Did you know that Christmas trees are a year-round industry, employing approximately 20,000 people in Atlantic Canada and contributing nearly $100 million to the region’s economy?
Like any business, the tree and greenery industry is faced with competition (from both artificial tree manufacturers and the US Fraser Fir market) and other challenges. Recognizing these issues, Dr. Raj Lada, a faculty member at the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus and a member of Science Atlantic’ Biology and Environment Committees, made a commitment a decade ago to help Atlantic Canada’s Christmas tree industry move into the future.
Today, Dr. Lada is the Director of the Christmas Tree Research Centre at the Dalhousie Faculty of Agriculture. “We started with a small experiment to help the Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia in 2005 to address the needle drop issue. Slowly we progressed by providing ongoing research support to the industry through small projects.” After this beginning, Dr. Lada and his team established the Christmas Tree Research Centre through funding from various funding agencies including ACOA, NSERC, Growing Forward NS, NB, Department of Natural Resources, Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia, and Smart Christmas Tree Research Cooperative.
For students interested in Environmental Science, especially plant research, the Centre is a one-of-a-kind facility. Students play a vital role in the work, Dr. Lada explains. “Post-docs and graduate students are the key component of my research. The contributions of the graduate students make us proud to work with them.” As well, the centre engages undergraduate students in summer programs. “As a university, we have a responsibility to invest in ourselves and promote invention and innovation, as well as the inspiration of great minds. Those are the drivers of the future.”
“The only research centre for Christmas trees in the world”
“What I like about agriculture is that it’s so connected with our life – the air we breathe, the food we eat and the joy you can have contributing to an industry that makes our life meaningful.”
The mission of the Centre – the “only research centre for Christmas trees in the world,” Dr. Lada points out – is to enhance Atlantic Canada’s knowledge-based bio-economy through the development of science-driven innovative technologies and products for increasing the sustainability of Atlantic Canada’s Christmas tree and greenery industry.
Projects at the Centre focus on developing and optimizing innovative Balsam Fir Christmas tree germplasm, controlling needle abscission, and researching cold acclimation induction and pest bio-control technologies. When used in an integrated fashion, these advancements will promote healthier, longer-lasting, highly marketable Christmas trees and greenery products.
The success of this Christmas tree Research Centre is the partnership with the Christmas tree industry and associations, DNR and the Department of Agriculture in the region.
“Our research group has come a long way”, Dr. Lada says. “While we still have miles to go, we are excited that this is just the beginning.”
All information taken from the Christmas Tree Research Centre web page, Dal News and the Dalhousie Environmental Sciences Program website
All information taken from the Christmas Tree Research Centre web page, Dal News, and the Dalhousie Environmental Sciences Program website.