Rejoice! Scientists on Trail of Less-Messy Christmas Tree

Scientists in Canada are about to make Christmas-time neat freaks, holiday-overwhelmed homemakers and post-holiday sluggards very, very happy.

Apparently, researchers at Université Laval in Quebec and Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Nova Scotia believe they’ve discovered what makes pine needles fall off the balsam fir, a preferred Christmas-time conifer. Their discovery, they say, could make Christmas trees last twice as long as normal—dramatically increasing the possibility that the trees won't disintegrate when slacker households try to wrestle them out of the house come Valentine’s Day.

In a recent issue of the scientific journal "Trees" (yes, there is such a thing), researchers presented findings that suggested the plant hormone ethylene is the substance responsible for pine-needle loss. The scientists tested their theory by treating pine branches with two chemical compounds that interfere with ethylene. The result: Instead of lasting 40 days, the treated trees lasted between 73 and 87 days.

"By Day 40, the branches that had been treated were still green, tender, and fresh-looking, while the untreated branches had lost virtually all their needles," Steeve Pepin, co-author of the study and professor at the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences at Université Laval told the  NewsRx Health & Science newsletter. Since one of the two interfering chemicals is a gas, said Pepin, “It would be feasible to release it into the trucks used to ship the trees," and keep them fresh as they traveled from the farm to their final destinations.

A group of growers expects to commercialize the research, so you can look forward to your fresher, longer-lasting gassed fir in the future.

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Happy holidays!