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University develops blight-resistant hazelnut tree to for US production

Rutgers University plant biologist Tom Molnar has bred a blight-resistant hazelnut tree to help address a worldwide hazelnut shortage, the university recently announced.

The new tree introduces a new cash crop to New Jersey. It is resistant to eastern filbert blight, the fungus that has prevented hazelnuts from being grown in New Jersey.

Most hazelnuts sold commercially are grown in Turkey and Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

About a quarter of the world’s hazelnut supply — more than 100,000 tons — goes into making the cocoa and hazelnut spread called Nutella each year, Rutgers said, and demand is soon expected to exceed supply.

The South Jersey Transportation Authority is trying to help South Jersey’s bats survive.

Molnar oversees one of only two hazelnut tree breeding programs nationwide. It’s for the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. He has researched development of the tree for two decades, Rutgers said.

He is preparing to distribute the new trees to New Jersey farmers to test their viability starting in 2018.

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