Saturday, March 5, 2011

Food of the Future?

Closeup photo of brown hazelnuts
One way of approaching the problem of growing enough food without destroying topsoil is to grow perennial crops that don't require plowing each year.

The Pioneer Press today reported on a meeting of the Upper Midwest Hazelnut Growers Conference. The American native hazelnut has the potential to be such a crop, used for both food and fuel (the nuts are 60 percent oil).

There are obstacles to meeting that potential, of course. Hence the conference. According to reporter Richard Chin,

"Predation [from squirrels] is probably one of the most challenging aspects of growing hazelnuts," said Lois Braun, a research associate at the University of Minnesota.

Researchers from the U and University of Wisconsin are studying the nut. But right now, there isn't a single named hazelnut variety developed for Minnesota hazelnut growers, as apple growers have the Honeycrisp or the Haralson.
Like many other perennial edibles, research and plant breeding is needed to make them bigger and a better fit for farming techniques (especially coming up with a way to pick them with machines). The hazelnut, unlike some other perennials, doesn't need help in the taste department.

Photo from the Mast Tree Network page on hazelnuts.

No comments: