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Summer Heat Scorched Christmas Tree Seedlings for Second Year

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MARION, Iowa When it comes to Christmas trees, farmers said this year there's good news and bad news.

Grower Dan Hoffman, of Hoffman Tree Farm in Marion, said despite a summer of heat and little rain, his mature evergreens will make great Christmas decorations this holiday.

"Once an evergreen tree is established it can tolerate some drier weather. So we'll have plenty of trees this year, next year, the year after," Hoffman said.

What's concerning are his seedlings. Hoffman planted about 1,500 this spring. The sun dried most of them out.

"I think we've got about 25% of them still alive," he said.

It was dry last year too, when Hoffman's seedlings took an even greater loss. Only 10% survived.

It all adds up to a finite amount of flora in about a decade's time, especially if seedlings are thirsty again next year.

"It makes ten years down the road look thinner. Yay, farming!" said Hoffman.

Evergreen sellers who import from out of state said they're not immune, either. Forever Green in North Liberty gets trees from Wisconsin, where dry weather also impacted seedlings the last couple years.

"This year's crop did okay. They did lose a lot of last year's crop," said Lucy Hershberger, a part owner of Forever Green.

Hershberger said in eight or more years, customers could see fewer varieties, stunted trees, maybe higher prices.

"It shouldn't be too dramatic for us, just because the drought wasn't quite as severe up in Wisconsin," said Hershberger.

Looking to the future, Hoffman is optimistic. He hopes the coming years will be a bit wetter for the seedlings of his Christmas time crop.

"It's an optimistic business. You just have to trust The Lord and trust you're going to get the rain and the good weather," said Hoffman.

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