Sci-Tech Today.com By Allen G. Breed December 3, 2013
Phytophthora root rot is a stubborn enemy for some Christmas tree growers this year. With no fungicide yet proven effective to control Phytophthora, many growers are turning to species from Europe, Asia that are more resistant. Researchers at Washington State and other universities are hoping to unlock the secrets to some species' rot resistance.
Jeff Pollard trudged up the steep slope and stopped at a desiccated, rust-brown tree. Two months earlier, workers had tagged this Fraser fir as ready for market.
It was going to be someone's Christmas tree. And now it was dead.
"Never get paid back for this tree," he said with a shrug. "Eleven years of work -- gone."
The culprit: Phytophthora root rot, a water mold that, once in the soil, makes it unfit for production.
Pollard has been growing Fraser fir in these western North Carolina mountains for nearly 40 years. To him, it's "the ultimate tree."
But this persistent problem has him looking to a species from the birthplace of old Saint Nicholas himself for a possible alternative. And he's not alone.