Hazelnut trees good for environment and income

Tom Cannon, third generation of his family involved with Roughway Farm in Kent promoting nuts at a market day.

Hazelnut trees may reduce nitrogen leaching into waterways as well as provide an alternative income for farmers. That’s a message the Hazelnut Growers’ Association of New Zealand is keen to convey to farmers and landowners.

The association was planning a free workshop in Rotorua on April 24, to be addressed by Winston Churchill Memorial Trust fellow and hazelnut grower Tom Cannon of Kent, UK.

“However, because of the border restriction put in place by the New Zealand Government due to the Covid-19 virus, Tom, who was in Australia in mid-March, will be unlikely to be present in person at the April event,” says Paul.

“Even if he does come to NZ, he will be in isolation for 14 days. So, we are looking at other options, including doing it as a webinar type event.”

Paul says the association is keen for existing and potential growers to hear from Tom and to continue in its work to increase awareness of the hazelnut industry and increase the plantings of trees.

Hazelnut trees have been the subject of a Bay of Plenty Regional Council trial to assess the trees’ ability to help reduce nutrient leaching to waterways in the Rotorua Lakes catchment; and Paul says the added advantage is that they provide an income from the nuts they produce.

Tom Cannon wanted to visit NZ to both share his knowledge of growing hazelnuts and learn from New Zealand orchardists too.

Kent Cobnuts

He is the third generation involved in his family’s Roughway Farm in Kent, which operates an online business providing fresh produce such as cherries and Kent Cobnuts – a type of hazelnut traditionally grown in Kent – directly to customers.

In 2019, the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust awarded Tom a Churchill Fellowship, a research grant to investigate hazelnut production throughout the Northern and Southern hemispheres. In September 2019 he visited Turkey, China and the USA. This year he was set to visit New Zealand and Australia.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel, learn and meet so many interesting and knowledgeable people,” says Tom.

“In many ways, out of all the countries I am visiting, the NZ hazelnut industry is the most similar to the UK, and so there are lots of valuable lessons to be learnt.”

Growers association

In NZ, hazelnuts are grown from Waikato to Southland. The only organisation dedicated to supporting the hazelnut industry in NZ is the Hazelnut Growers’ Association of New Zealand, although many growers are also members of the NZ Tree Crops Association. As at August 2019, HGANZ membership stood at 81.

A 2017 survey of 43 members reported 67,585 trees planted, with a mean average orchard size of 1570 trees and median average 1000 trees. The survey also reported total yield of 53.5 tonnes in-shell from 39,000 trees.

New Zealand imported $58m of almonds, walnuts and other edible nuts in 2017, almost tripling the figures from 2008. Specifically, 250 tonnes of hazelnuts are imported per annum.
HGANZ has a website with ‘how to’ information and regulation assistance and a members-only section with research information. Newsletters with updated national and international information regarding the industry, upcoming events, reports on field days and other useful titbits are emailed to members. The association holds twice-yearly education weekends of presentations and field days and regional gatherings are held during the year.

To register your interest in the April hazelnut seminar, which will most likely be a webinar online event, contact Paul by email: paul@rehuaorchard.co.nz


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