In order to compete in the marketplace, assure profitability and preserve the environment, cranberry growers must overcome barriers to sustainability. This project has three components related to increased sustainability in Massachusetts cranberry production:
- field research is being used to develop and demonstrate sustainable practices for the management of the most severe pest problems: cranberry fruitworm, fruit rot disease, and the parasitic weed dodder.
- practices are being investigated that have the potential to conserve water and fuel: modified irrigation practices based on the use of plant demand and soil moisture for scheduling, new methods of using sprinkler irrigation for frost protection, and the use of subsurface drainage tiles as part of irrigation management.
- work with growers to implement nutrient management Best Management Practices (BMPs) to identify barriers to adoption and to document impacts of implementation.
The most direct beneficiaries of pest management research are cranberry growers who adopt practices that include applications of compounds that have lower environmental risk (with equivalent efficacy to conventional products), reduced applicator exposure to pesticides, reduced impact on beneficial organisms, and lower herbicide inputs due to postemergence spot applications. In addition, residents near cranberry farms will benefit from the use of reduced-risk compounds through lowered pesticide exposure potential and increased biodiversity. All consumers will benefit from reduced dietary exposure.
Cranberry growers will benefit from the nutrient and water management project components. They will increase their sustainability by adopting water management plans that use less water and energy and limit off-site movement of nutrients. In addition, communities in the cranberry growing area will also benefit economically and socially through job retention and preservation of open spaces (rural character). Environmental benefits will include reduced nutrient runoff, water conservation, and reduction in energy use.
Research and extension will be integrated in our on-farm approach and in our project team. Results from this project will form the basis for revised pest and water management BMPs. Since cranberry growers are participants in this project, they will serve as early adopters and will share their experiences with other growers at on-farm field days and as panel discussion participants at educational programs. By the end of this project, cranberry growers will change how they manage key pests, water, and nutrients. As a result, they will conserve energy and water and will reduce nutrient discharge. By adopting reduced risk pest management options, they will reduce the use of organophosphate insecticides and broadcast herbicides.