PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – There’s something rotten in Christmas tree country.
And that has some farmers looking overseas for a solution.
Phytophthora root rot, caused by a waterborne mold, is an issue with fir producers nationwide.
One study estimated the potential loss to No. 1 Oregon’s nursery and Christmas tree industries at up to $304 million, and Phytophthora costs growers in No. 2 North Carolina about $6 million a year.
The fraser fir is the most popular seller.
“The Lincoln Continental of the Christmas tree, the Lincoln Continental,” said Ron Steck of Santa’s Trees.
While researchers try to unlock the genetic code to root rot, some farmers are trying Turkish fir as an alternative.
Fraser fir farmer Jeff Pollard of Crossnore, N.C., sold his first Turkish trees last year, and his customers raved.
Oregon farmers plant about 500,000 Turkish and Nordmann fir a year. Pollard plans to do a full rotation this spring.
However, locally, finding a fraser fir doesn’t seem to be an issue.
This coming weekend will be the busiest weekend for Christmas tree sales — but if your favorite is the fraser fir, one garden center owner says you’ll be able to find one without it costing an arm and a leg.
Mike Reilly at Reilly’s Garden Center in Ohio Township bought more than 300 fraser firs from North Carolina and his workers are busy putting them on display.
“We have no problem getting trees,” he said. “I’ve talked to a lot of different growers and there doesn’t seem to be a problem.”
And Ron Steck has a lot full of trees on McKnight Road in Ross Township — more than 600 are fraser firs from North Carolina.
“Our fraser firs are the same price they were last year, so they haven’t gone up a bit,” he said.
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