Dry summer wilts forest industries 0
Many areas in eastern Ontario are under drought conditions, but so far the St. Lawrence River valley has been spared.
The drought may be over, but the effect it will have on traditional winter festivities and on forestry is yet to be seen.
“Forests take a long period of time to be affected by drought, and trees are different than agriculture in the way they are evolved and naturally adapted to deal with drought,” explained Renfrew County forester Lacey Rose.
But according to Ray Bonenberg, his Christmas tree plantation has already witnessed the effect of this year’s drought. The Rankin resident ventured into the Christmas tree business five years ago, and this summer’s drought wiped out three years of his crop.
“I lost all the trees I planted this year, last year and the year before,” explained Mr. Bonenberg, adding, “they just died like flies.”
“June 1 was the last time it rained, before last week,” noted Mr. Bonenberg. The tree farmer’s Christmas tree plantation wasn’t irrigated.
Along with owning a Christmas tree farm, Mr. Bonenberg also owns Mapleside Sugar Bush.
For his sugar bush it is a wait and see situation. The 14-year-old plantation has faired well so far, but Mr. Bonenberg admitted next year’s maple syrup run will depend on how much precipitation the area receives over the next few months.
“We could use an inch or two of rain a week,” said the president of the Ontario Maple Association. “I would be happy if I got that till the fall.”
In order for the sap to flow the trees need an abundance of moisture in the ground, as the sap is used to create the Canadian staple.
At this point in time he can’t say whether his maple plantation has been affected, but he figures his trees haven’t grown very much this year and he notes, “they have withered leaves on top.”
The Forest Stewardship Committee has also been hit by the drought.
Program forester Steve D’eon estimated it will take two years for his group to bounce back after this summer’s drought.
“We estimate the total loss to be in the $350,000 range,” said Mr. D’eon.
Since 2004 the non-profit group has planted almost one million trees. This year alone they planted 140,000, which Mr. D’eon calculates 100,000 of which have died due to the drought.
“That is basically a loss of $135,000,” noted Mr. D’eon. “I obviously haven’t finished counting them all but the number we have seen is 70-99 per cent mortality rate in the trees we planted in 2012.”
The organization also noted plantations have experienced a loss of five to 10 per cent for five to seven-year-old trees.
“I didn’t expect it because they were really well established,” explained Mr. D’eon.
Ms. Rose notes, “trees on shallow soils are most affected by the drought and people may notice that tress growing alongside roads on rock outcrops are browning already. Young trees and ground vegetation are also looking quite dry right now because they do not have deep well-developed root systems.
“In many cases this is likely the tree going into early dormancy as a result of reduced resources, which usually happens in the fall as the tree prepares for winter. Most of these tress will probably be okay next year, even if the mature tree looks dead right now. Give it a chance next spring before you cut it down.”
She notes people who planted trees this year are seeing the impact of the drought.
“We’ve heard reports of less than 10 per cent survival in this year’s plant due to the extreme heat and lack of moisture,” said Ms. Rose.
She added, “it will be next year or maybe even several years down the road before we will really see the impact of this summer’s drought on our forests.”