Tree shortage

Bad Pennsylvania weather may lead to a future Christmas tree shortage

2012-12-08T21:00:00Z 2013-07-16T13:50:11Z Bad Pennsylvania weather may lead to a future Christmas tree shortageBy Travis Kellar, The Sentinel The Sentinel
December 08, 2012 9:00 pm  • 

A lengthy stretch of hot, dry weather over the years may not have changed this year’s crop of Christmas trees, but it will make its presence known in a few years.

This year proved to be a very rough year for Christmas tree nurseries. Beginning in 2010, abnormally high temperatures became commonplace across the country, and rain was scarce. Although the South has experienced the worst effects, the entire country has been affected by the drought.

Local tree farms are no exception, and trees that would have been available a couple of years down the road might be scarce — and more expensive — as a result.

Donald Nyberg, owner of Wyndwood Nursery at 575 Bernheisel Bridge Road in Carlisle, blamed the extremely hot and dry weather for the loss of both new and older trees.

“We planted Fraiser firs this year, and we lost about 40 to 50 percent of those,” he said. He also said he lost up to 100 older trees that included Canaan and Fraiser firs.

Robert Gruver, owner of Gruver’s Tree Farm at 255 Stetler Road in New Cumberland, experienced similar losses. Of the trees he planted this year, he estimated that about 80 or 90 percent did not survive the dryness and heat. The timely arrival of some rain prevented further loss.

“We got some rain in July, and it came just in time,” Gruver said. “Another week or two without rain, and there would have been some major problems.”

Shane Conaway, manager of Conaway Pine Haven Farm at 1765 Pine Road in Newville, said that roughly 15,000 trees were planted at his farm this year and he estimates they lost around 5,000 of those. The abnormally warm weather enabled him to plant seedlings in March, which he said was “unheard of” when compared to the typical May planting time.

Despite the losses, the real effects of the abnormal weather have yet to be seen. “In seven to 10 years, you’ll see it on the market,” Gruver said.

This year, however, the general consensus is that the tree nurseries will have plenty of stock from which buyers can choose.

“We’re still in good shape,” Nyberg said. “We have an excellent stock of Canaan, Douglas, Concolor and Fraser firs.”

Gruver agreed, saying his farm was still “in good shape.”

Conaway said his farm plans to plant another 15,000 in the spring and increase irrigation. The rest is up to Mother Nature.

“Other than irrigation, there is not a whole lot that can be done, sadly,” Conaway said.

While the prices of his trees have not risen since 2010, Conaway said that prices naturally rise each year for fuel, treatment chemicals and labor. As for how the prices will be affected due to the climate, he does not anticipate anything drastic, but said that time is of the essence.

“At this point in this game, it’s just too early to say,” Conaway said.

Copyright 2015 The Sentinel. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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