Recently I spent a week in Oregon working on a Christmas tree genetics project along with my colleagues Chal Landgren( Oregon State University), Gary Chastagner ( Washington State University), and John Frampton (North Carolina State University). The objective of the project is to identify superior seed sources of Turkish fir and Trojan fir for use as Christmas trees around the United States. We refer to the project as the Cooperative Fir Genetic Evaluation or CoFirGE – remember, the most critical step in any experiment is coming up with a catchy acronym. CoFirGE began with a trip by my colleagues to Turkey where they collected seed from 100 fir trees across a range of sites in Turkey
Turkish fir growing in western Oregon
Why are we interested in these species? Both Turkish and Trojan fir are closely related Nordmann fir, which is widely used as a Christmas tree in Europe. These species make wonderful Christmas trees due to their symmetry and needle color. In addition they may be resistant to diseases, particularly Phytophthora root rot, that plague Christmas tree growers from Washington State to North Carolina.
So, what was going on in Oregon? After the seed were collected in Turkey they were sent to Kintigh’s nursery near Eugene, Oregon, where the seed were sown to produce seedling plugs. The next step of the project will be to send the seedlings out to cooperators in five locations (Pacific Northwest, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut). This is tree improvement on a grand scale. In each region there will be two test plantings and each planting will include 30 reps of 100 seed sources or 3,000 trees. Multiplied by 5 regions and 2 plantations that’s 30,000 trees total that we will collect data on for the next 8-9 years.
30,000 seedlings ready to be sorted and shipped
Each seedling is individually labeled with a bar code for identification
Sorting into to boxes to send to cooperators around the country
But step one is getting the seedlings from the nursery to the out-planting sites. That means lots of tagging, sorting, and bagging. With help from technicians and students from WSU, OSU and NCSU and staff from Kintigh’s we were able to get all the seedlings sorted and bagged by mid-day on Thursday and start them on their journey to their new homes. Next step: Planting…