Source: PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY submitted to
CONIFER IMPROVEMENT TO INCREASE GREEN INDUSTRY SUSTAINABILITY AND RESILIENCE
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
NEW
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Annual
Accession No.
1017791
Grant No.
(N/A)
Project No.
PEN04677
Proposal No.
(N/A)
Multistate No.
(N/A)
Program Code
(N/A)
Project Start Date
Oct 5, 2018
Project End Date
Sep 30, 2023
Grant Year
(N/A)
Project Director
Bates, RI, .
Recipient Organization
PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY
208 MUELLER LABORATORY
UNIVERSITY PARK,PA 16802
Performing Department
Plant Science
Non Technical Summary
This research addresses the evaluation of coniferous germplasm to promote selection of plants with exceptional landscape performance, improved stress resilience and improved disease and pest resistance, and thus reduced pesticide usage.Research data will be collected on plants under evaluation using standard evaluation procedures including rating systems for quality, production performance, ornamental and Christmas tree characteristics such as needle retention, and disease tolerance. The results from this research will be reported through peer-reviewed journal articles, popular press, conferences and meetings with scientists and the general public, extension programs, and our university websites. The goals of this research are to identify coniferous plants which require less pesticide usage, have greater resilience in a changing environmental climate, have reduced maintenance requirements, and increased value to the nursery and landscape industry.
Animal Health Component
0%
Research Effort Categories
Basic
(N/A)
Applied
100%
Developmental
(N/A)
Classification

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
20506701060100%
Goals / Objectives
The overall goal of this project is to improve the sustainability and resilience of conifer production systems and established landscapes in the face of climate change, and to reduce pesticide usage in the management of conifers in these environments. This will be achieved via the evaluation, selection, propagation and use of conifer genotypes exhibiting improved disease resistance and adaptability to mid-Atlantic conditions. The objectives for this project center on two main areas of research:1) Selection and propagation of Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca) and Abies sp. to minimize disease incidence in nursery and field production systems2) Evaluation of Abies sp. to improve conifer adaptability and diversity for the Green Industry
Project Methods
1) Selection and propagation of Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca) and Abies sp. to minimize disease incidence in nursery and field production systems:Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca) transplants derived from four western U.S. National Forest provenances will be evaluated and compared to the Pennsylvania industry-standard Lincoln National Forest seed source, for Rhabdocline needlecast resistance under field and greenhouse conditions. Tree vigor, growth rate, needle infection rate, and needle retention data will be collected to determine variation in seed source needlecast resistance. The five seed sources will also be evaluated for their response to the application the synthetic fungicide chlorothalonil and the biological fungicide azoxystrobin. Surveys of Christmas tree plantations in Pennsylvania will be conducted to document natural needlecast resistance in production systems using the Lincoln N.F. seed source. Resistant Lincoln N.F. germplasm will be collected for development of clonal Douglas-fir seed orchards. Lincoln N.F. scions showing high levels of disease resistance will be grafted onto compatible rootstock and placed into a germplasm repository at the P.S.U. Horticulture Farm, Rock Springs, PA. Trojan fir (A. trojani), Turkish fir (A. bornmuelleriana) and Nordmann fir (A. nordmaniana) transplants derived from provenances in Turkey and the Republic of Georgia will be acquired from cooperating nurseries. Transplants will be established on Penn State Univ. Horticulture Farm research plots known to contain phytophthora root rot species. Control species of Fraser fir (A. fraseri), Concolor fir (A. concolor), Canaan fir (A. balsamea var. phanerolepis) and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) will be included in the root rot susceptibility evaluation. Tree mortality and degree of injury will be assessed. Trials will also be developed to compare impact of soil improvement and remediation versus fungicide application for Phytophthora in conifer transplant beds.2) Evaluation of Abies sp. to improve conifer adaptability and diversity for the Green Industry:The proposed evaluation will compare overall adaptability of Nordmann, Turkish and Trojan fir to sites which vary in temperature (summer and winter), precipitation and snowfall, and exposure within USDA hardiness zones 5 to 7. In addition the species will be grown in soil conditions ranging from well drained soil through to poorly drained clay soils and exposed to windy sites at over 2,400 feet above sea level and semi-urban sites. The species will also be evaluated for production and aesthetic value under nursery and Christmas tree production conditions. In concert with the evaluation for adaptability the species will be evaluated for arthropod pest susceptibility. Each Abies species will be evaluated at each test site for cultural adaptability and ornamental quality. Adaptability evaluation will include seasonal assessments of overall survival, current season stem die-back, needle retention, growth rate, and winter injury (stem dieback and needle desiccation). True fir species have several exotic and native arthropod pests that cause injury and even death to plants growing in nurseries and landscapes. Threshold levels are not known for most of the key arthropod pests that attack Abies and little information is presently available on susceptibility of many of these Abies selected for evaluation. Studies will be conducted to identify and evaluate Turkish fir, Nordmann fir, and Trojan fir, that are currently underutilized in the Christmas tree and landscape industries. Four-year old transplants will be obtained from commercial nursery sources and will be established on cooperating grower farms representing Pennsylvania's diverse climatic regions. Trees will be evaluated for superior ornamental and Christmas tree characteristics including branch structure, growth rate, needle color, and bud break timing. Tolerance to insect pests, disease, drought and heat will also be assessed. Genetic variability related to postharvest needle retention will be documented and needle loss will be characterized for Nordmann, Turkish and Trojan fir. Two existing Canaan fir seed orchards will also be used to identify families exhibiting superior needle retention traits. Individual Canaan fir families with superior postharvest needle retention will be identified using established laboratory needle retention testing protocols. Trees will be needle retention tested for three consecutive years. Scions for trees representing 2% needle loss or less will be grafted onto Canaan fir rootstock and established at the Penn State Horticulture Farm germplasm repository. Scions from these select trees will be made available to growers and will form the basis for subsequent Canaan fir clonal seed orchard establishment.

