A $7.75 million project to expand and modernize the UMass Amherst Cranberry Station, an important research facility for the commonwealth’s cranberry industry, was celebrated today with a construction celebration event at the station in East Wareham, Mass. While the coronavirus pandemic delayed the start of construction, work is now under way on the facility with a targeted completion date of August 2022. Check out video here.
State dignitaries joined UMass officials today to celebrate the project, which will expand the research facilities, improve the environmental profile of the facility and provide research tools needed to support vigorous research programs in cranberry water, pest and nutrient management. The funding includes $5 million in capital spending authorized in the 2018 Environmental Bond Bill, a $775,00 grant from the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance and $2 million committed by UMass to address deferred maintenance projects. The state funding was spearheaded by state legislators Sen. Michael Rodrigues and Rep. Bill Straus.
UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said, “The cranberry – which happens to be a dazzling version of UMass Amherst maroon – is vital to the region and the entire commonwealth. Reflective of this importance, unlike other facilities throughout the country, this station is designated exclusively for this one crop. And, as evinced from today’s attendance and the political support behind expanding this facility, the research conducted here is critical to the industry. The cutting-edge work includes development of best management practices for the use of photovoltaics on cranberry farms; development of best practices for water conservation and water quality enhancement; and pioneering efforts to use drones for crop health monitoring and application of fertilizers.”
“These new and renovated facilities will enable the station to attract talented scientists and students,” said Hilary Sandler, director of the Cranberry Station. “We will also be able to use the new facilities to maintain effective communication with growers and colleagues, spur new collaborations, and strengthen and maintain our reputation for providing research-based data for current and future horticultural and pest management issues.”
The project will include a new freestanding, two-story 5,500 square-foot addition to the north of the administration building; expanded field pesticide research capacity consisting of a field research lab and storage spaces with access to the outdoors; relocation of the administrative suite from the administration building to the new addition with a new main public entrance and reception area; a new meeting room overlooking the station’s cranberry bogs in the new addition’s upper level; two new research program laboratory facilities in the current lab building library space; improvement of the station’s infrastructure, internet service and laboratory wastewater treatment and disposal; a new 27-space parking lot; and new septic system, new water and electrical services.
The Cranberry Station is an outreach and research center charged with the mission of maintaining and enhancing the economic viability of the Massachusetts cranberry industry. The Cranberry Station works on the issues related to cranberries such as weed management, plant nutrition and physiology, and integrative pest management practices. Cranberries are the top commercial crop grown in Massachusetts on more than 60,000 acres, generating over $1.4 billion for the state’s economy and creating about 7,000 direct and indirect jobs. In recent years, however, producers have faced increasing pressure from bogs in the Midwest and Canada.
In 2016, the Massachusetts Cranberry Revitalization Task Force was formed to assess the state of the industry. Sen. Rodrigues and Rep. Straus both served on the task force, which identified innovation in crop production as one of its key recommendations for sustaining growers in southeastern Massachusetts. The task force specifically cited the need to upgrade the Cranberry Station, which has been a leader in cranberry research since 1910, to help support research and outreach focused on the industry’s barriers to sustainability. The original proposal for the expanded and modernized station was put forward by former station Director Carolyn DeMoranville.