Advanced cropping system for sustainable production of Fraser fir (Abies Fraseri) in Christmas tree productions

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2007: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Grant Recipient: Michigan State University
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Pascal Nzokou
Michigan State University

Annual Reports


  • Additional Plants: ornamentals, trees


  • Crop Production: forestry

    Proposal abstract:

    Christmas tree farming is an important industry in the Great Lakes, and trees are intensively grown with the use of production techniques similar to other industrial agricultural crops. Among species grown as Christmas trees, Fraser fir is one of the most important and is increasing in popularity due to its post-harvest needle retention qualities, and economic return potential. However, the species is more demanding in terms of soil fertility, weed, disease and insect controls for optimal growth, and require the use of large amounts of commercial fertilizers and herbicides. Excessive use of chemicals is known to have environmental consequences and pose potential risks to human health and other living organisms. Moreover, the high costs related to the use of these chemicals reduce the profitability of the farming operation. The goal of this study is to investigate the use of white clover as an intercrop with Fraser fir trees production systems. We are hypothesizing that the cover crop will: (i) supply some of the nitrogen requirement of the plant; (ii) promote soil nutrient recycling and reduce losses throughout leaching; (iii) and contribute to weed control. To test these hypotheses, trials will be established at the Tree Research Center on the campus of Michigan State University. A split plot with 2 factors (fertilization and Herbicide) and 3 levels for each factor will be used. Fertilization levels will include 100lbs/acre, 50lbs/Acre + Clover, and Clover only. Herbicide treatments will include the current practice with full recommended rate of glyphosate (16-20oz/gallon), half rate + Clover, and Clover only. The broader outcome of this research is to recommend alternative management practices that reduce chemical uses and leaching losses, while improving the profitability and sustainability of Fraser fir production systems.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The overall aim of this research is to use an integrated approach to investigate both the facilitation and competition for soil nutrients, especially N in tree –cover crop intercropping system and its interaction with tree growth. This should lead to the development of a low input sustainable farming system for Christmas tree production with potential to meet the nutritional requirements of Fraser fir trees, perform a more competitive biological weed control and reduce environmental problems associated with the current practices.

    The main objective can be divided into the following specific objectives:
    • to assess the effect of groundcover management on plantation soil physical/ chemical properties and tree growth;
    • to examine the tree and the plantation soil nutrient status as affected by groundcover management;
    • to evaluate the effects of groundcover management on microbial biomass (C and N)and activities in soil;
    • to evaluate the effectiveness of the cover crop to control weeds;
    • to assess the effectiveness of the different groundcover managements to nutrients leaching;

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.