Progress 10/01/19 to 09/30/20

Outputs
Target Audience:This project addresses problems, constraints and opportunities associated with the conifer value chain in the U.S., thus addressing primarily the Christmas tree and ornamental landscape value chains. As such, the primary target audience includes: U.S. Christmas tree growers and consumers,Christmas tree seed producers in the U.S. and the Republic of Georgia, U.S. conifer nursery producers and managers, and landscape management professionals. An additional important secondary audience includes: Land Grant university faculty and extension workers, landscape and Christmas tree state association staff and members, and other allied Green Industry individuals with research and/or education responsibilities. An additional audience includes governmental, non-governmental organization (NGO), and other policy-making personnel. Changes/Problems:The development of the coronavirus pandemic made it necessary to curtail certain activities. For example, research-related travel was minimized during Spring 2020, which limited certain data collection activites. Travel was also restricted which limited some collaboration with fellow researchers. What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided?Several training opportunitieswereprovided in 2020 forChristmas tree growers, nursery personnel, landscape managersfrom across the U.S., and Pennsylvaniain particular. Regional Christmas tree grower field days,conferences, and Zoom-based webinars were developed and delivered focused on conifer improvement efforts andgermplasm accessibility. Cooperating growers, university researchers, and key Green Industry personnel recieved training on conifer grafting, seed orchard establishment, needle retention testing, and Abies sp. value chain development. The project also supportedprofessional development opportunities as key Christmas tree research and extension personnel, industry representatives and selected growers collaborated on the development of a strategy and action plan to implement CoFirGE Part 2. This project will address constraints to the Abies nordmanniana value chain in the U.S. and will establish evaluation trials inseveral important Christmas tree producing states in the U.S. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest?Research results have been presented to members of the Exotic Conifer Association (ECA), the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), and the Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Association (PCTGA) at various meetings during 2019. In additional, research results in the form of presentations and articles have been delivered to the Christmas Tree Promotion Board which represents Christmas tree growers nationwide. Research updates andshort articles have also been periodically delivered to these stakeholders. In addition, emails and direct mailings addressing specific research topics have been sent to key individuals in the nursery, landscape, and Christmas tree industries. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals?Educational meetings will be developed and delivered to present research resultsto Christmas tree amd conifer nursery stakeholders. The focus will be to present data on regional adaptability of the various Turkish fir and Trojan fir families from the CoFirGE project. Improved seed sources of Canaan fir will be publicized and promoted in an effort to include this improved germplasm into the conifer transplant pipeline, and increase grower accessibility to this resource. Additional seed collections will be made of Canaan fir. Additional scion collections and grafting will be performed to fortify Turkish and Trojan clonal seed orchard establishment. Activities will progress to establish a CoFirGE Part 2 project focused on Georgian sources of Abies nordmanniana (Nordmann fir).

