Montreal

Tree-needle riddle solved by Quebec researchers

Researchers at Quebec's Laval University have cracked a problem that has plagued Christmas revellers for centuries — falling needles.

Christmas trees could retain their needles for months with treatment

Christmas trees are loaded on to a truck in New Hampshire. Laval University researchers say they've found a way to extend the life of Christmas trees. ((Associated Press))
Researchers at Quebec's Laval University have cracked a problem that has plagued Christmas revellers for centuries — falling needles.

Falling needles can be a major irritant for people who pine for the festive look of Christmas trees in their homes during the holiday season.

But scientists at the university's agriculture and nutrition department have identified a way to interfere with a tree's natural hormonal system to delay needle loss.

Ethylene, which occurs naturally in trees, is what triggers needle loss.

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When trees are exposed to certain types of chemical gas compounds, the ethylene's effect is muted, and the loss of needles is delayed by almost a month.

On average, trees will keep their needles between 35 and 40 days after being cut.

After being treated with the gas compound, test trees retained needles for up to 80 days. So far, the findings do not extend beyond the laboratory stage.

Steeve Pépin, the study's co-author, believes the findings could be a boon for Christmas tree producers who ship their harvest across the border.

The Laval University study was carried out with the Nova Scotia Agricultural College.

With files from The Canadian Press

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