Though extreme heat from past summers has not caused serious damage to Christmas tree crops, there could be effects several years down the road, said an extension agent with the Virginia Cooperative Extension.
There’s usually a “biological lag” in Christmas tree crops’ response to sweltering conditions similar to those from last summer, said Stephen Barts, extension agent with the cooperative extension.
Extreme temperatures can inflict damage on seedlings and younger trees while more mature crops — most Christmas trees are sold in their fifth or sixth year — can withstand the brutal weather, Barts said.
“A full-grown tree has the ability to mitigate weather conditions pretty well,” Barts said. “They’re very hearty plants.”
Too much seedling exposure to harsh elements — in addition to “transplant shock” when relocated from a nursery to a tree farm — could lead to stunted growth and reduced crops about five years later, Barts said.
“It [the tree] ends up succumbing to one or multiple issues,” he said.
Christmas tree crops — which include white pine and Fraser firs — from 2007 and 2008 plantings experienced harsh heat conditions but are faring well, Barts said. However, later years’ relentless drought-like weather could have taken a toll on crops, and could result in diminished numbers of available Christmas trees in the future.
Problems including stunted growth, delayed maturity and dwindling Christmas tree crops could show up starting in the 2014 holiday season, he said.
“It’s certainly a very good possibility,” Barts said.
As for Christmas tree sellers in Danville and Blairs, they’re not too worried about the possibility of reduced crops.
Jeff Collins, who has sold Christmas trees at Christmasland in Danville for 19 years, grows white pines in Ringgold and purchases Fraser firs in Floyd. He offers the trees to customers on Riverside Drive beginning at Thanksgiving and sales have remained steady, he said.
Floyd has more rainfall, Collins said, and Mother Nature usually delivers for his crops.
“One way or another, we’ll get the rain,” Collins said, adding that the economy concerns him more than weather conditions.
Dana Peters, owner of Dana’s Garden Spot on U.S. 29 in Blairs, said Christmas tree business has increased 30 percent compared to last year. She said she is not too concerned about hot and dry weather harming Christmas tree crops.
“Water’s always an issue for everybody,” Peters said, adding that too much water can be worse for trees than too little.
“I’d be more concerned about the economy than water,” she said.
Crane reports for the Danville Register & Bee.