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Integration of Sustainable Management Strategies in Cranberry Production

Principal Investigator/Project Leader: 
Co-Principal Investigator/Co-Project Leader: 
Saalau Rojas
Department of Project: 
UMass Cranberry Station
Project Description: 

Massachusetts Agricultural Experiment Station Project MAS00999
Duration: October 2010 - August 2015

In order to meet sustainability standards being mandated by customers and to ensure long-term viability for their farms, cranberry growers have recognized the need for improvement in water, nutrient, and pest management.  Improvements in these practices have great potential for cost savings and for environmental enhancement and will eventually be required under any adopted sustainability certification program.  Major Massachusetts cranberry insect, weed, and disease pests are cranberry fruitworm, dodder, and fruit rot, respectively.  These pests also challenge cranberry production in other U. S. regions including, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Washington, and Oregon.  The use of conventional pesticides is the predominant approach employed to control these pests.  Long-term sustainability for the Massachusetts cranberry industry requires the integration of reduced-risk pest management alternatives.  In addition, the need for pesticide use in cranberry management poses a potential impediment to foreign trade.  Cranberry production uses large quantities of water for winter protection, harvest, irrigation and frost management. There is increased risk of nutrient enrichment of those waters as they are moved to and from surface water bodies.  In addition, large quantities of fuel are used to move the water.  However, managed cranberry systems can provide ecosystem services in groundwater recharge and flood prevention in addition to their contributions to the Massachusetts economy.  Long-term sustainability in this industry requires the identification and adoption of water management regimes that conserve water and energy and preserve water quality.

Project outcomes:

Cranberry growers are adopting new recommendations for use and timing of reduced-risk insecticides against cranberry fruitworm (CFW).  Almost universally, Altacor (chlorantraniliprole) was reported successful as a CFW compound, confirming our findings at research sites. Altacor is an excellent first application choice since it is bee-friendly.
Fruit rot disease remains a huge challenge. Growers are extensively adopting an Abound/Indar (azoxystrobin/ fenbuconazole) mix as an alternative to chlorothalonil but this has led to resistance concerns. New reduced risk fungicides remain a priority.
Dodder management remains challenging.  Growers are eager to adopt alternatives to dichlobenil (Casoron).  However, research results to date indicate a continued use for this material as a preemergence option to be followed by promising postemergence options that reduce seed production in any escapes.
Recommendations for the use of soil moisture content sensors and tensiometers have been developed and provided to grower who use the information to trigger automated irrigation systems, generally resulting in reduced water use.

Growers continue to adopt intermittent sprinkling (cycling) for frost protection for conserving fuel and for moderating the soil saturation that comes with consecutive frost nights.
Growers are adopting reduced phosphorus management: in a 2012 survey, 25% reported using 10 lb./acre/season or less; that number increased to 41% in a 2015 survey.

Commercial Horticulture topics: 
Nutrient Management
Soil Management