HEAT WAVE 2012: Drought could mean big losses for Christmas tree farms

By: Matt Hoffman Email
By: Matt Hoffman Email

There's still several months before we need to start thinking about picking out the perfect Christmas tree. But for the people who grow Christmas trees, that's all they think about year round, and this summer's drought has them nervous.

Northern Christmas Trees and Nursery has been around for more than 50 years in Merrillan and has about 55 farms scattered through the area.

"Some fields are doing just fine right now but a majority of our fields are under stress in some form or another.” But that stress is only growing, especially, for the smaller trees that were planted just this past spring.

"Whereas the trees behind me...they've got an established root system. They're not quite as susceptible to a drought as the small ones.” Jason Jacobs, the nursery manager, says this is the worst he's seen in his sixteen years here and he's been hoping for rain for the past several days.

"But that rain didn't come and that's when you start worrying about it.” Jacobs won’t be happy with a quick inch of rain that runs off. What he needs is a good soaking rain. He says in the next few days if they don’t get that soaking rainfall they need they could lose 10 to 15 thousand trees.

"If it continues for an extended period of time, the potential is very strong...I don't even want to guess how many, but if we plant 120,000 trees this past spring, we could lose half...potentially."

He says they will have to eat that cost. But will the drought steal this year's Christmas trees too? Jacobs says it will only limit their growth.
"With the lack of water it’s just not strong enough to keep living. The older growth is not quite as susceptible to water deficits but the new growth definitely is," explains Jacobs.

He says you'll still get a nice tree at the height you want but the tree may not be as full.

"Very comfortable selling our trees but just not as nice as they could be," says Jacobs.

Jacobs says if they do end up losing most of their newly planted trees than that could effect availability seven years or so down the road. However, he says because of their size that scenario likely could be avoided for them.

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