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Root rot threatens traditional Christmas fir trees

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BAKERSVILLE, N.C. -

There's something rotten in Christmas tree country. And that has some farmers looking overseas for a solution.

Phytophthora root rot, caused by a waterborne mold, is an issue with fir producers nationwide. One study estimated the potential loss to No. 1 Oregon's nursery and Christmas tree industries at up to $304 million, and Phytophthora costs growers in No. 2 North Carolina about $6 million a year.

While researchers try to unlock the genetic code to root rot, some farmers are trying Turkish fir as an alternative. Fraser fir farmer Jeff Pollard of Crossnore, N.C., sold his first Turkish trees last year, and his customers raved.

Oregon farmers plant about 500,000 Turkish and Nordmann fir a year. Pollard plans to do a full rotation this spring.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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