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Improving Water Management in Hazelnuts

17 Jul

On our farm we are always looking for ways to do more with less, improve efficiencies, work smarter and get more done with our hard working hours and dollars. 

We have slowly been moving away from hand line and wheel line irrigation and have made significant investments in linear irrigation systems. This year we made another move to even higher water use efficiency with drip irrigation in our hazelnut orchards. 

We plan to have at least half of our hazelnuts irrigated by drip this year. Which is exciting for many reasons. 

1. Labor: We used to water with hand lines. This took a minimum of three people to move pipe two to three times a day, around 2 hours each move.  And the cost of labor alone is going up significantly.  With our drip it will take only one person to turn the pump on, monitor valves and lines. 

2. Water when you want it and where you want it. Our drip system can easily be run from the pump that we already have and also can run at night when our pump is free from use on other crops. Simply put we can fill in the gaps to keep our pump running most efficiently. 

3. We can inject fertilizer by small doses to our trees. We consider this a spoon feeding approach and it’s shown to help trees grow and produce nuts at a more consistent level. 

4. We can keep our trees healthier by being able to get into the orchard at anytime to spray foliar feeds, kill pests or protect from disease, and not have to pick up pipe that is always in the way. 

5. Water from drip goes further. Drip irrigation has a 95% efficiency rating as compared to handlines which run at only 65%.  Factors such as evaporation and run off are considered when making this determination. 

Here’s a short video of our drip coming out of the tubing. 

You may wonder why we waited so long with a list of positives this long, well on the flip side of the pro and con list lies the cost of putting a system like this onto our farm. Luckily we already had the irrigation pump, but we had to add significant amount of underground mainline, put in a special filtration system, buy thousands of feet of drip tubing, build specialized equipment for putting the lines out and rolling them up. You can see it’s an investment in water, labor efficiency and equipment. 

So why now? Well first of all we have to budget beforehand in order to make improvements on our farm.  This is one improvement that we finally found room to add to our budget.  

And secondly we had some financial help from agencies that are focused on energy and water efficient projects. One being the Natural Resource and Conservation Service (NRCS) and the other Energy Trust of Oregon. Both gave us funds to help us implement this project. We also have Stettlers Supply in Salem Oregon to thank for doing a great job on installation and heading up the project. 

This investment is one of those long term plans that I often reference. This is an improvement that will serve Matt and I as the third generation and hopefully the fourth, the fifth and on and on! 

Still in the Orchard

31 Mar

Well folks…I’m still out here.  Getting closer to done everyday, but still here for now. 

I took a few photos of what we are pruning on our trees. Our goal is to make them look more like a tree first of all (hazelnuts like to grow as a bush naturally) and secondly we are pruning to get growth. 

Before:

And after:

These trees got very stressed their first year due to a very dry and hot summer.  So we are now going in and getting rid of a lot of the stressed wood and making room for lots of growth. 

I promise I will have more to post on rather than just trees soon…hoping to be out of this orchard soon!  

On another note it looks like we are getting a pretty good stretch of spring weather coming up!  So hold onto your hats…there are going to be farmers running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to catch up!!  Which means lots of stuck tractors in muddy fields, lots of impatience, lots of longs days…but man it’s sure going to feel good to get out in that sunshine!!!!!!!  

Personally I’m looking forward to not wearing 17 layers by the end of today! 

Happy Friday!

A “Little” Hazelnut Pruning

24 Feb

final-58I went out with Matt today to do a little pruning on our youngest hazelnut trees.  I say a “little” pruning because I only made it about four trees before I realized that I was no where near dressed with enough clothes on for a 33 degree wind chill.  final-59But what we were able to accomplish was some consensus on what we were going for, once it warms up or I get more layers on, we will be able to get the job done.

Trees, especially hazelnut trees (which are naturally more bush than tree) take a lot of work get looking just right.  We were working today on making sure that the crotch of the tree has the correct angles for the most support system to hold up the branches and the weight of nuts.  final-60Also we were looking at branches coming up through the middle.  Light in a tree is a very important factor.  And then just the overall shape of the tree, are there branches going just one direction or in all directions?  How tall is the tree and all of the leaders?  Lots of questions…final-57

And since every tree and the way every person looks at a tree is all very different, it’s important to get try to start on the same page, where you end up will probably be all over the board (haha!), but starting out on the same page is good!

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