Why Hazelnut?

New Zealand grows only small areas of nut crops and most of the nuts consumed in New Zealand are imported. Hazelnuts are a non-perishable product and hence New Zealand production needs to be competitive with imports from overseas.

A commercially successful hazelnut orchard will need to be productive, not located on very valuable land, and use machinery to reduce production costs.

Brief description of the crop

The terms ‘filbert’ and ‘hazelnut’ are often used interchangeably to include all plants in the genus Corylus. The hazelnut (Corylus avellana) forms the basis for the more important commercial cultivars. In its natural form the hazelnut is a deciduous, monoecious (separate male and female flowers on the same tree), multi-stemmed bush, but commercially should be grown as a single trunk tree. Tree sizes are up to 6 m tall in commercial orchards.

Growing requirements

A suitable climate and reliable rainfall or irrigation are important for good tree growth and the production of high quality nuts. The preferred climate is characterised by a mild summer and cool winter.  Chilling is required to ensure fruitfulness and reliable hazelnut yields. Chilling requirements vary for male catkins, female flowers and leaf buds but about 1200 hours between 5°C and 7°C is suitable (similar to the requirements of many apple varieties). For female flowers severe frost areas should be avoided and temperatures below –5°C should be avoided when the female flowers are opening.  Hazelnuts do not tolerate windy conditions combined with high summer temperatures and low humidity.  Hazelnuts require a well-drained soil. Heavy clays and very sandy soils should be avoided and a deep loam is preferred.

Hazelnuts are self-sterile, and peak periods of male and female flowering vary between varieties. It is important for growers to have compatible pollinators and pollinators that shed pollen at the time female flowers are receptive. It is recommended that a range of varieties be planted to ensure the dissemination of cross-compatible pollen. Variety trials have been undertaken at Lincoln University to determine productivity and quality.
Tree spacing of 200 to 500 trees per hectare are used, with the closer spacing giving higher yields in the first 10 years of the orchard. Hazelnuts require a minimal amount of pruning but sucker control can be time-consuming.

Hazelnuts begin to bear at approximately three years old and at six years yields should approach 2–2.5 kg/tree (1000 kg/ha, assuming 500 trees/ha).  The nuts fall in late summer – autumn and are harvested by hand or mechanically.  Hazelnuts should be collected promptly after falling as rain can cause discolouration of the shell. Following collection, the nuts should be cleaned and dried.

More information on Hazelnut as a crop option can be found in the report that kicked off the GO! Project.


New industries need a source of reliable information and the Hazelnut Growers Association of NZ (HGANZ), supported by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) ‘Sustainable Farming Fund’ and the NZ Tree Crops Association (NZTCA) have produced a series of informational bulletins highlighting the key aspects of growing hazelnuts in New Zealand.

For our full range of downloads (including climate and soil maps), please visit the Maps & Resources section.

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