Eastern filbert blight was discovered in B.C. in 2003 and spread to Vancouver Island in 2015. Cases have been found in the Cowichan Valley this year. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Agriculture & food special: Farmers say ‘nuts’ to eastern filbert blight

A fungus has been decimating hazelnut orchards throughout B.C. for several years

A fungus has been decimating hazelnut orchards throughout B.C. for several years, reaching Vancouver Island and the Cowichan Valley more recently, but the provincial Ministry of Agriculture is taking steps to help growers battle it.

Eastern filbert blight was first noticed in B.C. in 2003, and arrived on Vancouver Island around 2015, doing devastating damage to the burgeoning hazelnut industry in the province. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Agriculture announced $300,000 in funding over the next three years to help growers replace hundreds of acres of dead and diseased orchards with EFB-resistant varieties.

“Hazelnut growers in B.C. have faced major setbacks over the past decade, but this funding will help regrow and revitalize a sector that has enormous possibilities,” Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham said. “This funding will help bring processing opportunities that add value to farmers, and offers consumers more B.C. products. My mandate includes Grow BC, and that includes hazelnuts.”

Grow BC was established to support the fruit and nut growers, and processors, to expand local food production and to help young farmers access land. Grow BC offers targeted programs, such as the Hazelnut Renewal Program, to make sure the people who are passionate about working in agriculture have opportunities to work within the sector.

BC Hazelnut Growers Association board of directors member Walter Esau was pleased with Popham’s announcement.

“This announcement is a very welcome and exciting step in the re-establishment and expansion of a promising industry in British Columbia,” he said. “The BC Hazelnut Growers Association has worked hard over the past decade to keep a once thriving industry alive, and with the help of the B.C. government, this is being made possible. We are excited about the future of hazelnuts in B.C., and welcome any enquiries about our industry.”

Darby Wade of Wade’s Hazelnut Farm in Chemainus will be among those welcoming the provincial program.

“We just discovered [EFB] this year,” Wade said. “We’re in the process of evaluating the damage. We will likely be replacing a number of trees. That’s the most effective solution.”

It is possible to control EFB to an extent by cutting back branches, but that’s not always the optimal solution. Growers can also use fungicides, many of which are acceptable even for organic farming.

“Most organic-certifying bodies will allow you to use them,” said Dr. Thom O’Dell, another member of the BCHGA board, who has operated his own nursery (Nature Tech Nursery in Courtenay) since 2010 and was a consulting biologist for a trial of new hazelnut varieties that finished in 2017.

EFB can effect producing trees, ornamentals and volunteer trees that spring up on their own, something hazelnut trees are particularly good at. The disease caused the yield in B.C. to drop from one million pounds to less than 30,000, although the industry is now climbing back out of that hole.

“There are hundreds of varieties of hazelnuts, but the old ones are particularly susceptible [to EFB],” O’Dell said. “And those were the ones widely planted.”

The new, EFB-resistant varieties are coming from a breeding program in Oregon, where the Willamette Valley produces 99 per cent of the U.S. crop and about three to five per cent the global crop. O’Dell believes the new varieties are very promising.

“The varieties we have right now are pretty good,” he said.

According to O’Dell, there are a lot of reasons hazelnuts make for a great crop in B.C., including their ease of harvesting, the province’s ideal climate and soil conditions, and the fact that the trees are efficient at sequestering carbon and the nuts serve as a high-quality alternative protein source.

“Hazelnuts are in demand,” he said. “They’re a great crop for part-time farmers.

“I’m really bullish on the crop. It’s got a lot going for it.”

 

Eastern filbert blight has devastated the hazelnut industry in B.C., dropping the annual yield from a peak of 1 million pounds to just 30,000 pounds. The industry is in a recovery process. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Just Posted

Robert scores two as Caps double up Nanaimo

Cowichan knocks off Island rivals 4-2 on Friday night

International Guitar Night back in Duncan for incredible night of guitar showmanship

Guitarists celebrate 19 years of touring by returning to Cowichan

Former Chargers helping VIU teams to successful seasons

Groenendijk sisters team up with undefeated Mariners

‘Be Our Guest!’ say the Medford Singers, as they present two concerts

It’s Disney time in Duncan and Lake Cowichan as this enthusiastic choir sings songs from the movies

Bulldogs a big part of football bowl games

Five Cowichan Bulldogs midget football players helped Team BC to a come-from-behind win in ABC Bowl

VIDEO: U.S. Congress to probe whether Trump told lawyer Cohen to lie

At issue is a BuzzFeed News report that about negotiations over a Moscow real estate project

Coming up in Cowichan: Anti-pipeline meeting; women’s shelter open house

Public meeting in Duncan to support pipeline protests A public meeting has… Continue reading

Charges upgraded against mother of murdered B.C. girl

Kerryann Lewis now faces first- rather than second-degree murder in the death of Aaliyah Rosa.

UPDATE: Injured firefighter in stable condition

Kelowna fire crews responded to a blaze at Pope’sGallery of BC Art & Photography on Friday

Rare ‘super blood wolf moon’ takes to the skies this Sunday

Celestial event happens only three times this century

Arrest made after historic B.C. church hit by arson

The fire at the 150-year-old Murray United Church in Merritt was considered a possible hate crime

B.C. dangerous offender in court for violating no-contact order, sends letter to victim

Wayne Belleville was shocked to see a letter addressed to him from his shooter, Ronald Teneycke

Man blames his loud car radio, sirens for crash with B.C. ambulance

Tribunal rejects bid to recoup ICBC costs after crash deemed 100-per-cent his fault

Ferry from Port Hardy to Bella Coola expected to set sail this summer

Its first in-service route will sail in central coast waters on May 18, 2019.

Most Read