Late Again...

The past year has been one of constant change and struggle for us. For the most part, the changes have been for the good, but keeping up with them has left no time for what most businesses would consider "standard practices" (stuff like getting newsletters and catalogs out on time, and maybe getting phone messages answered in the same month they arrive).

What Happened To The Spring '95 Root & Branch and Catalog?

Basically, before we could get the catalog printed, we found we were already sold out of this year's hazel seedlings because of standing commitments to research oriented plantings: getting a catalog out became less urgent, and the time necessary to put the newsletter together just never appeared.

The New Growing System

After having struggled with our trial systems of growing seedlings in the greenhouse, we decided that some drastic changes were in order. Keeping these broad-leafed seedlings watered in their tightly packed greenhouse quarters proved to be not only impractical, but actually impossible. Mortality was over 25%, from under-watering and from root rot in those that were chronically over-watered.

Luckily, Heidi Doering was working here last summer, and having just returned from Holland, working for flower growers, she had seen the state-of-the-art. systems they use. She suggested we investigate "ebb-flow" systems, which water the plants from the bottom up. We did, and decided to put one in. Installing the new tables took a lot of time and energy (and money), but they immediately showed they are worth it.

The Seedlings Grew Twice As Fast As Last Year

And stronger and healthier to boot, but we weren't ready for them. We had to strain to keep chores done ahead of the sprinting seedlings. We wound up growing plants on tables that were still being put together. Time we thought we would have for other tasks, like communications, and sometimes sleeping, just disappeared. It felt like the equivalent of having the cows jump their fences, day after day.

So, We Tried To Launch A Real Office. (Still Trying.)

Clearly, we need an office. Those of you familiar with our non-standard life style will appreciate the difficulty in running a business office out of our log cabin. (How many secretaries do you know who are willing to ski to work ?)

Nonetheless, with the help of a good old friend, Rich O'Connor, we found a new friend, Trish Thompson, who was willing to take on the task, temporarily. She did a wonderful job of unburying, straightening, organizing and setting up, but alas, found she had to leave us sooner than expected, in April, rather than September. It took a month to find a replacement, and then the new secretary "didn't work out". Once again, phone messages and letters are piling up (!!) while we still have to deal with thousands of plants that demand our attention right now, today.

We will try again, but it's going have to wait until after harvest. Everything Trish put together is still waiting, but finding and training a new secretary takes a lot of time, more than we have just now. Your patience is greatly appreciated.


This Issue: Short & Quick

There is so much to tell, so much going on, that it is just not possible to fit it all in to a regular issue, and we're in hurry now to at least let you know about the upcoming field day. The news items inside are quite condensed, so we can actually get this # out of the computer. At least they'll tell you the basics, and we will fill in some of the details in the next issue. I have hopes that in the next few months we will make real progress on the office aspects of the business, and expect (seriously!) to get the next issue of Root & Branch out before the end of 1995. Philip A. Rutter

Inside:New Plantings; Good Luck & Bad

Next Issue-Catalog for '96 Planting & More

Notes From Badgersett

Are Your Hazelnut Plants Growing Slowly?

Some of ours are. And reports from several of our customers tell us that an uncertain proportion of Badgersett seedlings from 1993 have been growing slower than they should in their first year or so.

Diagnosis of the situation is complicated by the fact that not all seedlings are behaving this way; quite a few plantings have had excellent survival and growth.

Contributing Factors seem to be Fall planting, sometimes without adequate acclimation, certain parent plants, and the fact that hazels appear to put most of their energy into their roots in their early years.

Another Factor may be that in the first greenhouse trials we made, we used "live" soil, ie. soil with a normal, complex micro-flora. The seedlings grew fine after transplantation. Like most plants, both chestnuts and hazels normally have symbiotic "mycorrhizal" fungi growing on their roots. When we scaled up to full greenhouse production, legally we had to shift to a "soil-less" medium (peat, essentially) so that we would not be shipping soil across state boundaries, which is generally forbidden to prevent spread of pests.

