To combat the growing threat of Phytophthora on Georgia’s annual live Christmas tree inventory, Czarnota and his colleagues have secured a grant backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to rescue embryos from Georgia Momi fir trees that “could be cultured to produce hundreds of thousands of seedlings in less than six months if (a) propagation system could be developed.”
These Christmas trees would not only be resistant to pesky root fungi, but also easily cross bred with other species of trees for optimal traits and characteristics.
“It could provide an endless supply of a Phytophthora-resistant hybrid fir trees for the Christmas tree, ornamental and forestry (industries) in Georgia and the Southeast,” Czarnota said. “This could open up fantastic financial opportunities for all of these industries.”
Czarnota is seeking another grant to help fund his efforts.
“With any luck, these hybrids will be Phytophthora resistant, and forever change our abilities to grow firs,” he said. “We just don’t have enough people growing these trees for sale for people to purchase.”
According to a 2,000-person survey by the National Christmas tree Association in 2022, roughly 22.34 million real Christmas trees were purchased within the U.S. last year. The median priced paid for each tree was $80. While inventory is tight, the association said most buyers will be able to find a suitable Christmas tree this year.
“Supplies are tight and some locations will sell out early, but there are enough real farm-grown Christmas trees for everyone who wants one to get one,” according to the National Christmas Tree Association. “Supplies of real farm-grown trees have been tight since 2016, but each year shoppers have been able to find a tree.”