Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers Tackle Threat To North Carolina's Christmas Tree Industry

Date:
December 28, 2000
Source:
North Carolina State University
Summary:
For many Americans, the Fraser fir -- a North Carolina native -- is the perfect Christmas tree. With its conical shape, pleasant scent, rich green foliage, strong branches and good needle retention, this popular species has made North Carolina the second largest Christmas tree producer in the nation. A fungus from Asia, however, is capable of decimating North Carolina Fraser fir plantations -- and threatening the long-term health of the state's $100 million annual Christmas tree industry.

For many Americans, the Fraser fir -- a North Carolina native -- is the perfect Christmas tree. With its conical shape, pleasant scent, rich green foliage, strong branches and good needle retention, this popular species has made North Carolina the second largest Christmas tree producer in the nation.

A fungus from Asia, however, is capable of decimating North Carolina Fraser fir plantations -- and threatening the long-term health of the state's $100 million annual Christmas tree industry. A team of researchers at North Carolina State University is investigating ways to keep that from happening.

The threat is from Phytophthora (pronounced "fy-tof-thor-a") root rot, a disease caused by the fungus Phytophthora cinnamoni. The disease, which is fatal to Fraser fir, attacks and kills the roots, leading to the death of the tree.

Research indicates that trees in about 7 percent of North Carolina Fraser fir plantations have been infected by the disease. "There's also been a large amount of land that's been taken out of Christmas tree production because of Phytophthora root rot," says Dr. John Frampton, NC State associate professor of forestry. "It's a concern possibly to the long-term sustainability of the Christmas tree industry in North Carolina."

North Carolina produces more than 6 million Christmas trees each year, about 15 percent of the nation's natural Christmas trees -- second only to Oregon. Nearly all of those North Carolina trees -- 96 percent -- are Fraser firs, mostly grown in 14 mountain counties.

Phytophthora root rot -- which scientists believe was introduced to the United States from Southeast Asia in the 1700s -- can be devastating to Fraser fir growers because it's impossible to eliminate the fungus from the soil once it's established."It's really a big problem for growers because if they get hit by it, it could put them out of business or take a large area of their plantation out of production," Frampton says.

Spread by the movement of plants, roots, soil and water, the root rot fungus can remain dormant for months or years before attacking Fraser fir or one of the many other susceptible plant species.

Frampton, a Christmas tree geneticist, and two other NC State researchers -- Dr. Eric Hinesley, professor of horticultural science, and Dr. Michael Benson, professor of plant pathology -- are investigating ways to develop resistence to root rot in Fraser fir.

Frampton and Hinesley are testing the feasibility of grafting Fraser fir shoots onto the roots of fir species less susceptible to root rot; those trees were planted on sites that have and have not been infected with Phythophthora. The two most promising species so far, they say, are momi fir, a species from Japan, and Turkish fir, which is a popular Christmas tree in Europe.

The researchers are using the same approach to investigate growing Fraser fir in the eastern part of North Carolina, where Fraser firs can't grow on their own. Frampton says momi fir, Turkish fir and Nordmann fir, another Asian species, appear to offer the most promising root stock. "Nordmann fir is actually the No. 1 Christmas tree in Europe, and so far it seems to be doing pretty well here," he says, though he adds the grafted trees appear to grow slower than Fraser firs that haven't been grafted.

Meanwhile, Frampton and Benson are working to develop Fraser firs that are genetically resistant to Phytophthora root rot. In that research, Fraser fir seedlings grown in a greenhouse are inoculated with the root rot fungus, which kills 98 to 99 percent of the trees. Those that survive could be planted in "orchards" to produce seeds for future Fraser fir plantings.

It will be many years before those trees become available to growers, however, because it can take up to 12 years to grow a 6-to-7-foot-tall Fraser fir, the average retail height. Meanwhile, the NC State researchers are working to clone the trees that appear to be resistant to root rot.

The researchers are also working to understand the genetics of the root rot pathogen itself. They suspect that, in the North Carolina mountains, the Phytophthora fungus reproduces asexually rather than sexually -- which might mean that the fungus has low genetic diversity. Such a finding, Frampton explains, would be helpful in deploying Fraser firs that are genetically resistant to root rot.

Root rot is not the only threat to Fraser firs, the researchers note. Christmas tree growers may have to spray their plantations every few years to prevent outbreaks of the balsam woody adelgid -- an introduced pest that has ravaged natural Fraser fir stands high in the Appalachians.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

North Carolina State University. "Researchers Tackle Threat To North Carolina's Christmas Tree Industry." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 December 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/12/001228090724.htm>.
North Carolina State University. (2000, December 28). Researchers Tackle Threat To North Carolina's Christmas Tree Industry. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/12/001228090724.htm
North Carolina State University. "Researchers Tackle Threat To North Carolina's Christmas Tree Industry." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/12/001228090724.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins