this stuff. And we’re kind of stuck as growers, as beginning growers, because we don’t really have enough hazelnut production to justify buying all this expensive equipment. And yet, without that equipment, we can’t get hazelnuts to market. So there’s the chicken and the egg problem. So we stepped in playing our role at the university as sort of a an incubator or an entrepreneur support economic development type agency, if you will, and built the hazelnut UMHDI hazelnut processing accelerator, which includes a processing incubator, so we call it a pilot facility up in Ashland. So we’ve built that out. And financing equipment over the years, and we finished our processing. Boy back the end of February, we did about 10,000 pounds this year. And we’ve gotten way faster. Last year, we did like or the year before we did like 4000 pounds. And we it took us utill June. Right. So now we’re we’re we’re pretty much we feel like we’re fast enough that it’s it’s economically viable. And it’s still subsidized such that in 2022, that crop, you can bring up to Ashland and have it turned into a saleable kernel at just the cost of the Northland College’s facility fee, because we actually use a shared kitchen or a processing facility on Northland College’s campus, and they charge us a use fee to use it. But that’s it, you don’t have to pay for the equipment, you have to pay for labor.
Steffen Mirsky 43:32
So any grower throughout the state of Wisconsin can take their harvest up there and have it processed, etc.
JASON FISCHBACH 43:37
We’ve had growers in Minnesota and folks from up of Michigan. So there’s folks that are, you know, it’s a great service. Because if you had to build this on your own, and especially if you’re trying to meet food code, so you can sell in Wisconsin, you’re talking hundreds of 1000s of dollars to build this kind of setup,
Steffen Mirsky 43:55
Is there a certain window when people have to bring up their crop?
JASON FISCHBACH 44:00
Well, the nice thing about hazelnuts is they can be stored. You know, some people have said they’ve started for two years and they’re still taste good. We usually recommend get them cracked and cleaned and sold within six months, or you know, have really good cold storage to keep them fresh, because hazelnuts have a lot of oil, and that oil can oxidize and go rancid. So you don’t really want them sitting around that long. So generally, you know if you got to get them picked and dried and out of the husk, that usually by middle to the end of October is when we start processing and then we’ll continue through the winter months. Generally because we don’t have really great storage at the Northland facility. We want to get everything cracked and out of there before the humidity comes in the spring in the warm temperatures. So that’s that’s generally our our window.
Steffen Mirsky 44:49
That’s a great service.
JASON FISCHBACH 44:52
Yeah. So that’s what we’ve been up to the last, you know, a couple of months and going forward. It’s just a lot of field maintenance and then when we get in into the fall data collection. We got all these trial plants, we got to harvest and collect the data, report the data, all that stuff.
Steffen Mirsky 45:07
Great. Well, those are some really exciting things going on. And I look forward to seeing the results of the evaluations from this year. And I hope to visit your processing facility sometime, as well.
JASON FISCHBACH 45:22
For sure. Anybody’s welcome whenever. Just call me or email me to to get a scheduled tour and show you around and hopefully bring the nuts up in the fall and then process.
Steffen Mirsky 45:33
Cool. Well, thanks for the update, Jason. Really appreciate it.
JASON FISCHBACH 45:36
Steffen Mirsky 45:38
So with that, I’d like to thank our guests, Mark Hamann and Lois Brown from the University of Minnesota, as well as Jason Fischbach, my co-host from UW Madison, for joining us today and giving us updates on their work regarding hazelnuts. And thanks to all of you as well for listening in. We look forward to bringing you another episode of The Cutting Edge podcast very soon.
JASON FISCHBACH 46:13
Brought to you by the University of Wisconsin Madison, Division of Extension.