Continuing with recent tradition, Oregon State’s breeding program has released another new cultivar aimed at serving the blanched kernel market. Earlier harvest time and high shell-out percentage make this newcomer worth a second look.
New Kid on the Block
The McDonald hazelnut tree has a growth habit similar to Jefferson with an open, upright canopy allowing for light penetration and better air circulation. The open growth habit makes McDonald a grower friendly tree, requiring minimal pruning. Greater light penetration leads to increased nut set, nut size, and kernel size. This has definitely been the case with McDonald which has shown an exceptionally high shell-out percentage of 52%. Just for reference, Jefferson’s shell-out rate is only 45%. With processors hinting that they will pay more based on kernel weight than total nut weight in the future, this statistic shouldn’t be taken lightly. Because of its high shell-out rate, growers shouldn’t be discouraged that early nut yield data on McDonald places it slightly below Jefferson and Dorris in terms of tonnage per acre. Additionally, since Wepster, another OSU kernel market variety is recommend as a pollinizer for McDonald, and vice versa, orchards with mixed plantings of these two cultivars could offer very attractive yields and returns for growers.
To the right is a closeup of McDonald hazelnuts, previously known as 880.027 before its release in January 2014. McDonald has shown itself to be consistently productive and its nuts tend to be of consistently high quality with very few defects and very low incidences of kernel mold. One issue that has been found with McDonald is its susceptibility to EFB. Although it carries the “Gasaway” gene, small cankers have been found in some fields. Experts are estimating McDonald’s EFB resistance to be greater than Sacajawea but less than Jefferson. However, they are also projecting that because McDonald does carry the “Gasaway” gene it will react similarly to Jefferson and be able to recover from the infection.
Pollination, Bloom Time and Harvest
McDonald has both mid-season female bloom and pollen shed and it expresses alleles 2 and 15 in its flowers but only 15 in its pollen, making it a potential pollinizer for many other cultivars. Oregon State University recommends planting McDonald with Wepster and York as pollinizers. The really great thing about planting these three varieties together is that they all cross pollinate each other and they all produce attractive, marketable nuts. McDonald is also a recommended pollinizer for Sacajawea, another great kernel variety. One of the qualities that makes McDonald attractive to processors is its early ripening time. Nuts are ready for harvest with Sacajawea, almost 2 weeks earlier than Barcelona. Processors have typically paid timing premiums to growers that bring nuts in early since it allows them to spread out their processing season.