Back to basics: Winter Christmas tree webinar series announced

Series will teach new growers how to build a solid understanding of management practices and give experienced growers a much-needed review, as well as give updates on research and emerging issues.

Christmas tree field
Photo by Jill O’Donnell, MSU Extension

Christmas tree operations run the gamut from small choose-and-cut farms to large-scale wholesale operations. Regardless of the size or type of farm, a good working knowledge of the overall production system is essential to help growers avoid problems before they start and give a leg up on trouble-shooting issues when they arise.

In the free Back to Basics: Christmas Tree Production webinar series, experts from Michigan State University Extension and around the country will examine the fundamentals of Christmas tree production from understanding soils and site selection to managing pests and diseases during the rotation to ensuring maximum needle retention for the end customer. This program will provide newer growers with the foundation they need to gain confidence in their decision-making and provide more experienced growers a much-needed review as well as give updates on research and emerging issues.

The Back to Basics: Christmas Tree Production series will run each Tuesday, Feb. 2-23, 2021, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Participants can receive two pesticide recertification credits (private core, commercial core or 3B) for both the Feb. 9 and 16 programs.

Topics and speakers

Feb. 2 – Nutrient management to improve tree quality and profitability

Rick Bates, Pennsylvania State University

Fertilization and nutrient management are among the most important tools growers have to improve Christmas tree growth and quality. Bates will review the recommended soil nutrient guidelines, how to use available assessment tools and developing a sustainable nutrient management plan to meet your goals.

Bates’ research with Christmas trees includes species selection, planting, vegetation and disease management, fertilization, shearing and post-harvest handling. In addition, he provides leadership in the planning and implementation of the highly recognized annual Pennsylvania Christmas tree management short course.

Feb. 9 – Disease management: Developing your strategy

Monique Sakalidis, Michigan State University

Effective disease management is much more than applying fungicides. Sakalidis will review the principals of disease control and how you can use them to manage some of the common diseases in your Christmas tree fields.

Sakalidis is an assistant professor in forest pathology in the Departments of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences and Forestry. Her research focuses on using genomic tools in conjunction with traditional pathology tools to mitigate and respond to forest tree diseases (detection, identification, pathogenicity and population analysis). She is currently focusing on oak wilt, white pine and spruce decline but is always on the lookout for new problematic tree diseases in forested and Christmas tree plantations.

Feb. 16 – Insect management: Avoiding the pesticide treadmill

Cliff Sadof, Purdue University

Minimizing or eliminating damage from insect pests requires and integrated management approach. Sadof will discuss how to design an insect management plan that is effective, environmentally friendly and flexible enough to respond to new insect/mite problems you may find in your fields.

Sadof is a professor and Extension specialist responsible for developing pest management programs for insect pests of ornamental crops. His research interests include integrated pest management of ornamental landscape and production systems, reducing invasive species introductions on imported nursery and floriculture crops and developing education and outreach programs to reduce the introduction of invasive species.

Feb. 23 – Keeping the customer satisfied: Understanding and managing needle retention

Gary Chastagner, Washington State University

Needle retention is critical to customer satisfaction. The ability of trees to hang on to their needles is impacted by a range of factors before and after trees are harvested. Chastagner will review the best management practices to keep trees fresh, helping you improve quality and customers satisfaction.

Chastagner has worked with Christmas tree growers since 1979 in his role as plant pathologist and Extension specialist. He is well known for his work on managing Christmas tree diseases and factors that affect the postharvest quality of Christmas trees. His work has helped get healthier, longer-lasting Christmas trees into people’s homes.

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