Monmouth County partners with Rutgers to develop research orchard

UPPER FREEHOLD – The Monmouth County Board of Freeholders hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to announce a partnership between the county’s Grown in Monmouth program and Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) to develop a hazelnut farmer demonstration research orchard.

The ceremony was held on Sept. 24 at the Rutgers Fruit and Ornamental Research Extension Center, 283 Route 539, Cream Ridge, according to a press release.

“The county is so excited to work with Rutgers to develop the first commercial hazelnut farmer demonstration orchard, east of Oregon, that is resistant to Eastern Filbert Blight,” said Freeholder Director Thomas A. Arnone, liaison to the Division of Economic Development.

“Our goal is to give county agricultural businesses the opportunity to learn about and grow hazelnuts in Monmouth County, which will lead to new commercial markets as there is a growing demand for hazelnuts,” Arnone said.

After 20-plus years of extensive research and development, Rutgers NJAES has produced four varieties of cultivars, or hazelnut tree plants, which are Eastern Filbert Blight (EFB) resistant, according to the press release.

EFB is a fungus that attacks and kills hazelnut trees. Because of EFB, commercial hazelnut orchards on the east coast have ceased to exist, according to the press release.

“Monmouth County and Rutgers have a unique opportunity not only to cultivate this new crop on the east coast, but to also revitalize the Rutgers Cream Ridge Research Extension Center,” said Freeholder Lillian G. Burry, liaison to the Board of Agriculture and Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

“In addition to county growers, the FFA (a youth organization that prepares members for careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture), county 4-H members and Master Gardeners will be able to use the orchard and facility for hands-on learning experiences,” Burry said.