Image used with permission by Real Christmas Trees Direct.
It’s mid-December, but the Christmas season has been well underway for several weeks already here in Oregon. With about 530 licensed growers, our state is the #1 producer of Christmas trees with tree farmers expecting to harvest and sell just over 7 million trees in 2015. Here in the U.S., almost 1 out of every 4 Christmas trees in homes will be from Oregon.
The rest of Oregon’s Christmas trees (nearly half of which are Doug firs) will be exported to places like Hawaii, Mexico, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines. (Fun fact: The largest international market is Mexico which takes about 1 million, or 12%, of Oregon’s trees.) Before the trees can cross any borders, however, they must be inspected by the Oregon Department of Agriculture to make sure that they are free of pests and disease. Thanks to tight quality controls, Oregon’s Christmas trees are recognized worldwide for their top-notch quality.
Inspectors begin their work in the late summer and the early fall when they look for signs of potential problems, including insects, foliar diseases, root rot, and needle loss. This year’s hot and dry summer was stressful for trees, especially younger ones whose root systems are not yet fully developed (and thus have less capacity to retain water).
Fortunately, the 2015 tree harvest has been decent with fall rains coming just in time to give mature trees some much needed hydration. And while it is hard to predict what future weather patterns will be like (or what consumer preferences will be), Christmas tree farmers in Oregon continue to stay on the cutting edge by practicing good soil management and experimenting with new tree varieties.
Sources: Oregon Department of Agriculture and Pacific Northwest Tree Growers Association
Good Soil Management with Rock Dust
Christmas trees—like all commercial crops—benefit from good soil management practices. One of those soil management practices is remineralization with rock dust. Not all rock dust is alike, however. Volcanic basalt stands out for the following reasons:
Restores essential minerals to the soil. Basalt is rich in essential micronutrients like calcium, iron, magnesium and manganese. It continues to deliver a steady flow of nutrients over time, even as it decomposes. The slow-release benefits of crushed volcanic basalt make it an effective way to minimize deficiencies, particularly with fast-growing commercial crops that experience periods of rapid nutrient uptake.
Boosts crops’ resistance to pests and disease. Basalt contains soluble silicon which contributes to the strength of cell walls and makes agricultural crops more resistant to pests and disease. Not only does silicon make it easier for plants to ward off plant-eating insects, but it also improves plant resistance to leaf and foliar diseases and makes them stronger in the battle against environmental and climate stress.
Improves soil porosity and helps plants conserve water. One of the best defenses that plants have in drought-like conditions is the ability to grow deep roots, i.e., roots that can penetrate deep into the soil to access water and other nutrients. To do so, they need rich, porous soil. Basalt acts as the fuel that feeds the beneficial microbes that improve the structure of the soil and give thirsty plant roots a chance to stretch.
Information for Growers: When applying a soil amendment made of volcanic basalt, look for a high-quality product that is listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) for use in organic production. One product that meets this criteria is Cascade Minerals Remineralizing Soil Booster which is made entirely in the USA from all-natural volcanic basalt from Central Oregon and which has been approved by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.