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Abies (concolor)

John T. Harrington
New Mexico State University-Mora Research Center
P. O. Box 359
Mora, New Mexico 87732-0359
575-387-9012 (fax)

Family Scientific Name: Pinaceae
Family Common Name: Pine Family
Scientific Name: Abies concolor (Gord. and Glend.) Lindl. ex Hildebr.
Common Name: White fir; concolor fir
Species Code: ABCO
General Distribution: White fir is widely distributed throughout the western United States, although its natural ranges are broadly disconnected. In New Mexico, white fir is confined to mountain ranges at elevations of greater than 5,500 to over 11,200 feet (1600 to 3400 m). White fir grows well on deep, moist and well-drained soils, but can survive on thin, rocky soils (Harlow and others 1996).
Propagation Goal: plants
Propagation Method: seed
ProductType: Container (plug)
Stock Type: 164 ml conetainer
Time To Grow: 0
Target Specifications: Height: 15 to 20 cm Caliper: 2 to 3 mm Root System: Firm root plug.
Propagule Collection: Entire cones are harvested by hand from trees. Cones are harvested when they begin to turn tan or brown, prior to scale opening. The cones of this species break apart quite quickly while on the tree once the final stages, as indicated by the change in color to brown, begins. Throughout this species' range in New Mexico, this occurs typically in early to mid-September within its natural range and slightly later when grown at lower elevations.
Propagule Processing: Cones are placed in cone cages placed in a greenhouse and the maturation process is allowed to continue. Greenhouse environmental controls are set to cool if temperatures exceed 27°C. When the cones open in the cages the cones fall apart generatingboth seed and a large volume of cone fragments (detris). The seed is then cleaned by separation in an air column. This process has shown to be effective in separating nearly all of the detris from the seed. Cleaned seeds are refrigerated (2 - 4°C) until use if use is expected within 12 months. If the seed is not intended to be used until after 12 months, the seed is stored at -9 to - 12oC.
Pre-Planting Treatments: Seeds are removed from storage and placed in water at room temperature for 12 - 18 hours. Seed is then placed in self-sealing, polyethylene baggies and placed in refrigerated conditions (2 to 4°C) for 28 days to satisfy stratification requirements.
Growing Area Preparation/
Annual Practices for Perennial Crops:
Propagation occurs in a greenhouse and outdoor nursery (shade house) facility. During establishment and the initial portion of the active growth period seedlings are kept in the greenhouse. During the later portion of the active growth period through the storage period seedlings are kept in the shade house. Seed is sown in early April and seedlings are moved into the shade house throughout August when seedlings are between 15 and 20 cm tall. Growing media is a 2:1:1 (v:v:v) peat:perlite:vermiculite mixture. Controlled release fertilizer 14-14-14 (N-P-K) 3-4 month is incorporated into the media at the rate of 4 kg/m3. Greenhouse irrigation is provided via mini-sprinklers. Irrigation heads are spaced to provide head to head coverage. Shade house irrigation is provided via standard fixed-area turf irrigation nozzles, spaced to provide head to head coverage. Seedlings are fertilized using a fertigation system, which utilizes the irrigation system. Irrigation in the cold frame is done using sub-irrigation beds. Irrigation intervals are typically every 4 to 5 days while in the cold frame.
Establishment Phase: (Greenhouse) Seed is placed on top of the media. A 2 to 5 mm layer of fine chicken grit is placed on top of the media/seed to serve as a gravel mulch. The containers are irrigated (misted) 4 to 8 times daily to keep the surface of the media moist. Greenhouse night and day temperatures range from 18 to 26øC and no supplemental light is provided. Thinning of germinants to one seedling per cell begins after 14 days. The container system used allows for the consolidation of germinants to separate containers, which are removed from daily misting. Consolidation begins after 14 days.
Length of Establishment Phase: 28 days
Active Growth Phase: Containers are irrigated as needed, which usually involves irrigation once every 4 to 5 days for the first several weeks then one every 2 to 3 days through the remainder of the active growth period, typically by week 18. Containers are allowed to dry down to a moderate state between irrigations. This irrigation regime is used to help minimize root disease problems. All irrigations are done early in the morning, which allows foliage to sufficiently dry before nightfall, minimizing foliar disease problems. During the active growth phase, seedlings are fertigated every other irrigation with a liquid based fertilizer (20-10-10; N-P-K). Fertilization rates applied progressively increase throughout the active growth phase. Applications rate begins at 25 ppm N for the first 2 weeks and progressively increases by 25 ppm weeks. By week thirteen seedlings begin receiving 175 ppm N and this rate is held until the seedlings are moved to the shade house. Once in the shade house, seedlings are fertilized with 150 ppm N every third irrigation until the end of August. During the greenhouse portion of the active growth period greenhouse temperatures during the day are 21 to 26øC and during the night 18 to 22øC. Ambient photoperiod is supplemented with 5 min light interruptions every 2 hours throughout the night from 75 watt incandescent lights suspended 2 meters above greenhouse benches. Once transferred outside, ambient temperature and light regimes are utilized.
Length of Active Growth Phase: 14 to 18 weeks
Hardening Phase: (Shade house) This phase begins in late summer (end of August typically) to early fall as soon as seedlings attain their target shoot height. Containers are leached with a heavy irrigation and a series of incrementally increasing water stresses is applied to restrict any further height growth. In Mora, NM, ambient day temperatures are still quite warm but nights begin cooling markedly. The interval between irrigations becomes progressively longer due to seedlings becoming acclimated to water deficits and the gradual cooling associated with the onset of fall. Seedlings are fertilized every third irrigation (fertigated) with a liquid based fertilizer (10-30-20; N-P-K) at a rate of 25 ppm N.
Length of Hardening Phase: 9 to 12 weeks
Harvesting, Storage and Shipping: (Cold Frame) Seedlings are moved from the shade house into a cold frame (low-tech, twin-walled poly-topped greenhouse) in late October to early November. This step is necessary as the diurnal fluctuations in temperatures throughout the winter can result in daily freeze/thaw episodes which can damage the seedlings. The temperature in the cold frame ranges from 2 to 4oC day and night. Irrigation in the cold frame is done using sub-irrigation beds. Irrigation intervals are typically every 4 to 5 days while in the cold frame. No supplemental light is provided. Seedlings are kept in the cold frame until shipped which is typically in late February or early March.
Length of Storage: 3 - 4 months
References: Harlow, W. M., and others. 1996. Textbook of dendrology, eighth edition. New York: McGraw Hill, Inc. 534 pp.

[ITIS] Integrated Taxonomic Information System. 2008. (On-line database). URL: http://www.itis.gov (accessed 8 December 2008).

Laacke, R. J. 2004. White Fir. In: (R.M. Burns & B.H. Honkala Tech. Coords.) Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers. URL: http://www.na.fs.fed.us/Spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/volume_1/silvics_vol1.pdf (accessed 8 December 2008).


Loveall, Mark W.; Harrington, John T. 2008. Propagation protocol for production of Container (plug) Abies concolor (Gord. and Glend.) Lindl. ex Hildebr. plants 164 ml conetainer; New Mexico State University-Mora Research Center Mora, New Mexico. In: Native Plant Network. URL: http://NativePlantNetwork.org (accessed 2021/07/27). US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, National Center for Reforestation, Nurseries, and Genetic Resources.

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