Oregon growers are rebounding after devastating ice storm in February 2021 that bowed and broke hazelnut trees throughout the Willamette Valley.
The state’s hazelnut growers provide 99 percent of the crop grown in the United States, but despite the damage from the storm, the growers saw a record harvest in 2021—in large part because seed crop farmers who transitioned to hazelnuts saw their first harvests, according to KOIN-6.
The ice storm bent hazelnut trees to the ground, cracking bark and splitting trunks, but after temperatures warmed, many rebounded, springing back and continuing to grow nuts. Others needed to be cut back or removed entirely. In some cases, the loss of the tree canopy allowed more sunlight into the orchards, increasing the nut yield.
Nik Wiman, an orchard specialist at Oregon State University, said newer varieties of hazelnut trees proved more resilient in the ice storm as well as to diseases. Farmers who had to replant old orchards destroyed by the ice will need to wait for the harvest as the trees mature slowly.
Some Oregon farmers who sought federal reimbursement for damaged crops under the Tree Assistance Program had difficulty receiving help, in large part because they needed to prove they lost more than 15 percent of their trees. However, some damaged but resilient hazelnut trees survived, even if only a sucker remained.
Now the farmers face another problem—high costs for fertilizers and supply chain issues. Nutrient costs have tripled, Wiman said, and farmers may need to increase prices to cover the extra costs without alienating the customer base.
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