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Hazelnut Production in Chile

Chile is the largest hazelnut producer in the Southern Hemisphere. Hazelnut cultivation covers about 13,000 ha between the region of Maule, central zone (Talca, Linares, Chillan) and the south zone of the country including the regions Araucanía, Los Ríos and Los Lagos (Temuco, Valdivia and Puerto Varas with an additional 800-1000 ha being added yearly) .
Historically this species was introduced in South Chile by European emigrants, in particular Germans, Italians, and Swiss, principally in Araucania, Los Rios and Los Lagos regions. The hazelnut industry in Chile is very young (Ellena, 2010). The first important commercial orchards were established in 1990 (100 ha) in the Curico and Talca areas with the introduction of a great amount of plants of ‘Tonda Gentile delle Langhe’, ‘Tonda di Giffoni’ and their pollinizers from Italy. Hazelnut plantings in Chile have increased strongly in the last 5 years and the crop is spreading, especially in Araucanía region (3000 ha).

This trend is accompanied by an important demand for nursery plant material and by innovative cultivation techniques. However Chilean production of European hazelnut is based mainly on two cultivars: ‘Chilean Barcelona’ a similar material to ‘Oregon Barcelona’ and ‘Tonda di Giffoni’ most appreciated Italian cultivars with round nut (Ellena et al., 2012). The first material is principally for in-shell market with a low percent kernel (39-40%) and the second for kernel market (industry process) with about 47% kernel and good kernel blanching.

In general, these cultivars are productive and adapted to the environmental conditions of central and south Chile. In research trials conducted per the Research Center INIA-Carillanca and commercial orchards both cultivars have shown a great production potential. Concerning the pollination, there is a large variety of pollinizers being established with uncertainty about their genetic compatibility. However, in the last years important progress has been achieved employing correct pollinizer cultivars and with research about artificial pollination on hazelnut.

In connection with the training system, the orchards were planted with multi-stemmed shrubs or multisystem bush and as a free single trunk (free vase), this last mainly for the ‘Barcelona’ cultivar, which shows also a high vigor compared to ‘Tonda di Giffoni’. Concerning the plant density, the orchards are planted with 460-500 tree/ha. In order to reduce the initial low cropping of young trees, the tendency to increase the plant density (667-800 trees/ha) has been proved to be positive.

Recently, studies realized by the Center INIA-Carillanca in south Chile show preliminary positive results in this matter, increasing the yields. Actually this research Center has begun a selection program to develop rootstocks in order to reduce height of trees and improve vegetative growth and yield performance, and lower sucker emission. The suckering is another important problem to resolve in growing hazelnut increasing the management cost and increasing probability of disease such as the bacterium Xanthomonas arboricola p.v. corylina (Miller and Bollen, 1964).

In recent years, a lot of research has been done by the INIA-Carillanca Center to improve the development and production of hazelnut orchards as: density plant, foliar fertilizer programs, soil management, irrigation, artificial pollination, pruning and pest management with integrated control (MIP). One of the principal problems in hazelnut orchards are Aegorhinus superciliosus (Guérin-Méneville) (Curculionidae) distributed in Chile from Maule region until Los Lagos region and Aegorhinus nodipennis (Hope) (Curculionidae) distributed from Maule region (central Chile) even Aysén region.

The Chilean hazelnut production is about 4500-5000 t destined principally to Europe, the United States and a smaller quantity is exported to South America and low quantities are employed for domestic market.
Important progress has been achieved with regards to the organization of growers for the selling of nuts and the building of a Plant Processing Industry in Araucania region, Gorbea area with an important national export company of nuts fruit “Pacific Nuts”. The aim of this association is to improve the trade of Chilean hazelnuts and to guarantee prizes to growers associated.

Reprinted from the ISHS

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