Oregon is the No. 1 producer of Christmas trees in the United States, selling about 4.5 million trees a year. With a market value of $104 million, Oregon's Christmas tree industry ranked 12th among Oregon agricultural commodities in 2019.
Each Christmas tree species requires special skill and specific knowledge to be grown successfully, according to Chal Landgren, recently retired Christmas tree specialist for the Oregon State University Extension Service and author of the Extension publication “Developing Quality Christmas Trees in the Pacific Northwest.”
Landgren's research plots cover 3.2 acres at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center, just south of Portland. Landgren’s breeding program includes the two most popular tree species in Oregon grown for Christmas – noble fir and Douglas-fir. He also grows Turkish, Trojan and Nordmann firs brought to Oregon from the mountains of Turkey and the Republic of Georgia. Landgren has started what he believes is the first grafted Trojan fir seed orchard in the world.
Landgren is breeding trees that will have traits amenable to consumers – branches that grow up so that ornaments can hang more easily. A dark green color. And also, superior keepability, which means how quickly the needles fall off after they’ve been harvested. His research program also includes finding sustainable alternatives to controlling aphids and other pests. One method could be biological control – the use of beneficial insects to manage other insects, which means using less pesticides.