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The Science of Christmas Tree Cultivation
The Whitehill Lab Christmas Tree Genetics program at NC State is working to advance North Carolina and the US Christmas tree industry by addressing grower challenges and concerns through the application of genetic, genomic, and molecular biology principles. Christmas trees are an important specialty crop in the U.S. and represent a rapidly growing market. The production of Christmas trees is at the interface of agriculture, horticulture, and forestry practices. The retail value of Christmas trees in the U.S. now exceeds $2.5 billion annually. While many types of conifers are used as Christmas trees, true firs (Abies spp.) are the most popular group comprising 66%+ of all sales nationally. The most popular Christmas tree species in the US is the Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) which accounts for ~40% of all Christmas trees sold annually. Only six naturally occurring tiny, island-like populations of Fraser fir exist anywhere in the world and all are located within the southern range of the Appalachian Mountains of primarily NC. Warming climates threaten the productivity of Fraser fir in their current production regions as they are extremely sensitive to climate variability and are considered one of the ‘canary in the coal mine’ species of conifers for the global impacts of climate change. They are generally adapted to cool, moist environments and geographically constrained to high elevation montane ecosystems. When grown as Christmas trees, firs are generally planted well below their natural elevational range and associated climatic niche. The Whitehill lab research program focuses primarily on the genetic improvement of Fraser fir. However, the research lab also works with conifer species that have economic and horticultural importance to Christmas tree growers in NC and the US including Turkish fir (A. nordmanniana subsp. bornmuelleriana), momi fir (A. firma), Trojan fir (A. nordmanniana subsp. equi-trojani), Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana), and Leyland cypress.
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1 hr 35 sec
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