· There is NOT a “mold problem” with Christmas trees as some overzealous news outlets are reporting. What some farmers with true fir species in low-lying areas of their farm are dealing with is phytopthora, a type of soil fungus.
· Fungi are microorganisms that include yeasts and molds as well as the more familiar mushrooms. Many plants, including many grown on farms (from soybeans, to iceberg lettuce, to conifer trees) can have their health and vitality inhibited when the phytopthora fungus is present in the soil and get a condition known as root rot.
· Root rot is not a new thing. What’s new is that a multi-university team of scientists have a grant from the Specialty Crop Research Initiative of the USDA to study phytopthora and how growers can deal with it.
· Phytopthora, among many other pathogens and insects, are something that farms must deal with all the time ever since the invention of agriculture thousands of years ago.
· The Christmas trees harvested and sent to market are not affected by root rot, so consumers would NOT notice any difference this year or any year.
· Christmas trees are somewhat unique in that it takes a number of years from planting until they are of a size that can be harvested and sold (anywhere from 3 feet tall to 14 feet or more).
· Phytopthora will NOT have any impact on tree prices, so if a Christmas tree retailer tells you the price of a tree is higher “because of root rot” we suggest you shop for a tree somewhere else.