Growing smarter Christmas trees

Dr. Raj Lada and his team at the Christmas Tree Research centre in Truro, N.S. work to understand and discover the genetic markers, environmental conditions and other factors that cause Christmas trees to lose their needles after harvest.

Foundation: Somatic embryos developed in the lab in the Department of Plant, Food and Environmental Sciences are being used to produce and grow so-called SMART Balsams.  These trees epitomize the “ideal” Christmas tree—full and sturdy architecture, unique fragrance with needle retention lasting for up to three months or more. Two additional technologies including a delaying agent or spray and a protocol for post-harvest storage and transport have also been developed. These three innovative technologies have been licensed to members of the Nova Scotia Christmas Tree Co-op who have begun commercial production.

Inspiration: Dr. Lada draws inspiration from his desire to help advance humanity through science and innovation. He believes that agriculture is the mother of all sciences and if it were to fail, so too would humanity.

In his own words: “Only when ideas are transformed into actions and solutions that benefit our ecosystem at large, is the value of science fully recognized.”

Why it matters: These innovative technologies will benefit the $100 million Christmas tree industry in Atlantic Canada by increasing the marketability of real Christmas trees while contributing to the health of the local agricultural economy. These new products and technologies mean new opportunities to export SMART Christmas trees earlier in the season and to a wider range of international markets. This will also contribute to more well-paying jobs in Atlantic Canada while helping to sustain this vital industry.