Dealing with hot and dry conditions for Michigan Christmas tree growers

Michigan’s Christmas trees have been affected by the recent, hot and dry conditions. Growers should apply as much supplemental irrigation as possible to maintain development.

Michigan and the entire Midwest have been experiencing exceptionally high summer temperatures. This is compounded to the droughty conditions we have had since mid-May with only very limited (less than 5 mm of rain in most places) and poorly distributed rainfall in the entire area.

All Christmas tree species grown in the state are affected by these hot and dry conditions and growers are required to apply as much supplemental irrigation as possible to maintain acceptable development of their crops. Below are some common sense recommendations for sustaining Christmas tree production under the current hot and dry conditions.

Shorten your irrigation runtimes to go around more often

Our research has shown that on sandy sites in Michigan, it takes only four days without rainfall or supplemental irrigation for soil moisture to dry down to extreme levels. By shortening your runs, you will make sure to go around your field quicker and come back before the soil becomes too dry.

Irrigate small trees first and bigger trees later

Smaller trees (less than 5 feet tall) have a shorter root system and reduced ability to reach down to deeper soil horizons for moisture. They should be irrigated first to satisfy their urgent needs before taller trees with deeper root systems.

Check your soil moisture devices more often than you normally would

We normally recommend checking your tensiometer or any other soil moisture reading device once or twice a week. However, because of the extreme conditions, we suggest you check your devices three or four times, especially in areas where smaller trees are installed.

Run, run, run

Keep your irrigation system running until we start having regular rainfall. Under these conditions, you cannot put out enough water. Move from one zone to another and keep running.

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