RAYMOND, Miss. (WJTV) – A Mississippi Christmas tree farmer expects to see tree growth impacted for at least the next three years on his Chunky, Miss., farm due to this year’s severe drought conditions.
“It’s been a rough year because of the drought,” said Michael May, who owns and operates Lazy Acres Plantation. “We’ve lost 5% of the larger trees that would have been for sale this year.”
Mild to moderate drought conditions usually only affect trees up to two-years-old. More mature trees can withstand moderate drought conditions better. However, with little to no rain for much of the state since late summer, drought conditions across the state range from severe to exceptional, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Trees normally grow about two-feet per year, but drought conditions have stunted this year’s growth.
“Trees that would have been 10-feet trees this year are now just 6 to 8 feet tall,” May said.
Jeff Wilson, horticulture specialist with the Mississippi State University (MSU) Extension Service, said weather conditions were the greatest challenges for growers this year.
“This year’s drought has affected trees of all ages, killing many of them, especially in the lower half of the state. Freezing conditions in December 2022 and March 2023 also killed many younger trees. Some older trees had to be pruned to remove frozen portions causing some that would be sold this year to need another year of growth,” said Wilson.
Wilson said these issues have caused a decrease in mature tree inventory across the state, and consumers who want locally grown trees should shop early.
Average cost for a Christmas tree is $10 to $16 per foot, or about $60 for a six-foot tree.