In 2020-21, under the direction of Perennia’s Christmas Tree Specialist, the Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia (CTCNS)’s research team undertook a number of applied research projects to advance the industry and address key research questions.
Though soil and weather conditions in Nova Scotia lend themselves well to balsam fir production, commercial Christmas tree production requires more carefully managed soil environments. Unfortunately, much of the information available surrounding fertilizer application is optimized for growing conditions in the United States.
Starting in 2019 and carrying through to 2021, the research team collected 1,098 soil and tissue samples from trees between the ages of three and five from 44 lots across the province. The project was supported with funding from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal/provincial cost-shared funding program.
Using data collected, Perennia and its partners generated customized nutrient recommendations for growers and identified optimal tissue and soil conditions for Nova Scotia Christmas tree lots.
Two other projects related to the SMART Tree Project at Dalhousie University – a project aimed to produce higher quality Christmas trees. During the development of the SMART Tree, select genetically modified seedlings were distributed for field planting. To date, these trees have grown to be four to five feet tall.
In the summer of 2020, CTCNS and Perennia’s Christmas Tree Specialist tagged every tree with a custom barcode. The barcodes are tree-specific and allow for ongoing measurement and evaluation over time. CTCNS and Perennia measured various other quality indicators, including tree growth, flush date, colour, bottling of brush, budding, needle length, branch angle and overall ranking.
In 2020-21, CTCNS received funding to undertake a three-year field evaluation trial on SMART Tree field performance. CTCNS planted 396 genetically modified SMART seedings across nine evaluation sites in Lunenburg County, Cobequid region and Nova Scotia’s northeastern region. Forty-four SMART seedlings and four control seedlings were planted at each site.
CTCNS and Perennia will monitor the sites and additional evaluations will take place throughout 2021. More evaluation sites will be developed as more seedlings become available or as further trials are needed.