Scientists Build “Smart” Christmas Tree

According to a story at Fast Company, scientists have figured out how to engineer a Christmas tree with longer needle retention time. What other bells and whistles can we expect from these so-called “smart” trees?

The idea came a few years ago when a devastated small-business owner called on Dr. Raj Lada, a plant physiologist at the Christmas Tree Research Centre. The man was ruined: His entire crop of Christmas trees had already lost their needles.

As Lada began to investigate, he learned that it wasn’t a blight or a disease that was likely to have caused this crop’s loss. Rather, it was a disorder common to many Christmas tree producers: Trees often shed their needles quickly, and there was no consensus over how to fix the problem.

The Christmas tree business in the Atlantic provinces is worth $70 million a year; 2.5 million trees grow there annually, and the vast majority make their way to the U.S. market.

What Christmas trees need to assure them a longer life, he found, is hormone therapy. Lada’s team experimented with blocking the action of ethylene, the same hormone that causes bananas to ripen and go rotten. By so doing, they were able to double the life of the tree.

Photo by Tinneketin.

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