The hazelnut program is developing a hazelnut tree variety that is well-adapted to the Northeast climate. Dr. Tom Molnar, hazelnut breeder, is overcoming challenges (i.e., Eastern Filbert Blight) facing regional agriculture through traditional breeding techniques. Dr. Molnar conducts valuable research that can result in the emergence of a new industry for New Jersey’s commercial growers and a new source of food for the Northeast. Rutgers hazelnut research is made possible by grant-funded projects and is conducted mainly within the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. This dual role between the experiment station and the school permits researchers to draw upon the strengths of both organizations to fulfill its mission in support of agriculture.
The hazelnut breeding program concentrates on the genetic improvement and study of hazelnuts (Corylus). Part of this work includes wide germplasm exploration, collection, and evaluation. A major aspect of the research is developing and characterizing genetic resistance to Eastern Filbert Blight, a disease which is the primary limiting factor of hazelnut culture in the eastern U.S. Breeding objectives in both woody ornamentals and nut crops emphasize selection for high levels of disease and pest resistance and cold hardiness.
The following are analyses that have been evaluated:
- Kernel percentage and crude kernel oil content in the top 200 genotypes
- In the top 25 performers, fatty acid content and types evaluated
- In the top 10 performers, clonally propagated and established a replicated yield trial
Dr. Tom Molnar and Dr. Joseph Goffreda, through Sun Grant and Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) projects, have investigated hazelnuts as a potential biodiesel feedstock. Production in the Northeast has been limited by the disease, Eastern Filbert Blight (EFB). A collection of hazelnuts at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, has over 5,000 hybrid plants with 200 identified that are well-adapted, productive, and resistant to this disease.
When Dr. Funk retired as a turfgrass breeder in 1996, he started a program of evaluating nut tree species as a new crop for New Jersey. Since then, Dr. Tom Molnar has continued this hazelnut breeding program and has planted over 10,000 nut trees at Adelphia, Hort Farm No. 3, and other NJAES research farms.
For more information, seeBulletin E368:
By: Megan Muehlbauer, John Capik, and Thomas J. Molnar