Lunenburg claims the title of The Balsam Fir Christmas Tree Capital of the World. About 1.3 million trees are produced in NS each year, 95% of them exported, mostly to the Americas, but also to Asia. “We have about 20,000 acres in production and about 1,200 families involved in Christmas tree production,” according to Dalhousie University economist Dan Shaw ( CTV News). “We don’t have prime soil, so we’re looking for other ways to do agriculture, and a Christmas tree farm is one way to use that less quality land.”
Research helps this industry, for example research on pests is key to opening up potential markets in Europe (CBC News). The only Christmas Tree Research Centre in the world is located on the Agriculture Campus of Dalhousie University in Truro. A recent article in modernfarmer.com highlights some of their research. They are developing a “SMART Balsam” through genetic selection (but not involving GMO technology). The tree would have more consistent desirable form, retain needles longer and have enhanced pest resistance compared to currently cultivated trees.
I was intrigued by their unexpected discovery that LED lighting, red and white LED bulbs in particular, are better than other light sources in stimulating photosynthesis in the cut tree. The ongoing photosynthesis aids needle retention.
Another less welcome discovery: breeding for longer needle retention resulted in less pest resistance, a disappointment, but says Director Raj Lada, they intend to keep trying and hope to see both traits in SMART balsam version 2.0!
In the meantime, Maritimers will continue to enjoy the freshest Christmas trees around, inside and out.
Merry Christmas folks.