Implementing precision irrigation management tools to improve the sustainability of Christmas tree production in a changing climate

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2024: $49,995.00
Projected End Date: 03/30/2026
Grant Recipient: Michigan State University
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Younsuk Dong
Michigan State University


No commodities identified


No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

During the 2023 growing season, Michigan experienced significant
drought conditions and erratic precipitation. Growers reported
high rates of tree mortality on recently planted trees,
especially under non-irrigated conditions. Young trees often have
small, poorly developed root systems and are the most vulnerable
to drought stress, resulting in tree mortality and poor growth.
Irrigation has been shown to improve survivability and increase
growth of young trees. However, excess irrigation wastes water
resources, increases nutrient leaching and soil erosion, and
promotes suitable environments for Phytophthora root
rot, a significant pathogen leading to tree mortality. Proper
irrigation management is critical to improve the sustainability
of the Christmas tree industry amongst a changing climate. Often,
growers use personal observations to schedule irrigation events.
A commonly accepted viewpoint is irrigation events of 1 inch per
week are sufficient in the absence of rainfall. However, there is
limited evidence to support this value and determining the actual
amounts of irrigation applied can be difficult. The goal of this
project is to partner with 4 Christmas tree growers to
demonstrate and evaluate the effects of irrigation management
tools, including weather-based irrigation scheduling, soil
moisture monitoring equipment, and automated irrigation control
systems for use in Christmas tree production.

Project objectives from proposal:

Objective 1: Train and familiarize
Christmas tree growers with various irrigation tools such as
weather-based irrigation scheduling, soil moisture sensor
monitoring units, and automated irrigation systems.

Objective 2: Evaluate the effects of
irrigation management tools in newly planted Christmas trees on
survivability, irrigation water use efficiency, and
Phytophthora root rot presence.

Objective 3: Share the results and grower’s
experience of irrigation tools and technology with other
Christmas tree growers through meetings (panel discussion) and

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.