Impacts
What was accomplished under these goals? Project Impact:Pennsylvania Christmas tree growers rely heavily upon just a few species, with Fraser fir and Douglas-fir comprising more than 70% of farm acreage.Production costs for these two key species have risen dramatically in recent years as pest problems intensify.Fraser fir is very site demanding and intolerant of poorly drained soils where root rot organisms thrive - many Pennsylvania growers have been impacted by Phytophthora root rot disease.Douglas-fir is extremely susceptible to needle cast disease, requiring up to four fungicide sprays every year to produce a marketable tree.In order to addresssustainability issues andremain competitive, Pennsylvania Christmas tree stakeholders have indicated that the identification of new species with disease resistance and improved adaptation to regional site conditions is a top research priority. Dr. Rick Bates and colleagues have been working to develop and introduce Turkish fir, Trojan fir, and Nordmann fir as profitable Christmas tree alternatives to the disease-prone Fraser fir and Douglas-fir.His research team made seed collection trips to the Republic of Georgia and Turkey, the native range of these three firs, and developed partnerships with key businesses to establish dependable seed supply chains for U.S. Christmas tree nurseries and growers.Extensive evaluations were conducted to identify the best genetics, and ensure superior characteristics such as growth rate, postharvest needle retention, and tree form.Research trials also documented greatly improved disease tolerance, including high levels of resistance to Phytophthora root rot among these three fir species. As a result of this research effort, seed and transplants of these disease-resistant species are more widely available to U.S. Christmas tree nurseries and growers.A 2008 survey of U.S. conifer nurseries indicated only 17% had Turkish, Trojan, or Nordmann fir available for sale - in 2019 that figure had grown to 46%.A cooperating conifer seed business in Pennsylvania now imports over 450 pounds annually of Nordmann and Turkish fir seed and commented that demand continues to increase.By 2021, over 10 Turkish and Trojan fir clonal seed orchards will be established in the major U.S. Christmas tree producing regions, including Pennsylvania.Retail lot survey data also showed strong consumer preference for these species due to their excellent foliage characteristics, as well as a higher price point compared to traditional Christmas tree species.On average Turkish and Nordmann fir sold for 11% more than Fraser fir and 18% more than Douglas-fir during the 2018 sales season.Fraser fir growers in Pennsylvania now also have an important new tool in their fight against root rot diseases, as these new species have been shown to exhibit a high level of root rot disease resisitance. Objective 1)Douglas-fir: Research activities in 2019 focused on evaluation, selection and germplasm conservation and establishment of trees with some level of documented Rhabdocline needle cast disease resistance. No follow-up research activity was conducted during the2019-20reporting period. Swiss needle cast disease resistance evaluation of selected Douglas-fir families will begin in 2021. Canaan fir: Seed was harvested from the PSU Canaan fir Toftrees Seed Orchard in Oct. 2019. This seed was processed and delivered to a cooperating nursery for transplant production. This seed was derived from Canaan fir families that had undergone needle retention testing for at least three consecutive years. Transplants with improved needle retention and desireable Christmas tree characteristics willbe available to the industry within 2-4 years. Progeny of these improved Canaan fir stock will be evaluated for superior needle retention characteristics at that time. Turkish fir and Trojan fir: The Cooperative Fir Germplasm Evaluation research project (CoFirGE) was established with approximately 100 families of Trojan fir (40 families) and Turkish fir (60 families) in 2010. The Pennsylvania CoFirGE trial consists of over 3000 trees from these 100 families and represent five collection sites. During the 2019-20 reporting period, these trees were extensively evaluated by key stakeholders including Christmas tree growers, nursery managers, and university research personnel. Top performing families were selected based upon growth rate, density and form, and leader characteristics. Scions from over 100 of the best performing individual trees were collected in Feb. 2020, and subsequently grafted onto containerized Turkish and Trojan fir rootstock. This material will form the basis of the first Pennsylvania Turkish and Trojan fir clonal seed orchard. Objective 2) During the 2019-20 reporting period, a final evaluation of theTurkish and Trojan fir in the CoFirGE project was conducted. This evaluation combined previous data related to tree establishment and survival, tree bud break and frost susceptibility, and relative growth rate. Based upon this cumulative evaluation process, top Turkish and Trojan fir families were identified. In October 2019, branches were removed from these top-performing trees and analyzed for needle loss characterization. Based upon this analysis, fourteen families were identified with 0% needle loss, and over 25 families with less than 1% needle loss. This testing will be repeated for two additional years, and will form the basis of the selection and breeding program aimed at devloping a germplasm repository of Turkish and Trojan fir possessing minimal neelde loss. As a result of this project, landscape firms, nurseries and Christmas tree growers in Pennsylvania and the mid-Atlantic region are able to select coniferous tree species that are better able to withstand environmental stresses and common key diseases. Selections of Douglas-fir with documented resistance to Rhabdocline needle cast disease have been identified and clonally propagated. This achievement holds the potential to reduce fungicide usage significantly on thousands of tree production acres as this disease-resistant material becomes available to nurseries and growers. The exotic Abies species Turkish fir and Trojan fir hold great promise as both landscape ornamentals and cut Christmas tree species in Pennsylvania and the mid- Atlantic region. Extensive evaluations of these two species have been ongoing, and individual trees have been identified representing excellent Christmas tree characteristics and a high degree of adaptability to a variety of stressful landscape conditions. Canaan fir with improved needle retention have been established into clonal seed orchards and are now beginning to yield seed. Christmas tree growers can begin reaping the benefits of a Christmas tree species that is far more adaptable and more environmentally friendly to grow than Fraser fir, but with similarly excellent needle retention characteristics. These improved tree resources continue to be tested, and are being clonally replicated in seed orchards.

