March weather was cold, wet and sunny, but had below normal temperatures, and above normal rainfall and sunshine. The month also had above average snowfall. The temperatures averaged 34.6 degrees, 1.5 degree per day below normal. Maximum temperature was 68 degrees on the 17th, and a minimum temperature of 4 degrees was recorded on the 4th and 7th. Daytime high temperatures averaged 44.4 degrees, 0.6 degrees below the norm. Evening temperatures averaged 24.7 degrees, 2.5 degrees below the norm. There was heavy fog recorded on 9 days this month.
Precipitation totaled 7.21 inches. This is 2.41 inches above normal. We had measurable precipitation on 13 days, 4 more then average. Rainfall for year to date is 15.95 inches, 3.31 inches above average. The largest 24-hour rainfall was 2.47 inches on the 30th. There was three day with snowfall; the largest 24-hour snowfall was recorded on the 7th with 5.25 inches. The snowfall for the season has totaled 48.13 inches this is 21.13 inches above average, compared to last year at this time when we were 21.85 inches below average.
Sunshine totaled 55% of the possible sunshine hours, 7 points over the norm. There were no days with 100% sunshine.
PRELIMINARY KEEPING QUALITY FORECAST As of April 1, there are 2 points out of a possible 10 that favor keeping quality in the 2003 Massachusetts cranberry crop. The two points were awarded for March sunshine hours. Points in this range normally predict a POOR TO FAIR keeping quality. However, the points missed (4) for low sunshine in the previous year is somewhat suspect as described below. The sunshine points relate to the effect of sunshine in the previous year on the size of that crop. Low sunshine equals low crop and low crop relates to better quality the next year. So even though we didn't get the low sunshine points, the low crops in 2002 should be a favorable indicator for keeping quality in 2003. In addition, we narrowly missed getting one point for precipitation in March (had it not rained more than three inches the final weekend) and two points for temperature in March (missed by 0.7 degrees). Taking all of these factors, and my experience, into account, I am setting the preliminary keeping quality forecast at FAIR TO GOOD. The parameter I struggle with each year is the sunshine hours from the previous growing season. These records were formerly maintained at Logan Airport and are now maintained at Blue Hill Observatory where conditions are drastically different. The threshold figure used for nearly 50 years was the one from Logan (2558 hours -- 30 year average) and the average figure at Blue Hill is only 2270 hours. In addition, the sunshine at Blue Hill is less variable from year to year, making it problematic for calculating a predictor which is based on deviation from the average.
I have indicated how badly the parameters involved in this forecast need to be evaluated, and with a two-year grant from the USDA-CSREES Pest Management Alternatives Program, we will be doing just that this summer. The final keeping quality forecast will be issued in early June, using data from April and May. It is possible that the forecast may be elevated above good, should things work in our favor (cool and dry). This should be a normal growing season, with three fungicide applications at middle rates adequate for fruit rot control in most situations. Should you have a bed that had excessive rot or a very large crop in 2002, suffered severe drought stress in the past two years, or has leaf drop this spring, you should not reduce your fungicide sprays. (Frank Caruso)