Hazelnut production in the Willamette Valley is a booming industry, with Oregon producing 99 percent of US hazelnuts. The vast majority of Oregon hazelnuts are conventionally produced, but there is small and growing number of farms focused on organic hazelnut production. Hazelnut orchards, along with vineyards and grass seed farms exist within an agricultural-wildland matrix covering what was historically interconnected riparian, oak savanna, and grassland habitats. Oak-grassland habitats are among the most endangered ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest, and working with farmers is essential for their conservation.
We are working with hazelnut farmers in the valley to develop a novel pest control strategy for the filbertworm, Cydia latiferreana, a native moth that parasitizes both Oregon white oak (Quercus garryana) and hazelnuts, making oak habitat a challenge to organic hazelnut production and a threat to farmers’ profits. We hypothesize that pigs can be used to reduce pest pressure by removing acorns that would otherwise host the moth larvae. This project is underway at My Brother’s Farm, a 320 acre farm in Creswell, OR with over 2,000 hazelnut trees and oak stands interspersed throughout the farm. Here and elsewhere, we are also testing native wildflowers as potential cover crops to increase soil moisture, reduce erosion, and provide habitat and nectar resources for pollinators.