Hybrid Hazelnut Consortium

Maine vacation horning farm
Thousands of young hybrid hazelnut plants are being field tested at NFS's Horning State Farm research facility near Plattsmouth, Neb.

Partnership Aims to Create New Major Crop

The Nebraska Forest Service is one of four members of the Hybrid Hazelnut Consortium which was formed with the goal of developing hazelnuts as a sustainable crop across Nebraska and much of the U.S. for food, animal feed and even biofuel.

Along with NFS, scientists at Oregon State University, Rutgers University, and Arbor Day Foundation are working to overcome the two major barriers preventing widespread hazelnut production: susceptibility to a fungal disease that kills some hazelnut plants and the ability to thrive in harsh weather conditions.

Through their collaboration, the Consortium is leveraging the intellectual resources and prior research investments of each institution. Together, they have more than 70 years of hazelnut breeding and research.

Among their significant findings to date:

  • Hazelnut plants require less water than annual crops
  • Hazelnut plants are drought resistant
  • Hazelnut plants can grow on sloping land and in marginal soils
  • Hazelnuts can be a high-yielding, dry-land crop

Researchers at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Industrial Agricultural Products Center also are studying hazelnut oil for both food oil and biofuel applications. Among their findings:

  • Hazelnuts can produce nearly twice the amount of oil per acre as soybeans
  • The physical and chemical properties of the oil make it substantially superior to soybean oil for culinary use and biodiesel fuel
  • A high-quality protein meal remains for animal feed after oil is extracted

Hazelnuts are a rich source of protein, vitamin E, folate, B vitamins and arginine, and are one of the best nut sources of heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Hazelnut oil is high in omega-9 and omega-6 fatty acids, making it a healthy cooking oil option.