Christmas Tree Research Programme of Canada

Our mission

The Christmas tree Research Programme of Canada aims 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.

The goal of the Centre's projects is to develop and optimize innovative Balsam Fir Christmas tree germplasm, needle abscission control, cold acclimation induction and pest bio-control technologies that, when used in an integrated fashion, will promote healthier, longer-lasting, highly marketable Christmas trees and greenery products.

Director's message

First of all, I express my sincere thanks to all those made our dreams to come to reality.

The Christmas tree and greenery industry is one of Atlantic Canada’s rural economic nerve centers. We are faced with scientific, trade, marketing and promotional challenges and competition from both the artificial tree and the Fraser Fir market in the US. Needle drop from post-harvest trees and wreaths threatens our industry and several industry members have faced this in their business operations. Increasing pressure from the customs and quarantine apparatus in various countries to which we export has also become a recent challenge.

Recognizing these issues, I took this as a personal challenge and made a commitment to help Atlantic Canada's Christmas tree industry to move into the future. This future rests upon strong research, innovation and development, and the need to bring to the market science and knowledge-based products, technologies, and services. This is the impetus for the survival of the Christmas tree industry in Atlantic Canada.

Our research group has come a long way. 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 funded by Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia.

We recognized that we could not continue research the way we were, which might have taken 30 years before any solutions were reached. So, working with producers in NS, NB, NF and PEI, as well as government agencies, Infor Inc., and researchers at various universities, the Atlantic Canada Christmas Tree Research and Development Consortium was established to identify the research priorities and manage research directions and establish a center of excellence for research in Christmas trees. With the support of our producers, council members, consortium members, government agencies, I was able to develop proposals and attract funding from NSERC, the AgriFutures ACAAF program, the NB Growing Forward program and the NSDNR. 

In 2009, we submitted a research and development proposal to the Atlantic Canada Opportunity Agency (ACOA) under the Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF) program, which was announced in January 2010. This has allowed us to establish the Christmas Tree Research Centre (CRC), and a forum for addressing various research questions and seeking solutions for the real problems of the industry.

With the Faculty of Agriculture as a lead institution and the University of New Brunswick (UNB) as a partner in this initiative, several researchers began working on various projects, including tree molecular breeding, tree physiology, needle abscission physiology, needle abscission prevention technologies, and silviculture-based pest control and biocontrol technologies. The Center and Consortium will be located at the Faculty of Agriculture.

This research report is the first volume presenting the work that has been done by the Consortium researchers at the Faculty of Agriculture and UNB. While we still have miles to go, we are excited that this is just the beginning.

I take this opportunity to sincerely thank Len Giffin, former executive director of the CTCNS for working with me through the process. In addition, I would like to express my sincere thanks to our research platform leader, Dr. Quiring at UNB for his contribution, and my research group, Ms. Azure Adams (Research Technician), Mr. Mason MacDonald (NSERC PhD Fellow), Mr. Aru Thiagarajan (NSERC PhD Fellow), and Mr. Scott Veitch (Research Assistant). But for the constant support and sustained effort of our Smart Christmas Tree and Technology Initiative Steering Committee members, this would not have happened – I would like to sincerely thank each one of them.

The financial support rendered by CTCNS, NSERC, NSDNR, NBGrowing Forward, AgriFutures NS, NB, Department of Natural Resources, NS; Department of Agriculture and Aquaculture, NB, Dept. of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, NL; members of the Smart Christmas Tree Research Cooperative and the producers for their cash and in-kind contribution to this initiative.

Together, we can sustain and contribute to the rural green industry of Atlantic Canada and I am humbled by your support and contribution to this initiative.

The future looks better than yesterday.


Raj Lada, Professor, Faculty of Agriculture
President, Atlantic Canada Christmas Tree Research and Development Consortium
Director, Smart Christmas Trees and Technologies Initiative


Institutional Partners

University of New Brunswick

Industry Partners

T & D Nurseries
Private Christmas tree operators/businesses
DeLong Farms, Ltd.
H.C. Sanders & Son, Ltd.; Sanders Tree Farm Supplies
Naugler's Traditional Evergreen Tree Farms
Hobby Tree Farms
Elite Balsam Products, Inc.
Myles McPherson Christmas Trees
Northeastern Christmas Tree Association
Marjory Tattrie

Funding Partners

Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia
Smart Christmas trees Research Cooperative, Ltd.
ACAAF, Agri-Futures
Department of Agriculture and Aquaculture, NB
ACOA, Atlantic Innovation Fund

Cooperatives and Councils

Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia
Smart Christmas Trees Research Cooperative Ltd.
Infor Inc.
New Brunswick Christmas Tree Industry Association
New Brunswick Christmas Trees Growers Cooperative
Regional Christmas Tree Associations

Federal and provincial partners

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources
New Brunswick Department of Agriculture and Aquaculture
Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Natural Resources

Thank you to all our partners!!

Research projects

Needle Abcission Physiology and Needle Retention Technologies

Lead Researcher: Dr. Rajasekaran Lada

Current projects:

  • ethylene physiology and needle retention in Balsam Fir
  • cold acclimation influence on needle retention in Balsam Fir
  • polyols and needle retention in Balsam Fir

Previous projects:

  • influence of low temperature on needle retention in Balsam Fir
  • influence of chemical agents on post harvest needle retention in Balsam Fir
  • genetic screening of Balsam Fir for better needle retention
  • fire retardants effect on needle retention

Bio-control and IPM technologies for Pest control

Lead Researcher - Dr. Dan Quirring

Tree Genetics - Molecular Breeding and Genepool Advancement

Lead Researchers - Dr. Andrew Schofield and Dr. Rajasekaran Lada


Products and technologies

  • SMART trees
  • needle abscission prevention agents (NAPA)
  • cold acclimation induction agents (CAIA)
  • artificial root technologies (ART)
  • integrated pest management (IPM)
  • bio-control technologies

Benefits to growers

The specific benefits for the Christmas tree growers are as follows:

  • SMART Christmas trees with enhanced growth and vigor, increased needle retention, and higher tolerance to stresses such as drought, acid rain, temperature, flooding, nutrient deficiency and mechanical injury
  • unique Balsam Fir gene pool
  • increased knowledge relating to the mechanisms of needle loss and cold acclimation
  • integrated pest management (IPM) and bio-control technologies for pest control