Christmas tree forecast merry

Donald Reed, Van Osdell, Mary Ann  |  10/21/2009 6:17:46 PM

News Release Distributed 10/21/09

Everything looks good for the Christmas tree crop in Louisiana, according to Dr. Don Reed, LSU AgCenter forestry and wildlife specialist.

Reed, who also is a Christmas tree grower, and Dora Ann Hatch, an LSU AgCenter community rural development agent, recently met with 70 Christmas tree farmers from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama at the annual meeting of the Southern Christmas Tree Association in Pitkin.

“We haven’t had any hurricanes, and that is always good news,” Reed said. “This will be as good a year as any.”

Hatch said people are motivated to buy real trees because of tradition, memories and “going green.” She explained when consumers go green they recycle the trees for sand and soil erosion barriers and for fish shelters in ponds.

Artificial trees, on the other hand, are petroleum-based products that consume vast resources during fabrication and are not biodegradable, Reed added.

The meeting also covered agritourism. “A lot of the growers are doing more than trees,” Reed said, citing pumpkin patches and arts and crafts. He used Curry Farms in Start as an example in which the operation branched out to offer a corn maze, pumpkins and parties.

Curry Farms began growing trees in 1981 and sold its first crop in 1983. “We’ve been selling ever since,” said Bentley Curry, who operates the business with his wife, Sandy.

The corn maze is in its fourth year, and a pumpkin patch returned for the second time.

All of the trees are choose-and-cut. Prices average $10 per foot, with trees ranging from 5 to 13 feet tall.

“The most important benefit from choose-and-cut is freshness,” Reed said. “You know it’s going to last well past Christmas.”

He advised knowing the size of tree needed before shopping and to place it in water as soon as you get home. “Keep it away from a heat source,” he added.

The sales target at Curry is 1,000 trees this year, Bentley said. Trees encompass 7 acres of planted area and take up 12 acres including the road. The whole farm is a former 40-acre cotton field.

“People really want a tree that holds needles and supports heavy ornaments,” Sandy Curry said, adding that pre-lit trees are major competition, but they don’t offer an aroma.

She said the LSU AgCenter has been a source of information. “As individuals, there is no way to compile all the information and do the research they do,” she noted.

Weeds and herbicides were another part of the meeting.

“Christmas tree growers who are able to identify troublesome weeds can tailor a weed management program based on their most difficult weed problems,” said Ron Strahan, weed specialist for the LSU AgCenter, in an interview following the meeting.

“At the very basic level, a Christmas tree grower needs to be able to identify if the weed is a broadleaf, grass or sedge,” Strahan said, explaining, that broadleaf weeds have netted leaf veins, tap roots, showy flowers and in many cases, as the name implies, broader leaves than other plants.

Grasses have fibrous roots, parallel leaf veins and non-showy flowers while sedges are grass-like plants with triangular stems, the weed scientist added.

The base of weed control should be timely applications of pre-emergence herbicides. Another strategy is to tank-mix post-emergence herbicides with pre-emergence herbicides. “This will allow the control of existing weeds and prevent several troublesome weeds from having an opportunity to compete with the Christmas trees,” Strahan said.

To find a Louisiana Christmas tree farm, visit Southern Christmas Tree Association Web site.

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Writer: Mary Ann Van Osdell

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