Christmas Tree seedlings are not in that category! If you have been hiding out in your air conditioning and have not seen the news, this past weekend Oregon and many other places were experiencing record breaking heat. For us, this us just another hurdle of the Christmas Tree farming life.
First lets take a look at what our seedlings do like. Cool temperatures and high precipitation are high up on the list of basic needs of evergreen trees. When growing any crop, precipitation can be managed by irrigation and watering efforts. Historically here in Oregon, Christmas Tree crops are not irrigated. Due to complex water rights, and the cost of irrigation equipment, quickly adding irrigation to a field that has previously never had it, often isn’t an option. The continued trend of lower than average snow and rainfall, plus these high temperatures, are not an ideal start for our baby trees.
Farmer Mark went out to the field yesterday and came back with some somber news and photos of heat damage. Not only on many of the 22,000 seedlings we put in the ground this year but there is also damage to some of our mature trees that would have been available for purchase this Christmas season. This is the same type of damage, but to a lesser extent, that occurred on our trees that were close to last years Holiday Farm Fire. Mark said he hasn’t seen this type of heat damage since a heatwave in August of 1981. Since this heatwave was so early into the Summer, the damage was a bit different. This time of year our seedlings and mature trees still have fresh, tender, new growth on them. That new grown is far more susceptible to damage. Be that damage from wildlife, cooler than average temperatures or these scorching high temperatures.
While not all of our trees suffered damage, in some fields every seedling showed damage to some extent. While other fields had much more limited damages. Mark suspects that the newly planted fields with higher rates of damage were due to the heat held in their rockier soil. Seedlings that were smaller and closer to the ground also suffered more damages. Luckily the damages to our more mature trees were a lot fewer and far between.
For Santa & Sons, this is regrettably puts us an additional year behind on most of the seedlings we put in the ground in 2021. Not only has it reduced the survival rate of those seedlings, it has stunted the growth of those that will survive and puts them another year out from being your beautiful Christmas Tree. That means, at two years old these seedlings will still only be as developed as if they were one year old. While we haven’t seen any news about it yet, this is bound to be a industry wide problem this year as heat is spreading all over the country. Especially in typically cooler areas that are historically prime for growing Christmas Trees.
While this damage is unfortunate it isn’t the end for us here at Santa & Sons. A global pandemic, a state ravished by fires, these are things that blindsided us the last year. However, Mark says that things like this weather are the type of risks and difficulties you sign up for when you become a farmer and luckily for us he is a man that always has a plan.