Needle Retention Research

Working to mitigate needle drop in Christmas trees

More than 3,500 people grow Christmas trees in Nova Scotia. Nearly 2 million trees are exported to several countries, including the USA, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Mexico, and Japan. The Christmas tree industry contributes nearly $30 million to Nova Scotia’s economy. The Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia and the Canadian Christmas Tree Council have identified needle loss in Christmas trees as a major challenge.

Needle loss during trans-shipment or at the destination lowers a tree’s value and can results in total economic loss, thus placing the industry in jeopardy. The Needle Retention Research Program (NRRP) is sponsored by the Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia to investigate the fundamental mechanisms leading to needle drop and to provide solutions to high-priority problems.

Current project


One of the major challenges threatening the sustainability of the Christmas tree industry is needle loss during and immediately after the Christmas tree is transported or after it reaches its destination; this lowers its economic value and can result in total economic loss.


This project examines the hypotheses that needle loss can be prevented by

  1. enhancing hydraulic conductance, reducing stomatal conductance, inhibiting ethylene synthesis;
  2. using antistress, antioxidants, and/or antiethylene compounds to prevent needle loss through inhibiting senescence reactions.

This project will also will develop new products and technologies that will lead to enhanced needle retention.

Team members

  • Dr. Rajasekaran Lada, NRR, Project Director
  • Dr. Tom Smith, Co-Investigator, Forest Entomologist
  • Mr. Arumugam Thiagarajan, MSc (Agriculture), MSc, Research Associate
  • Mr. Ross Pentz, Christmas Tree Specialist, Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources

Contact us

Dr. Rajasekaran Lada
Project Director, Ecophysiology Research Group
Dept. of Plant Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture
Dalhousie University
Phone: (902) 893-2309