1

SOIL PREPARATION

Before planting Christmas trees in a new field, we must take soil samples to determine the level of pH and the presence of nutrients. Once the soil has been amended with lime and fertilizer, it is planted. After harvest, the stumps and roots are extracted from the soil. The soil is then tilled and nutrients are applied before a cover crop is planted. The field is now left to rest for up to two years.

2

PLANTING

In most cases, the technique used is that of planting transplants. The plants used are 4 years old. They must have the qualities of future trees; we will take tough plants well supplied, although green, not too big or too small. To avoid freezing problems we will look for plants with a rather late removal. Plant quality will also be a determining factor in is ability to resist pests and diseases. Planting is mostly done by a machine on large surfaces and when the terrain is not to mountainous.

Young trees are planted in rows to facilitate cultivation and especially mowing, otherwise the plants may be damaged or destroyed by the machine. The planting density is highly variable, it depends on the cultivated essence or the expected size at harvest, local customs, of the right quality, the nature of the desired interviews. The current density of 8000 plants / ha (it can vary from 6 000 to 10 000 plants / hectars depending on the production quality being sought and tree species)

 

3

BASAL PRUNING

During the third year in the field, the young trees are rid of their lower branches. This procedure is called basal pruning. Combined with proper weed control and mowing, basal pruning enhances growth and increases air circulation in the fields, therefore preventing foliar diseases. Pruning is done by hand or machine where possible. The small branches are collected and used in wreath or natural oil production. Quebec Balsams Export does not use chemicals at this stage as it deems them damaging to nature.

4

WEED CONTROL

Why control weeds in Christmas tree plantations? Weeds compete with young trees for food, water and light, threatening their survival. Our weed control program has been carefully developed over many years with Dr. John Ahrens, emeritus specialist. We worked hard to create the most efficient recipe that would cause the least amount of damage to the environment, would be easy to use and acceptable to our friends and neighbours. Over the years, we have also developed our own three row and five row sprayers to maximize spreading, while minimizing the time required for the task. It is important to spray at the right time and rapidly. Along with mowing two to three times a season, this constitutes our approach to weed management.

5

TRIMMING

Each year, more than one million trees are trimmed by hand to give them shape and volume.

6

QUALITY CONTROL

Every year, over 75,000 trees are individually labelled and examined to determine health grade and height. The ribbons we use bear a unique number which helps inspectors from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and foreign agricultural inspectors to trace each tree and identify the farm of origin. Some plantations are even reserved for specific countries.

7

HARVESTING

Traditionally, Christmas trees were harvested by chain saw, tied and stacked by hand on trailers, directly in the fields; this represented a lot of handling before storage and loading for final export.

8

PACKAGING

Once the trees are harvested, they are mechanically baled with twine and measured on a baling machine. They are kept in the woods in an upright position, away from the sun and wind to insure maximum freshness. The forest acts as a refrigerated warehouse.

9

LOADING

Before loading, each container is thoroughly inspected according to C-TPAT (Customs-Trade Partnership against Terrorism) guidelines. If an irregularity is observed, it must be immediately reported to C-TPAT. If the loading equipment is deemed too dirty or damaged, it can be returned to the depot or cleaned on site.

A blower is used while loading to eliminate a maximum of dead needles on the floor. Tree stumps are scrubbed with a steel brush to remove all soil. Bad weeds or any other material harboring harmful organisms are removed. Pruning shears are made available to cut off undesirable branches.

Loading at night is kept to a minimum and any necessary lighting must be directed away from the interior of the box to prevent the introduction of undesirable insects.

If requested on an import permit, a fumigation treatment, usually with pyrethrin, can be applied to the shipment.