Harvest & Post-Harvest Operations

When to Harvest

Hazelnuts should be harvested in the mature stage, when they have fallen to the ground. One can shake branches lightly to encourage nuts to fall, or wait for their eventual fall. If possible, gather all fallen nuts before rainy fall weather. Harvesting the crop while it is wet will lead to storage problems and compromise nut quality.

Sweeping

An easy way to collect hazelnuts is through sweeping. This process cleans the tree row with air blast or mechanical fingers and deposits the nuts in a narrow windrow in the center of the row. To assure efficiency, sweep only fast enough to keep ahead of the pickup machines

Machine Harvesting

Most commercially grown hazelnuts are harvested mechanically. Generally, the nut collection process or operation follows the following process:

  1. The harvesting machine follows the sweeper which lifts and separates the nuts from the leaves, twigs, etc. and deposits them in a tote box or trailer.

    Note: Some growers use trailers with bottom drops that they open over drop pits
  2. The nuts are conveyed out of the pit and into bulk trucks for delivery to the cleaning and drying plants.
  3. If totes are used, a third person follows on a fork lift tractor to move tote boxes out of the orchard

After harvesting, nuts are sent for market-ready processing activities- including cleaning, sorting, drying and storing. After being processed, nuts are priced according to Oregon prices which are set yearly. Prices will be relative (higher or lower) to the annual supply and production conditions in the world. Small orchard farmers will sometimes sell to a farmer’s market and get two to three times the processing price but it means more direct marketing and selling costs and likely at a distance from the orchard.

Always clean and repair mechanical harvesters before use to reduce the contamination of harvested nuts. If harvesting multiple orchards, clean the machine in between to avoid the spread of diseases and weed seeds.

Note: Perhaps your processor or buyer requires the segregation of varieties. Contact them to avoid difficulties.

Processing

Hazelnut growers in British Columbia are rarely involved in the post-harvest operations, as nuts go directly to processing after harvest and follow these steps:

  • Nuts are cleaned and dehydrated before they are stored.
  • Nuts are placed in long-term storage.
  • Nuts are shelled and packaged to be shipped to market or secondary manufacturers.

These operations take place at a central processing facility. At these locations, various municipal, provincial and federal regulations must be met. Post-harvest operations require facilities and the end product to meet existing food safety and quality regulations 

Post-harvest conditions

Special handling/curing

Nuts are de-husked, cleaned, washed, sanitized and dried to 5-8% moisture within 24 hours of harvest

Storage Conditions

Relative humidity (RH): 60-65%

Storage Temperature

<10˚C

Duration

Temperature dependent.  Cooler temperatures increase storage life

Field Management

During post-harvest, brush or flails mow the orchard to clear or pulverize any remaining nuts, twigs and branches that may attract mice and voles into the orchard. It is beneficial to keep the ground cover fairly short until late fall, as this discourages mice and voles from inhabiting the orchard during winter