Upper Midwest Hazelnut Development Initiative

The UMHDI is ten years old in 2017!  Read our 10-Year Progress Report to learn what has been accomplished and what more needs to be done.

The purpose of the Upper Midwest Hazelnut Development Initiative is to support the growth and commercialization of the hazelnut industry in the Upper Midwest through grower support, targeted research, and technology transfer.  Download the Upper Midwest Hazelnut Strategic Plan developed in 2007 to learn more about the Initiative.

The Work of the UMHDI

Supporting Growers Through Outreach Education

Surveys to date have identified 130 hazelnut growers in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa with nearly 135 acres of production.  To meet the needs of these early-adopter growers, UMHDI partners conduct field days, conferences, and other training programs.  Field days are typically offered in late-summer and through the fall to coincide with harvest and processing.  The annual Upper Midwest Hazelnut Growers Conference is held every year the first full weekend of March.  Providing technical assistance to growers is a key part of commercializing hazelnuts as a profitable and sustainable crop.

Identifying Select Hybrids From On-Farm Plantings

Early-adopter hazelnut producers in the Upper Midwest are growing hybrid seedlings derived from crosses between European, Beaked, and American hazelnuts.  UMHDI researchers are helping find the best of these plants and evaluate them in replicated germplasm trials across the region.  The hope is some of these plants have the yield, kernel quality, plant form, winter hardiness, and disease resistance necessary for a commercially vialbe cultivar for the Upper Midwest.  To help ensure development of a diversity of locally-adapted germplasm, UMHDI growers are involved in the plant evaluation process through the Hazelnut Improvement Program (HIP).

 Unlocking the Potential of American Hazelnut

The extensive wild populations of American hazelnut (Corylus americana) in Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota offer an opportunity to develop cultivars from native plant material.  UMHDI researchers have made initial selections from these populations and are working to evaluate them in replicated performance trials while also making controlled crosses for development of future cultivars.  With tremendous genetic diversity to work with, it is possible hazelnut cultivars could come straight from the wild as has happened with other food species native to North America, such as cranberry and blueberry.

Facilitating Infrastructure, Market, and Product Development

The Upper Midwest's hazelnut industry is driven primarily by early adopter growers with small but expanding plantings.  With strong consumer demand the growers are working to develop processing technology and grower-owned processing businesses to maximize returns.  The partners of the UMHDI are helping with scaling-up the industry to realize the full potential of hazelnuts.

Establishing Best Management Practices

Most cultivated hazelnuts in the Upper Midwestare grown as multi-stemmed shrubs in hedgerows similar to highbush blueberries.  Projects are underway to develop best management practices for establishement, fertilization, renewal pruning, and pest management.  The hedgerow production system has great potential for use in conservation plantings that deliver economic returns AND improved soil and water quality.

Developing Propagation Protocols

Development of a commercial hazelnut industry depends on low-cost propagation techniques that can generate vigorous and low-cost nursery plants.  Hazelnut has proven to be difficult to propagate, particularly American hazelnut.  UMHDI researchers have developed mound-layering protocols and are working to develop suitable protocols for stem cuttings and micro-propagation.