Drought is a real Grinch at Moline Christmas tree farm

Christmas in July looks more like a Grinch than a gift.

“The ones you see dying are this year’s plantings,” said Rick Wyffels, who started growing Christmas trees at his 13-acre Moline farm back in 1993.

Drought has killed 900 trees there, and there could be more on the way.

“See the brown ones over there?” he gestured.

A crop that takes care and plenty of rain is roasting in hot, dry weather. It’s too early to tell what impact it will have on availability and pricing.

“When you lose your whole year’s planting, it puts you a whole year behind,” he said.

A year ago, Rick was caring for his 3,000 Christmas trees in much better weather.

“The rule is prune in June,” he said then.

But those green, shapely trees are turning brown and dying.

“See that?” he motioned. “It’s not getting any water.”

It could be one of the longest side effects of the drought. That’s because newly planted trees won’t be harvested and sold for at least six years.

“Look at that soil,” he said. “That is dust.”

It’s tough on planting, care and harvesting this holiday crop. The trees totally depend on rain, and the wet weather isn’t there.

“If it doesn’t get any better, we’re going to start losing what we have in the field,” he said.

Even mature trees that will be ready for harvest, some nine years old, are now dying in the heat. It’s threatening a way of life.

“For most people, it’s getting tougher to do,” he concluded.

It’s much tougher as trees turn brown with this Grinch called drought.

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