One grower says, “We know it’s coming, but we don’t know how fast it’s coming.”
Growers of Christmas trees in Nova Scotia say they’re already seeing the effects of climate change on their business, and they’re bracing for more.
Balsam fir, the most common Christmas tree species in the province, requires a succession of frosts in the fall to harden off and keep their needles long after they’ve been cut.
However, fall frosts are becoming increasingly rare.
“We’re fortunate to have a cool climate here. However, things are changing. Our autumns are becoming warmer “Chrissy Trenholme, the Northeastern Christmas Tree Association’s assistant manager, agreed.
Growers were preparing to begin cutting trees to transport to U.S. markets when Trenholme met with the CBC two days before Halloween. However, with only seven frosts in the Giants Lake area of Guysborough County, where she lives, she was anxious that trees might dry out before reaching their destinations.
“If someone buys a tree straight from a U-pick, they’re in good shape. However, when we ship trees out, they will begin to drop their needles after a month.”
Growers are also concerned about the impact of shifting weather on pests and diseases. Tree pests such as aphids, tussock moths, gipsy moths, and gall midge can cause damage and may be affected by rising temperatures, according to Trenholme.
“We’re seeing new risks, new diseases that don’t die off in the winter because we don’t have those cold climes,” says the researcher.
In Nova Scotia, the Christmas tree industry is a huge business. Growers exported roughly 420,000 trees worth more than $9.4 million last year. Around 89 per cent of those were shipped to the United States, with Panama coming in second at 8.4%.
The province Agriculture Department is attempting to mitigate the consequences of climate change on the business. Staff have conducted stakeholder surveys to better understand the effects of climate change and will work with producers to design future adaption plans.
However, some farmers have already begun to make improvements.
What farmers are doing to adapt
Shaun Scott’s Christmas tree farm near Antigonish, N.S., grows balsam fir, Douglas fir, grand fir, noble fir, white pine, Scots pine, Fraser fir, and Korean fir, but he also grows Douglas fir, grand fir, noble fir, white pine, Scots pine, Fraser fir, and Korean fir.