"Soil-less" planting media often do not contain the appropriate fungi for the needed symbiosis to be established; when plants without their fungal buddies get planted out into the real world, it may be a bit of a shock to them, and it may take extra time before the right relationships get established. This may be responsible for some of the slow growth. As of this year, we are taking pains to see that the right fungi are in the potting soil we use.

In Any Case, Take Heart- we've had some of these slow growers ourselves, and they do snap out of it in their second, or at latest third year. If they are not growing 12- 24" per year by that time, there is something uncongenial about the site.

Learning The Hard Way: pH 4.8 (ouch)

Attempting to economize on our fertilizer costs, we've been using one custom mixture (15-5-25) on both hazels and chestnuts for several years. Since the chestnuts definitely prefer an acid soil, and ours are commonly near neutral, at pH 6.5- 6.8, we have been using an acidifying fertilizer to slowly adjust the pH downward.

Apparently, in 1994 we hit a critical point in the buffering capacity of the soil, and one hazel row, G, our oldest and most productive row, (and most consistently fertilized) had dropped to a pH of 4.7-4.9 by mid season.

This explained why several bushes had been looking pale and sickly, and not responding to foliar nitrogen applications.

Most of the bushes looked fine, and they produced a very good crop anyway.

In fact, the nut size (per bush) was the largest we have ever recorded. We applied lime to the row in September, the bushes put on plenty of male catkins, and the crop in 1995 is generally larger than 94- ie.,. the bushes were not damaged, nor even slowed down by this.

Key to Consistent Hazelnut Crops:

Fall Fertilization. Even in Minnesota!

As a major part of the research funded by our grant from the Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture's Alternative Fuels and Sustainable Agriculture Program, in 1993 we undertook a controlled experiment regarding the effect of Fall applications of nitrogen on both cold hardiness and nut bearing in the subsequent year.

In one of those rare but highly appreciated useful twists of fate, the winter following the fertilization was the coldest in 10 years; we measured -38°F in January, a convincing test of cold hardiness.

In brief; 5 different rows had 3 different treatments applied to parts of each row; 0 nitrogen, 10 lbs N/1000 ft2, and 20 lbs N/1000 ft2. The 15-5-25 fertilizer was applied on September 1, but no rain occurred to carry it into the ground until Sept. 13.

Results: Zero effect on cold hardiness- although this was an extreme winter! Unclear until the '94 harvest was the other effect: a marked increase in nut bearing by those bushes which received Fall fertilization, and, within the limits of this test; the more fertilizer, the more nuts.

The effect was so unequivocal that in Fall '94 all our hazels were fertilized at the heavier rate with 15-5-20 (non-acidifying) on Sept. 12, with 0.33" of rain overnight. The following winter was relatively mild. Now, in Fall '95, our crops are strongly consistent with the observation that Fall fertilization = better nut crops.

In addition, we think we can see a remaining effect from the original experiment: those groups receiving less Fall fertilizer in '93 still show lower crops and decreased over-all bush vigor.

For most woody plants, Fall fertilization is a disaster, encouraging late tender growth which freezes back, and often a failure of the plant to "harden off". This is clearly not the case for these hybrid hazels.

Hazelnut Weevils Get Serious

In past years you may have heard us say that we've always had a few weevils in the hazels, but that they had never presented an economically significant problem and, that some day, they might.

1994 was the first year hazel weevils caused enough damage in our plantings that a commercial grower would want to take some action to control them.

In 1993, the average weevil infestation had dropped to a very low 1-2%; in 94, the average rose to 15%, with some bushes losing as much as 30% of their production to weevils. This was enough damage that it cost us real money, in lost seed that we certainly could have used.

This year we are not taking any action to control the weevils, in line with our research goals of discovering what their population will do naturally. We can already tell that unlike other years following high weevil numbers, the population has not crashed this time, but remains fairly high.

