Posts Tagged: Christmas trees
Most real Christmas trees sold in California are raised on farms, creating jobs and boosting the economies in rural areas.
That's just one reason UC Cooperative Extension advisor Lynn Wunderlich encourages the use of fresh-cut Christmas trees during the holiday season.
"This is an age-old debate," Wunderlich said. The American Christmas Tree Association says that PVC used in artificial trees is recyclable. If a household decorates with the same artificial tree for at least four years, the carbon footprint will be smaller than that of a household that purchases a real tree every year.
But the impact goes deeper. Wunderlich points out that artificial trees are mainly made in Asia. They have to travel a great distance to the U.S. compared to an American-farmed tree, eating up natural resources during transport. "Buy American," Wunderlich says.
Besides, there are the transcendent benefits of real Christmas trees. Farmed trees provide open space and wildlife habitat during the off-season, and fill the home with a natural pine scent during holidays.
Their role in sequestering carbon is aided by a production practice used by many farmers, called "stump culture."
"They use the same root system to regrow another tree, so the trees are regenerated," Wunderlich said. "Trees are replanted regularly in other farming culture. Christmas trees sequester carbon. Nearly a ton of carbon per acre of trees, depending on species and number of trees planted on the land."
While artificial trees end up landfills or energy-intense recycling plants, live trees are biodegradable. They can be naturally recycled by composting or shredded to use as mulch. Many communities offer curb-side pickup in the days after Christmas.
While farmed trees can be purchased on tree lots, home improvement stores, even grocery and drug stores, Wunderlich says a trip to a choose-and-cut tree farm is an enchanting family outing. Many Christmas tree farmers also provide food, crafts, activities and visits with Santa.
“Families can visit the farmer year after year as their children grow, so that's part of the experience,” Wunderlich said.
The California Christmas Tree Association maintains a directory of choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms around state.
Some National Forests allow Christmas tree cutting with a permit. Read more here.
Some research plantings of Nordmann fir at Washington State University and one Washington farmer's field have been invaded by an adelgid that appears to be closely related to silver fir woolly adelgids, a common pest on Nordmann fir in Europe. Adelgids (pronounced uh-DEL-gids) are certain types of aphids that feed on conifers.
“Fortunately, adelgids attacking Nordmann fir haven't been reported in California, but we want our growers to be aware of them and to let me know if they see symptoms on Nordmann or Turkish fir,” Wunderlich said.
White, cottony masses on tree branches and twisted, curled and discolored needles are signs of adelgid infestation.
In California, growers produce Christmas trees valued at about $6 million per year, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Nordmann fir has become a popular species for Christmas tree growers in the Sierra foothills. Native of the Caucasus in Turkey and the Republic of Georgia, Nordmanns have rich color, excellent structure, good needle retention and strong branches for ornament display. Still more advantageous is their resistance to pests and diseases that plague other popular tree species, like white and red fir.
“Because of Nordmann fir, we've been able to plant Christmas trees in areas where we could not grow white fir due to Phytophthora,” Wunderlich said. “Consumers are realizing they like it and are asking for the species.”
If the adelgid makes its way to California, Wunderlich is prepared to work with local growers to devise a control strategy based on the results of research her Cooperative Extension counterparts in Washington are conducting on the pest.
California Christmas tree farmers who suspect their trees have been infested with the silver fir woolly adelgid are encouraged to contact Wunderlich at (530) 621-5505, firstname.lastname@example.org.
An initiative to maintain and enhance sustainable natural ecosystems security is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.