Publications

  • Type: Book Chapters Status: Published Year Published: 2019 Citation: Palada, M. (Editor) Andreas W. Ebert, Mark E. Olson, Manuel C. Palada and Ricky M. Bates. (2019). Chapter 3: Botany and Propagation The Miracle Tree - Moringa Oleifera. (2nd) . Jaro, Iloilo City: Central Philippine University. ISBN/ISSN #/Case #/DOI #: ISBN: 978-621-95560-8-8


Progress 10/05/18 to 09/30/19

Outputs
Target Audience:The primary target audience for this reporting period included Christmas tree growers and conifer nursery managers in Pennsylvania and the mid-Atlantic region (MD, NY, NJ, VA) as well as growers on the national level who attended webinars, the National Christmas Tree Assoc. annual meeting which was held this year in PA, and producers who call for consultaion from all over the U.S. but primarily the eastern U.S. A secondary audience includes Green Industry county-based extension staff and specialists and other educators at the university and secondary school levels. Consumers/private citizens represent a tertiary audience for this project.A final audience includes policy-makers, governmental staff, NGO staff and misc. personnel who I consider stakeholders. This project continues a tradition of significant stakeholder input and involvement. Proposed species to be evaluated have been determined in collaboration with growers, propagators, industry leaders and other stakeholders. Growers and plant suppliers provide ongoing input into planning and direction for the evaluation and trial programs and growers are directly involved as co-investigators. Changes/Problems: Nothing Reported What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided?This project has provided cooperating growers numerous training opportunities:host growers receive training with setting upfield needle loss trials, proper scion selection and collection, grafting basics, and seed orchard design. Undergraduate and graduate students receive training on experimental design, and data collection and management. Colleagues at other cooperating institutions receive professional development experience during the development and delivery of webinars and other grower-focused educational events, and during strategy development meetings. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest?During the 2019 reporting period, a 5-part webinar series was developed and delivered to over 450 growers nationwide. The Exotic Conifer Association held their annual national field day at the Trojan / Turkish fir evaluation site with over 75 growers in attendance. Research results from this project were presented at the 2019 National Christmas Tree Association summer meeting and the Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Assoc. meeting. Individual growers and small groups have been hosted at the various seed orchards and research sites. Additionally, printed updates and research result summaries have been distributed to key stakeholders and regional grower associations. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals?During the next reporting period Trojan and Turkish fir will continue to be evaluated in order to select trees with superior traits for Christmas tree and nursery use. These trees will be clonally propagated and place in the Penn State germplasm repository.