There is a fair possibility that the high weevil populations may be associated with the critically low pH noted last year, and the noticeably poorer health of the hazels in that row.

Several excellent possibilities for control methods exist, and more may be developed. Standard chemical sprays can be very effective against these weevils, and several times, we have seen weevil populations crash even though nuts were plentiful, indicating the possible existence of natural antagonists (diseases or parasites).

We don't find this first serious pest discouraging or surprising. All crops have such problems, which are routinely dealt with. We can't expect these nut crops to behave any differently.

NNGA Touring Badgersett

The 1995 Annual Meeting of the Northern Nut Growers Association will be touring here August 16th. We are looking forward to seeing about 120 old friends that day. Welcome! and Come Back Soon


Woody Ag Research Plantings Made

Quite a few significant plantings have been made in 1994 and '95, in several states and under the auspices of several different institutions. Some of these plantings are on grounds usually closed to the public, but you may be able to make arrangements to visit under the right circumstances.

Space being short in this issue, we can only present a basic list of sites. We will try to keep you up to date on happenings at these sites in later issues, and will try to list dates of any tours or open-houses well in advance so interested folks can attend.

Forest Resource Center, MN.

The FRC is just outside Lanesboro, MN, not far from Badgersett. Approximately 200 hybrid hazels, and 50 hybrid chestnuts, planted in early spring of 1994 and 95. Mostly planted as windbreak, as part of their Hedgerow Project.

Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.

On the grounds of the US Army base. Approximately 2,500 hybrid hazels, representing a genetic cross-section of breeding lines at Badgersett, planted in the summer of 1994, in contour lines designed to facilitate picking. In cooperation with The Center for Alternative Plant & Animal Products (CAPAP) of the U. of Minnesota.

U.S. Air Force Reserve Base,

Minneapolis, MN.

On the grounds of the AF Reserve base adjacent to the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.. Approximately 850 hybrid hazels, representing a genetic cross-section of breeding lines at Badgersett, planted in late summer of 1994, as wind break and living snow fence, on difficult soil. A closed base. In cooperation with CAPAP.

Offut Air Force Base,

Omaha, NE.

On the grounds of the old SAC Headquarters AF Base south of Omaha. Approximately 750 hybrid hazels, representing a genetic cross-section of breeding lines at Badgersett, planted in late summer of 1994, as screen and windbreak around athletic fields. Hard soil.. A closed base. In cooperation with CAPAP.

Marshall-Beltrami SWCD,

Grygla, MN.

350 hybrid hazels, planted in mid spring of 1994.


Blue Earth County SWCD,

Mankato, MN.

100 hybrid hazels in a highly maintained demonstration, planted in late spring of 1995.


Limestone Bluffs RC&D,

Maquoketa, IA.

300 hybrid hazels and 100 chestnuts, planted as a demonstration in a contour crop buffer strip. Planted late spring 1995.


Hiawatha Valley RC&D,

Rochester, MN.

110 hybrid hazels planted late spring 1995, at their plant materials demonstration site south of Rochester.

·Washington Island, WI, Plants Hazels For Community Sludge Handling

In a new departure for us, about 550 hybrid hazels, representing a genetic cross-section of breeding lines at Badgersett. were planted on land provided for spreading community sludge, as an alternative to more expensive standard treatment methods. Late summer 1995, planted in rows about 20' apart, 4' between plants; may eventually reach 20 acres in extent

The community is interested not only in the ability of the fibrous root systems to absorb waste nutrients, but in the possibility of developing the nut crop as an alternative income for the island's permanent residents. The Univ. of Wisconsin, Green Bay, works with the community in monitoring the efficacy of their innovative waste handling methods.


·The National Arbor Day Foundation, NE.

{See Back Cover}

2,400 hazels so far, eventually 9.5 acres in contour rows designed to allow machine picking when available. A long-term commitment to woody agriculture research in all its ramifications.


And More...

I'm sure I've forgotten a few in this quickly assembled list- we'll keep you informed in future issues.


