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Health, Science and Environment

Christmas trees enduring drought

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Rain would be like Christmas in July for Christmas tree farmers.

Christmas tree farms are important in Missaukee County, as there are over 10,000 acres of farmland. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the county is one of four counties in the nation to have that much acreage dedicated to Christmas trees. 

So, the lack of rain and high temperatures could impact these farmers. 

Jamie Helsel, the owner Jamie Helsel Tree Farms in McBain, said the lack of rain has caused some of his seedlings to dry out.

“I planted around 10,000 trees and I got a chance of losing half of them right now because there isn’t enough moisture,” he said. 

He added that the heat has been beneficial for his mature trees, causing them to grow quickly. 

Dr. Bert Cregg is a professor in the Departments of Horticulture and Forestry at Michigan State University. He studies Christmas tree farm systems.

“The drought is mainly a problem in the new transplants, or small seedlings,” Cregg said. “The concern is getting those trees that were planted through this summer and into the fall.” 

He said farmers plan for some loss, but this year could see a greater loss. 

Cregg said trees that have been in the ground for two or three years are strong enough to make it through “just about any drought” Michigan would see. 

Brian Getty owns Getty Tree Farms in Manton. He said his trees should pull through because there is time for rain.

“I think it'll be good,” he said.  “We have lots of time for it to catch up.”

The quality of the Christmas trees won’t be affected, but growth may be slowed down due to the lack of rain so far this summer.

Getty said irrigation systems have helped, but rain would only add to that.