Texas drought affecting Christmas tree production

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by Larry Seward / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on November 26, 2011 at 5:55 PM

Updated Sunday, Nov 27 at 10:31 AM

MANVEL, Texas—Drought conditions could spoil future crops of Christmas trees.  Growers say they are struggling to keep pine tree seedlings alive.

Before they cut, shake and net a pine tree, families were searching for just the right one at Holiday Acres in Manvel, Texas on Saturday.

“(We need) a Christmas tree that is big enough to fit in the house, but doesn’t have any holes in it,” said Kasem Fletcher, whose parents bought a tree.

“It is all about spirit,” said Eric Nesline, owner of Mistle Toe Farm, which is next door to Holiday Acres.

Herman Byfield, who bought a tree for his family, reiterated those sentiments.

“To me (cutting down a pine tree) brings great memories, all happy memories (about Christmas),” said Byfield.

Fletcher said he cannot imagine Christmas without a tree.

“(Because) then Santa can’t put the presents anywhere because there is no tree to put it under,” he said.

However, growers see problems.  Wherever blue flags are planted at Holiday Acres, owner Rocky Smith planted seeds.  He said 70 percent of those seeds did not grow. 

The same thing happened next door at Nesline’s Mistle Toe Farm.

“Five years from now, we’ll have a weak crop,” Nesline said.

Blame the drought.

“It stunts (tree) growth,” Smith said.  “So (the trees) don’t grow as fast.”

So, to prevent future losses, growers like Smith are planting extra seeds.

“We’re also going to try to add irrigation to try to make sure if it’s a persistent drought, that we cover that for the long-term,” Smith said.

It is an expensive move.  But every time he hears trees fall and kids shout, Smith remembers why he invests in the holiday tradition.

Other growers hardly have trees left because of the drought.  Still, the Texas Christmas Tree Growers Association doesn’t expect prices to rise.  They said in a poor economy consumers are reluctant to pay more than $40 to $50 for a tree.

 

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