Nova Scotia Agricultural College researchers building a better, hardier Christmas tree
© Mike Carson/Journal Pioneer
George Lecky and Bobby Burt from the St. Eleanor’s Lions Club look over trees the organization is selling to raise funds for their programs. Christmas tree sales around the community are down from last year, but it’s hoped these last few days before Christmas will see increased activity.
By Haley Ryan
Cleaning up fir needles may be a big downside to choosing a real Christmas tree, but a few Maritime scientists are trying to stop the sweeping.
The Christmas Tree Research Centre (CRC) was established at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in 2010, and researchers are exploring the possibilities of a “smart” Christmas tree.
Dr. Rajasekaran Lada, director of the CRC, said they have been cloning and testing fir trees to make some improvements.
“They will last longer, have that aroma, be pest and disease resistant, and be a good-looking tree,” Lada said. “The best in architecture, that’s what we’re looking for.”
So far, Lada says the modified trees can survive up to two months after being cut down.
To deal with needle shedding, the team discovered a hormonal reaction in the fir which happens when it’s cut down, triggering needle loss.
Lada said delaying or masking the reaction improves needle retention.
They have been studying the effects of handling trees carefully, exposing them to cold directly after cutting, and other methods to stop the hormone.
“That’s the foremost thing. If you have a good-looking tree but it’s shedding needles, nobody will buy it,” Lada said.
He added that these technologies should be offered to farmers within the next two years, and the “smart” trees may be ready in four or five years.