Christmas Trees Farms Doing OK This Year Despite Drought

Dec 10, 2012

This year’s Christmas tree crop should be pretty good, despite the drought, but the dry conditions may take its toll a few years down the road.

Teresa Meier co-owns Horseshoe Pines in Jackson. She grows white pines, scotch pines, Virginia pines and several other varieties on her 14 acres. She says this year’s crop is OK. 

“A mature Christmas tree is pretty much done growing by June. After we sheer them, they go into a dormancy. They do need moisture, of course, like everything else. But they’ve done well this year,” Meier said. “The mature trees look good.”

It takes about six years for a Christmas tree to mature. Luckily, Meier irrigates most of her seedlings. Otherwise, Christmastime in six years would be “bah humbug.” That’s because all of her unirrigated seedlings, about 400 white pines, died in the drought.

Missouri Department of Conservation forester Joe Garvey said a tree farmer is looking towards the future. “That’s the hard part of it. You’re looking down range several years, and if you get hit young or get old, it can hurt you,” Garvey said.

He said an older tree with a better root system will have a better chance of surviving the drought.

“Trees are on a rotation period. You grow them for a long period of time so if they have a dieback in one size class, like a lot of five footers die or a lot of six footers die, what you’re going to see is the next year you may not have that size class,” Garvey said. “That may affect your sales or what the customer wants. They want a certain tree and that size class got hit hard, it could make an impact on that.”

Garvey adds trees that were stressed by insects the past few years may also succumb to the dry conditions.