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September 23, 2012

Christmas-tree workshop offered

Christmas-tree growers and those considering getting started are invited to attend a Cornell Cooperative Extension workshop on Christmas-tree farming. This is an opportunity to look at stands of production trees in different stages of development, to speak with experienced growers and to ask questions of growers and Cornell Integrated Pest Management (IPM) specialist Betsy Lamb. 

Among the topics are site selection, obtaining and caring for planting stock, cultural practices (shaping and shearing), insects and diseases, and marketing. The workshop is free and open to the public. We hope to be able to offer one NYSDEC pesticide applicator recertification credit to attendees needing them. It will be held at 10 a.m. Oct. 12 at the Red Barn Christmas Tree Farm in Brainardsville.

According to the American Christmas Tree Association, recent Nielson research indicates that 21.6 million real Christmas trees will be sold in the United States this year with an average retail price of $46. American households will spend nearly $1 billion purchasing them.

Few consumers know where their trees come from, and even fewer realize the challenges faced by producers. Large investments, long-term commitment and lots of work are required. There are the production costs including the price of seedlings and machinery such as tractors, mowers, tillers, sprayers and shearing tools. And there’s the cost of fertilizers and pesticides and other items such as gates, signs and flagging.

Christmas trees can be produced on land that would be only marginally productive for agriculture, and production requires less ground cover disturbance than that needed with many crops. Christmas-tree rotations are much shorter than timber rotations and they can be grown economically on small acreage.

Sales may be seasonal, but production is not. Year-round management and maintenance are required. Christmas trees need to be planted, sheared and harvested. And there is always the risk that nursery trees will fail or that their growth, appearance and value will be impacted by drought, rain, wind, hail, ice or other environmental stress, or by disease, weed and/or insect pressure or rodent damage. Road building and maintenance may be required.

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