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Development of Sustainable Management Strategies for Large-Fruited Hybrid Cranberry Cultivars

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Principal Investigator/Project Leader: 
Erika
Rojas
Department of Project: 
Cranberry Station
Project Description: 

Cranberry production has a long history in Massachusetts (MA) that adds important economic and aesthetic value to the region.  About 30% of U.S. acreage and the two largest cranberry handler companies are located in Massachusetts. This crop has the highest farm gate value of any food crop in the Commonwealth, $99.8 million in 2012 (USDA 2015).  A study by Farm Credit East of Northeast Agriculture estimated that when accounting for employment on the farms in supporting local businesses, and in the cranberry processing businesses that exist to use the fruit produced, the estimated value of the MA cranberry is 1.4 billion with 6900 associated jobs in the region.  These 4 statistics support conducting the proposed research in MA, but the information gained will be applicable to all cranberry production in the U.S.  The University of Massachusetts maintains a research/outreach in East Wareham with the mission of providing support to the MA cranberry industry via applied production research and extension.  The faculty assigned to the research station will be the project directors.

In this project, we will focus on key pest and water management practices for large fruited, high yielding, cranberry hybrid cultivars.

In efforts to maximize production efficiency and profitability, and in response to low per barrel (100lb unit of measure) pricing, cranberry growers have identified replanting to higher‐yielding, large‐fruited cultivars as a key practice that can increase their per acre returns.

Threats to the sustainability of the cranberry production in MA and elsewhere in the U.S. come from many sources: consumer demand for sustainable but inexpensive products, commodity pricing in an industry that is currently over-supplied with juice concentrate, changes to industry ( handler) fruit quality standards, rising costs for energy and pest management products, climate change and changing standards in pesticide use to accommodate global marketing.  The use of conventional pesticides within an integrated pest management (IPM) framework is the predominant approach employed to control pests on MA cranberry farms.

Consumer and market pressures are changing the spectrum of pest management  tools available to cranberry growers. All of this is taking place against a backdrop of climate change, which in itself, may necessitate change in management in response to overall increases in temperature and frequency of extreme events, including prolonged drought conditions. We expect to see increased pressure from fungal diseases, increased potential for heat stress, and increased competition for water resources in the coming years.

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