Commercial Vegetative Production of Fraser Fir Seedlings in Avery County
PROJECT LEADER(S): Jerry Moody
TYPE OF PROJECT: On-Farm Trial
LOCATION: Avery County, NC
Fraser Fir production in Avery County is a $24-26 million dollar per year industry. Presently, all Fraser fir Christmas trees are grown from seed. However, acquiring seed requires a major investment and there are restrictions on collecting. Seedling production can also vary in quality from plant to plant. This project was designed to determine the feasibility of vegetative production of Fraser fir seedlings and transplants. Vegetative production of Fraser Fir has been done by graduate students in a research propagation facility, but has not been tried in a field situation. For the past 5 years, finding high-quality transplants has been difficult, primarily due to increasing demand by growers. If producing transplants through vegetative production proves to be viable, growers will be better able to meet the demand for high-quality Fraser Firs.
In Avery County, as in many other mountain counties, Christmas tree production is one of multiple means for farmers to sustain their operations. However, this crop requires a substantial amount of investment before any return is realized. According to budgets developed in the early 90’s, the amount required is approximately $8000.00 dollars per acre. It is not surprising that many growers have difficulty getting through the first rotation.
Another income opportunity in the mountains is the production of Fraser Fir transplants. A few growers currently produce 3-0’s for sale, but the county only produces about half of the 3-0’s needed. Due to new restrictions imposed by the North Carolina Forest Service, the collection of seed is limited to using lifts and cranes, further limiting the availability of seed for production.
Over the past two years, Chris Rosier, a graduate student of Dr. John Frampton, has been working on production of Fraser Fir from cuttings. His research has had promising results as an alternative way to produce clones of Fraser Fir. This project was designed to determine whether the techniques used in research can be employed by growers with varying levels of facilities.
A greenhouse trial was set up with material obtained from the original stumped trees utilized in Chris Rosier’s study. New material was also acquired from non-stumped trees. All cuttings taken were terminal cuttings, from both stumped and non-stumped trees. The cuttings were taken on August 6, 2003, and were stuck the same day. The rooting hormone used was Dip-n-Gro, at a concentration of 2500 ppm (as determined based on previous research). After the cuttings were stuck in a mix of 75% perlite and 25 % pine bark mix, they were placed in a greenhouse under misting conditions of 5 seconds every 6 minutes, starting at 8 a.m. and running to 5 p.m.
The cuttings were examined on October 8, 2003. Of the 258 cuttings only 75 rooted, a 29% success rate.
This particular type of vegetative production is sensitive to many factors, one of which is timing of the cutting. In this year’s production, cuttings were taken too late; material should have been collected in July rather than early August. Another factor leading to poor rooting percentage was the use of non-stumped material. In prior research, the material selected was all juvenile material from stumped trees. Rooting percentage should improve in the next series of on-farm trials (summer of 2004) because more suitable propagation material will be available at this time.