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Climate Change Impacts on Christmas Tree Production in the Midwest

By Bill Lindberg

Much of Michigan has experienced an abnormally warm 2023 winter season. An early spring season appears on the horizon, with record breaking warm weather possible for Michigan at the end of February. A changing climate continues to impact agriculture, including Christmas tree production.

Climate refers to weather patterns tracked over longer time intervals such as years and decades, whereas day-to-day or season-to-season fluctuations in temperature or precipitation is defined as weather. Based on observed changes and model predictions of future climate, we understand that our climate is changing significantly in many locations. The rate of change is impacted by human activities that have released gases into the atmosphere. These “greenhouse gases” retain more energy from the sun elevating the surface temperature on Earth and creating a cascading range of effects on our climate.

To prepare Christmas tree growers throughout the Midwest region for these changes, the MSU Extension Christmas tree team partnered with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Midwest Climate Hub and Washington State University to create a bulletin about climate change impacts on Christmas tree production. The Climate Change Impacts on Christmas Tree Production in the Midwestern Region bulletin discusses:

  • Observed and predicted changes in temperature, precipitation, growing season length and freeze date climatology.
  • How the climate of the future will impact Christmas tree production due to:
    • Changes in insect and disease pressure
    • Challenges for new and mature tree growth and survival
    • Challenges of a warmer harvest season on tree needle retention
    • Challenges to soil productivity from erosion and compaction forces

The bulletin also lists out specific management steps growers can implement to mitigate the impact these challenges will bring to their Christmas tree farms. For example, the climate models predict wetter springs, but warmer and drier summers. To decrease stress on young seedlings, growers many need to install irrigation or add mulch to increase tree survivability.

Check out the new bulletin (E3489),  Climate Change Impacts on Christmas Tree Production in the Midwestern Region.

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