Grant funds pest study
Updated: Thursday, January 17, 2013 10:10 AM
By MITCH LIES
A $1.3 million grant could help the U.S. Christmas tree industry battle a pervasive root rot and improve its market share in the ongoing battle against artificial trees.
Announced Dec. 17 by Washington State University, the USDA grant is targeted at agronomic and market factors affecting tree growers.
Included in the grant is funding for researching plant genetics and breeding to improve a fir tree's resistance to a root rot and improve a tree's ability to retain its needles for the duration of the Christmas season.
Improving needle retention could enhance market share in an industry hampered by consumer dislike over needle shedding, according to a press release announcing the grant.
The root rot, Phytophthora, is a fungal disease that can shrink plantation yields by up to 75 percent.
"Consumers want more types and styles of trees," said Rick Dungy of the National Christmas Tree Association, which is collaborating on the project. "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."