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Published September 21, 2010, 10:25 AM

Hazelnuts a future crop for Nebraska?

OMAHA, Neb. — Hazelnuts could be a crop for the future of Nebraska, and the Nebraska Forest Service at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Arbor Day Foundation are in on the ground floor of research.

OMAHA, Neb. — Hazelnuts could be a crop for the future of Nebraska, and the Nebraska Forest Service at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Arbor Day Foundation are in on the ground floor of research.

The two organizations and two other universities are investigating hazelnut hybrids as a perennial crop to produce food, animal feed and biofuel. Hazelnuts require less water than annual crops, are drought-resistant and grow in sloping or marginal soils, according to the university — all potentially beneficial characteristics in Nebraska.

The nut oil, according to UNL researchers, has properties that make it superior to soybean oil for food and fuel. Hazelnut trees produce nearly two times the amount of oil as soybeans, and after the oil is extracted, high-quality animal protein meal is left, according to the university.

Undergoing tests

Hazelnuts are being tested for cold hardiness, heat tolerance and disease and insect resistance and showing desirable attributes.

With entities working to improve desirable genetic components, the nuts could be attractive to farmers looking for alternative produce.

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