Christmas trees in jeopardy due to extreme heat, planted trees struggling to survive

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The extreme heat Oregon has experienced in recent summers is taking a toll on the Christmas tree farming industry.

According to Oregon State University professor and Christmas tree farm owner, Chal Landgren, Oregon produces 5.2 million Christmas trees each year; more than any other state in the U.S.

Landgren said these past three years have been particularly harsh, the worst he remembers in his more than 30 years in the business.

“We’re going to have a real shortage of trees," he said.

Landgren produces Turkish, Noble and Nordman trees at his farm. But, he said these days many of his seedlings are struggling to survive.

Last year alone, he lost 90 percent of the trees he planted.

And even those that survive, suffer discoloration that can make them harder to sell.

Landgren told FOX 12, despite their rust-colored pine needles, the trees can be nursed back to health. However, it may take a while. And, according to Landgren, weak trees attract more insects that can kill them before they ever have a chance to recover.

Tree farmers like Landgren are doing all they can to save their harvests, even using irrigation. Until recently, most tree farming was done without it.

“Out here we’ve been trying to haul water to the trees,” Landgren said. “We can water about half an acre in a day.”

With five acres of land, his work is seemingly endless. So, Landgren is using his background as a forester and researcher to help save his beloved trees.

Landgren is experimenting with ways to provide shade and cool his seedlings. He puts a small temperature sensor on each one.

The data the sensors collect is used to determine which method best cools the trees. But, his experiments are not always successful and the worst part of the season has not even begun.

“The real test will be at the end of August…we’ll see whether all this work is worth it.”

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