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No more needle nuisance: researchers develop long-lasting Christmas tree

No more needle nuisance: researchers develop long-lasting Christmas tree

The SMART Christmas tree can hold its needles for up to three months

By Diego Flammini
News Reporter

Researchers at Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University have developed a solution to minimize the number of needles a Christmas tree sheds during holiday celebrations.

Dr. Rajasekaran Lada and his team have created SMART (Senescence Modulated Abscission Regulating Technology) balsam fir Christmas trees.

The trees can hold their needles for up to three months. They also have a higher tolerance to drought, temperature and nutrient deficiency.

“It’s quite an involved process,” Don Northcott, owner of Phytocultures in Clyde River, P.E.I., told CBC yesterday. (His horticultural company specializes in research and development on plant propagation.)

Lada and his colleagues began the SMART Christmas Trees project in 2011.

Needle drop affects about 30 per cent of trees, Lada estimates. But researchers have seen exceptional results with the new trees.

“We had somewhere close to about 100 to 200 per cent improvement, actually, from those selected parental material,” he told CBC on Sunday.

Dr. Rajasekaran Lada
Photo: Dalhousie University

Lada’s work received approval for commercialization last month. Christmas tree growers will receive their first seedlings in the spring.

The SMART trees will provide an increased revenue opportunity for Nova Scotia’s Christmas tree industry, according to Angus Bonnyman, executive director of the Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia.

“This (research) allows us to command a higher price with what’s going on in the market now,” he told CBC on Sunday. “If we can sell more trees and also replace some of the alternatives, then that would lead to higher sales and better profits for our growers.”

The province exported more than 360,000 Christmas trees in 2015, worth more than $8.6 million, according to Statistics Canada.

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