Battling hazelnut blight in the Willamette Valley

Back in September when J and I made a trip to Oregon (Portland and further south in the Willamette Valley), we got the chance to see lots and lots of hazelnut farms when we did a bit of winery hopping. So, I was especially interested to hear a story from NPR last week on how Oregon growers have been tackling hazelnut blight. As Deena Prichep reports,

Growers estimate that 99 percent of the United States’ crop comes from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Just a few years ago, the industry was on the verge of collapse due to a disease called Eastern filbert blight. Now, years of research have brought blight-resistant breeds to fruition.

The disease first hit the region in the late 1980s. Infected trees develop cankers, which gradually kill off the branches.

“It’s just like cancer for trees, there’s no real answer to it yet,” says Tanner Koenig, a young farmer who grew up fighting blight. “It’s just some of them have a 20-year lifespan left, some of them, it’s five. Some orchards, we’re taking trees out already.”

It’s an interesting and informative piece, so head here for the full print and audio versions of the story.

Peter McDonald with new hazelnut trees

Peter McDonald’s been growing hazelnuts at his farm outside Portland since the early 1970s. He’s recently re-planted some of his orchards with new, disease-resistant trees. Photo and caption by BBC World Service (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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