Christmas Tree Research Grant Aims to Solve Major Problems for Industry
One of the biggest problems for Christmas tree growers is Phytophthora root rot, a fungus disease that can shrink plantation yields up to 75 percent. A related issue (though a little less consequential) for consumers of live Christmas trees is the mess in their homes from fallen needles. Researchers at Washington State University and other universities hope to battle both of these problems with the support of a five-year, $1.3 million grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
“The Christmas tree industry has some big challenges,” said WSU Christmas tree researcher Gary Chastagner, “and we hope that this national project will bring together scientific expertise and techniques to address these two issues.” Focusing on true firs, the researchers will leverage the genomics groups at North Carolina State University and the University of California, Davis, to find genetic markers for Phytophthora resistance and needle retention.
“Phytophthora root rot plagues all regions where firs are grown as Christmas trees,” said John Frampton, Christmas tree geneticist at NCSU and a collaborator on the project. There is no effective control for Phytophthora, so the best way to tackle the problem is to find resistant tree species. Chastagner’s graduate student, Katie McKeever, is collecting isolates of Phytophthora in various growing areas. By sequencing these samples and conducting pathogenicity trials, McKeever will contribute critical information to the team’s search for mechanisms of resistance in trees. Once the researchers find the relevant genetic markers, they can screen adult trees and select the most promising as seed sources for viable Christmas tree plantations.
The team will use similar techniques to resolve the matter of needle shedding. Chastagner’s multi-decade cataloging of Christmas trees with varying degrees of postharvest needle retention will give this part of the project a jump-start. By using these and other trees, scientists will be able to quickly identify needle-retentive gene sources so that growers can produce desirable Christmas trees.
Translating the Research to the Market
But even if growers have trees that don’t suffer root rot or needle loss, how can they be sure that consumers will flock to buy their new and improved products? After all, the number of live Christmas trees sold in the United States has remained relatively static for decades. Any increase in the Christmas tree market is absorbed by the number of artificial trees sold each year.
To address the stalled market growth for live Christmas trees, Jeff Joireman, WSU associate professor of marketing, will research specific consumer preferences with a nationally-representative survey followed by focus groups. Rick Dungey of the National Christmas Tree Association expects the data to expand the types of trees offered at commercial lots and U-cut farms across the country.
“Some people want an old-fashioned tree like grandma had,” Dungey said, referring to a live tree with a more open structure, in contrast to the closely-sheared, densely branched trees crafted by today’s Christmas tree industry. Dungey also noted the availability of live tree rentals in some areas, as well as narrow “condo” or “loft” trees in New York City, favored by those with insufficient space for the traditionally broad Christmas tree. “Consumers want more types and styles of trees,” Dungey said. “The marketing part of this project will examine the Christmas tree industry from the end user’s perspective, and allow the industry to respond to those desires.”
Learn more about WSU research on Christmas trees and other ornamental plants by visiting http://bit.ly/16Bs1r.
Insect Flight Mills Video Now Available
You may remember the article about entomology graduate student Teah Smith’s insect flight mills research project in the October 10 issue of On Solid Ground (at http://bit.ly/flightmills). Now you can watch a video at http://bit.ly/VvisLq featuring Smith explaining her work and how it applies to growing tree fruit.
Michael Neff, WSU associate professor of crop biotechnology, teaches the graduate-level Plant Molecular Genetics–and also writes catchy songs. Check out the short video at http://bit.ly/X13lKK in which he combines his talents in the song “1-800-DNA,” performed for his class on the last day of lectures. Enjoy!
CAHNRS is more than agriculture. With 24 majors, 19 minors, and 27 graduate level programs, we are one of the largest, most diverse colleges at WSU. CAHNRS Cougs are making a difference in the wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities, improving ecological and economic systems, and advancing agricultural sciences.
Washington State University has been awarded a five-year $2 million National Research Support Project grant to build and maintain a national system for sharing digital plant genetic resources. Known as NRSP10, the project is the tenth National Research Support Project in the nation.
How do we define nature, wilderness and conservation? Are our ideas about nature outdated? What lessons can evolution offer for modern agriculture? Are we “fueling a biotechnological bubble” by ignoring ecologically inspired ways to improve agriculture?
PULLMAN, Wash. - Scientists at Washington State University have been awarded $2.53 million to improve fruit quality and disease resistance of crops in the rosaceae family (apple, blackberry, peach, pear, rose, strawberry, sweet cherry and ...
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Being a CAHNRS Coug is about having a life-changing experience and having fun along the way. With an endless array of subjects to study, students can explore a variety of topics until they focus on that area that truly excites them. We include ample opportunities to learn outside the classroom, because we not only believe it’s a better way to learn, it makes for a more meaningful and enjoyable college experience.
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CAHNRS Office of Research
Agricultural Research Center
The goal of the Washington State University CAHNRS Office of Research is to promote research beneficial to the citizens of Washington. The Office of Research recognizes its unique land-grant research mission to the people of Washington and their increasing global connections. The CAHNRS Office of Research provides leadership in discovering and applying knowledge through high-quality research that contributes to a safe and abundant food, fiber, and energy supply while enhancing the sustainability of agricultural and natural resource systems.
By Sylvia Kantor, College of Agricultural, Human & Natural Resource Sciences
PULLMAN, Wash. – Scientists at Washington State University have concluded that nondigestible compounds in apples – specifically, Granny Smith apples – may help prevent disorders associated with obesity. The study, thought to be the first to assess these compounds in apple cultivars grown in the Pacific Northwest, appears in October’s print edition of the journal Food Chemistry. “We know that, in general, apples are a good source of these nondigestible compounds but there are differences in varieties,” said food scientist Giuliana Noratto, the study’s lead researcher. “Results from this study will help consumers to discriminate between apple varieties that can aid in the fight against obesity.” MORE
PULLMAN, Wash. – Drug abuse, acts of rampage – what’s really the matter with kids today? While there are many places to lay blame – family, attitude, peers, school, community – a new study shows that those risks vary in intensity from kid to kid and can be identified.
Scientists at Washington State University and Pennsylvania State University have found a way to spot the adolescents most susceptible to specific risk factors for delinquency MORE
By Sylvia Kantor, College of Agricultural, Human & Natural Resource Sciences
PULLMAN, Wash. – With global food demand expected to outpace the availability of water by the year 2050, consumers can make a big difference in reducing the water used in livestock production.
“It’s important to know that small changes on the consumer side can help, and in fact may be necessary, to achieve big results in a production system,” said Robin White, lead researcher of a Washington State University study appearing in the journal Food Policy. MORE
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