Chilean Hazelnut Production has exploded

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Chile is the largest hazelnut producer in the Southern Hemisphere. Hazelnut cultivation covers about 30,000 ha between the region of Maule, the central zone (Talca, Linares, Chillan) and the south zone of the country, including the areas 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, mainly Germans, Italians, and Swiss, principally in Araucania, Los Rios and Los Lagos regions. The hazelnut industry in Chile is very young. The first important commercial orchards were established in 1990 (100 ha) in the Curico and Talca areas with many plants of ‘Tonda Gentile delle Langhe’, and ‘Tonda di Giffoni’ and their pollinizers from Italy. Hazelnut plantings in Chile have increased enormously in the last 5 years, and the crop is spreading, especially in the Araucanía region (3000 ha).

This trend is accompanied by an important demand for nursery plant material and 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’ the most appreciated Italian cultivars with round nuts (Ellena et al., 2012). The first material is principally for the in-shell market with a low per cent kernel (39-40%), and the second for the 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. Both cultivars have shown great production potential in research trials conducted by the Research Center INIA-Carillanca and commercial orchards. Concerning pollination, a large variety of pollinizers are being established, with uncertainty about their genetic compatibility. However, in the last year, significant progress has been achieved by employing correct pollinizer cultivars and researching artificial pollination on hazelnut.

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

Recently, studies by the Center INIA-Carillanca in south Chile show preliminary positive results, increasing the yields. This research Center has begun a selection program to develop rootstocks to reduce trees’ height, 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 the probability of diseases 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 plants, foliar fertilizer programs, soil management, irrigation, artificial pollination, pruning and pest management with integrated control (MIP). One of the principal problems in hazelnut orchards is 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 17,200 plus tonnes, destined principally for Europe and the United States, and a smaller quantity is exported to South America. Low quantities are employed for the domestic market.

Significant progress has been achieved regarding the organization of growers for the selling of nuts and the building of a Plant Processing Industry in the Araucania region, Gorbea area, with an essential national export company of nuts fruit, “Pacific Nuts”. This association aims to improve Chilean hazelnuts’ trade and guarantee prizes to associated growers.

Reprinted from the ISHS and undated by GTSA News

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