Impacts
What was accomplished under these goals? Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) are two of the most popular Christmas tree species grown in the eastern U.S. and comprise almost 70% of Pennsylvania's Christmas tree production acreage. Both genera are also commonly used as landscape ornamentals. However, these two species are becoming increasingly problematic and expensive to produce because of new pest species and escalating severity of established pests. Additionally, growers and consumers are seeking new species to fill niche markets and increase landscape diversity. Thisresearch addresses key areas of sustainability within the green industry including the evaluation of alternative coniferous plant materials to assure selection of plants with exceptional landscape performance, improved stress resilience and reduced disease and pest incidence and thus reduced pesticide usage. Objective 1:Individual disease-resistant trees on grower plantations have been evaluated and selected,resulting in the clonal propagation and re-establishment of resistant trees from a variety sources, at the Penn State germplasm repository and grower-led seed orchards.In 2019 anevaluation ofRhabdocline needle cast resistantDouglas-fircollected from Lincoln National Forest sources was conducted. Twenty-four individual mother trees were scored on an infection evaluation rating scale of 1-5 (1=no disease) with 21 trees scoring an average of 1.24. Seventeen mother trees scored a 1, indicating that no infection was identified on the tree. Additional scion wood was collected from these 17 trees and shipped to a Tennessee propagation facility for grafting. These clones willbe planted in a Rhabdocline-resistant Douglas-fir seed orchard in Oregon, U.S.A.This information is critical to nursery managers and Christmas tree growers who wish to replicate and establish clonal seed orchards representing this disease-resistant germplasm. Objective 2: In 2019, aCanaan fir seed orchard and a germplasm repository wereextensively renovated to enhance future cone production, and a modest Canaan fircone crop was harvested. This is the first harvest of viable seed from thesestands of trees with documented superior needle retention.The resulting Canaan fir seed will be greenhouse grown into plugs and transplants in order to evaluate the progeny for various Christmas tree characteristics, including growth rate and needle retention. The degree of superior needle retention will be determined in this crop after an additional 3-5 years of growth in the field. Turkish and Trojan fir: The Collaborative Fir Germplasm Evaluation project was initiated in 2010 with a seed collection expedition to Turkey. In 2013 Trojan and Turkish seedling were established at trial sites across the U.S. These species are currently under evaluation. In 2019 a number of Christmas tree and landscape evaluation criterion were evaluated on: Bud break:The Trojan fir consistently had the highest ratings (broke buds earliest), followed by balsam, white fir, and Turkish fir. Trojan firs broke bud about 10 to 14 days before the noble and Fraser fir. Bud break ratings were not correlated with elevation of the mother trees.The tree-to-tree variation in bud break within given sources of trees indicates that even with provenances that tend to break bud early, it should be possible to identify and select individual trees that have delayed bud break; Growth rate: On average, after 4 growing seasons the Balsam, Grand, Trojan (Kazdagi), Korean and Turkish (Karabuk) firs were the tallest trees. Noble, Nordmann, Fraser and Concolor were the shortest trees. Tree-to-tree variation in growth rate within given sources of trees indicates that even within families/sources that tend to be slow growing, it should be possible to identify and select individual trees that have faster growth rates; Needle retention: Balsam and the 'Uss' Nordmann firs had the highest needle loss ratings. About 70% of the branches from these trees shed needles. Trees with the lowest needle loss ratings and highest percentage of trees with no needle loss, included Korean, Grand, Fraser, Noble, and the two sources of Trojan fir. Noble fir was the only species that did not shed needles. Although up to 50% of the Fraser fir shed needles, the maximum needle loss rating of the Fraser, Korean and grand fir was<3. Overall, the Trojan fir sources had much lower needle loss ratings and a higher percentage of trees with no loss than the Turkish fir. The tree-to-tree variation in needle loss within given sources of trees indicates that even within families/sources that tend to shed needles, it should be possible to identify and select individual trees that have excellent needle retention. As a result of this project, landscape firms, nurseries and Christmas tree growers in Pennsylvania and the mid-Atlantic region are able to selectconiferous tree species thatare better able to withstand environmental stresses and common key diseases. Selections of Douglas-fir with documented resistance to Rhabdocline needle cast disease have been identified and clonally propagated. This achievement holds the potential to reduce fungicide usage significantly on thousandsof tree production acres as this disease-resistant material becomes available to nurseries and growers. The exoticAbiesspeciesTurkish fir and Trojan fir hold great promise as both landscape ornamentals and cut Christmas tree species in Pennsylvania and the mid-Atlantic region. Extensive evaluations of these two species have been ongoing, and individual trees have been identified representing excellent Christmas tree characteristics and a high degree of adaptability to a variety of stressful landscape conditions. Canaan fir withimproved needle retention have beenestablished into clonal seed orchards and are now beginning to yieldseed. Christmas tree growers canbegin reaping the benefits of a Christmas tree species that is far more adaptable and more environmentally friendlyto grow than Fraser fir, but with similarly excellent needle retention characteristics.These improved treeresources continue to be tested, and are being clonally replicated in seed orchards.

Publications