'95 Badgersett Field Day!


Saturday, Aug. 26th is The Day. Once again we will be running tours all day, starting at 9 AM. We expect to have a lunch wagon on the grounds again, and hope you will plan to spend some real time with us.

More to see than ever-

· World's only Mouse, Woodchuck, Raccoon, and Woodpecker-Proof Shadehouse! This Spring we bit the financial bullet and built a much needed shadehouse, so that the seedlings we send out are now fully acclimated before you receive them. This building will also serve as a harvest building. We're already picking the first hazelnuts

The Hazel Maze is 4- 5' tall, and has several bushes with nuts on this year. For children, it is now functional, and fun!

The new ebb-flow greenhouse growing system has proven amazingly effective! Both hazels and chestnuts have grown faster than we even though was possible. We have chestnut seedlings this year that are 45" tall at 4 months of age, and robust. (We'll have a few of these chestnuts available for sale during the Field Day, though we don't recommend Fall planting north of here. Sorry, no hazels available.)

Both hazelnut and chestnut crops are heavy this year, we hope because we are learning to fertilize properly. Many of the young rows are bearing heavily.

Several 3 & 4 year old chestnuts are bearing heavy crops. They are hard to believe, until you see them.

Probable herbicide drift damage from adjacent row crops on many of the hazels. It is visible, likely economically important, but the plants are tolerating it very well. Chestnuts show no damage; they were not leafed out at the time of the event.

Wind damage to several chestnuts with weak crotches. They've been on the ground for a month or so, and are actually going to ripen the nuts on the broken branches!

Seguin-hybrid chestnuts in the shadehouse with 3 (maybe 4) series of nuts.


National Arbor Day Foundation Plants 9+ Acres

Of Badgersett Hybrid Hazels

After a miserably wet Spring, and a planting date pushed back several times by ground too wet to prepare, on June 16 the first of a planting of some 2,400 hazel seedlings went into the ground in front of the National Arbor Day Foundation's Lied Con-ference Center in Nebraska City, NE.

The story of how this planting began goes back to 1993, the year of the great Midwestern Floods. The lovely cherry orchard that then occupied this site proved unable to stand the constantly wet soil, leaving a few fond memories behind, and a vacancy aching to be filled. (When you visit the Center, notice the door handles- they were molded from cherry branches picked in this orchard.)

Searching for an alternative, Arbor Day Foundation President John Rosenow visited Badgersett, at the suggestion of American Forests President Don Willeke, and saw the hazelnut bushes growing next to cattails in our "wetland" planting. He knew they could take an occasional wet year.

When it finally stopped raining, it stopped entirely. As soon as the ground could be prepared, we started planting, but the loess soil that had been soft and squishy a few days before now had the consistency (it seemed!) of freshly set concrete. Getting the plants into the ground became heavy, hot work, even with a crew of 9-12 sticking at it all day long.

The temperature went to 90°+, and the wind came up to 20 mph, for several days- lousy conditions for planting trees! The entire crew at Arbor Day Farm worked overtime to keep the seedlings watered, but quite a few of them were stressed to the point of dropping their leaves.

The seedlings survived, though it later hit 105°, and those that lost leaves have mostly leafed out again; last report is that they are doing ok, in spite of the tough start.

This is the beginning of a serious commitment by the Arbor Day Foundation to woody agriculture research, in addition to all the other agroforestry projects they are putting into practice. The beautiful new Lied Conference Center (you have to see it!) is not only heated with wood, from their on site fuel-wood plantations, it is air-conditioned with wood, too.

We envision the day when you will be able to visit there, eat various hazelnut dishes at the Conference Center restaurant, and be kept warm, or cool, by hazelnut shell fuel. It will take a few years, but we are inclined to bet it will be sooner than you think!

This is one planting you don't need special permission to visit; whenever you are in the area, Arbor Day Farm is a place eminently worth visiting, for anyone interested in trees and the future of our planet.