“Over the last three years, we’ve planted over 2,800 hectares of hazelnut groves not only in Italy (specifically Tuscany, Lazio, and Umbria), but also in countries across Europe, including Spain, France, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldavia, Macedonia, and Albania,” says Vittorio Lopez, administrator at Azienda agricola Stelo, a Viterbo-based company that specialises in plant multiplication and grove setup. They have been in this business for more than 50 years and use three hazelnut varieties: Tonda Gentile Romana, Tonda di Giffoni, and Nocchione. Moreover, the nurseries multiply all of the plants, which have an EC passport and a high rooted percentage. What sets them unique is their capacity to handle all aspects of hazelnut grove development, from plant sales to grove management assistance.
The variety and layout are chosen after a first step of soil evaluation, which includes an investigation of the chemical-physical characteristics of the water and soil, as well as a verification of geographic data to determine the feasibility of a grove on a certain soil. Following that, during the summer months, operations continue with the treatment of the soil using specialised mechanical equipment. To promote water drainage and avoid stagnation, the first intervention is tilling with a ripper to a depth of 80-100 cm, followed by removing the first layer of soil.
During the vegetative rest period, from November to March, the plantlets are sown with technical apparatus that provides maximum precision and expedites activities. The most typical configuration is 4.5x4m, with 600 plants per acre. Once the orchard is complete, producers can contact the experienced team of agronomists for assistance with plant growth and development, as well as advice on proper pruning, fertigation, and grove management in general. This means, they have left aside all other species in order to concentrate on one product: hazelnuts.
Hazelnuts are grown in south-eastern Australia’s temperate zones. The central tablelands of New South Wales near Orange and Narrandera, as well as north-east Victoria around Myrtleford, are the key production regions. They’re also grown in central and eastern Victoria, as well as northern Tasmania, where they’re becoming more popular. Every year, Australia imports 3,300 tonnes of hazelnut products, mostly from Turkey. The majority of the imported crop is in the form of kernels for use by mass market confectioners.