By Georgina Wade
The British heatwave may seem far behind us, but Christmas tree growers across Britain are still feeling the heat after soaring temperatures wiped out a third of their new crop.
And while it is unlikely that customers will be left without a tree this year, farmers are becoming increasingly aware that they must adapt to a future of extreme conditions in order to protect future yields.
This is becoming especially apparent after the Met Office announced heatwaves will soon become the norm in Britain,with summer temperatures shooting up by over 5C within decades.
Searing temperatures and limited rainfall over the course of the summer caused crops to ripen early, resulting in lettuce and broccoli shortages. On Christmas tree farms, young saplings with smaller roots were left unable to suck up enough water from the parched ground.
Adrian Morgan from the British Christmas Tree Growers Association says that up to 70percent of trees planted in the spring perished in the heat. This is a particular cause for concern as the UK sources up to a fifth of its Christmas trees from European nations.
More specifically, a lack of predictability is the root cause of inadequate growth.The late Beast from the East in 2018 meant farmers couldn’t plant spring crops until much later, in which they were immediately hit by the dry weather in the summer.
Adrian Morgan points to planting in the autumn as a means of ensuring future harvests,a move that will prove difficult for many.
“It’s a leap of faith in a way, because a lot of people growing Christmas trees in England and Wales are also arable farmers, and there’s a significant amount of pressure on them to get their harvest in,” he said.
Due to the decade-long growing time of Christmas trees, the effects of this year’s extreme weather will not be fully felt for several years. Despite this, growers are already accepting the need to change in order to save their business, as well as the season’s most beloved plant.