This week I finished taking data on the needle drop in cut branches from scale infested trees. I reported on the experiment on November 10th when I set it up. The experiment worked worked well in that there was needle drop, but since there was too much needle drop, I guess it worked a little too well!
The room that the branches were stored in was very hot. It's an unused room at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station office, and both Jeff Owen and I had shoots stored there. They kept the door shut and the room, which faces the sun, would often be too hot to be comfortable in. The shoots in the buckets faired the worse, dropping many needles. The shoots that were were kept dry kept almost all of their needles to the end of the study, but they dried out and became very brittle.
If you look at individual trees, by the end the experiment 47% of the infested branches in water had shattered a third or more of their needles (much like the photo above) while only 27% of the uninfested branches had more than 1/3 needle drop. Of course, that is much more needle drop than would be expected from cut Fraser fir. Remember that these branches spent less than 24 hours without water. Needle shed should have been at a minimum, and was through the first couple of weeks. Only one tree shattered its needles in week 2, and that was a scale infested tree. But by week 4, there were needles everywhere.
Generally results were along the lines I anticipated -- more needle shed in scale infested trees -- but the data were far from pretty. After all, there were uninfested branches that totally shattered their needles, and there were scale infested branches with very little needle shed. There were trees where one branch placed in water shed their needles, and the other branch from the same tree also in water hardly did at all. On about half of the scale infested trees, of the two branches taken, the one with more scale had less needle drop. So, I am not real happy with the results. I think I'll repeat this experiment next year either in January or next harvest season to see if I can get some clearer results.
This quick little study just confirms what many people had been telling me, that scale infestation doesn't help the quality of cut trees.