Back to top

Tile drainage in Massachusetts cranberry production – implementation and best management practices

Printer-friendly version
Principal Investigator/Project Leader: 
Co-Principal Investigator/Co-Project Leader: 
Saalau Rojas
Sponsoring Unit(s): 
Department of Project: 
Cranberry Station
Project Description: 

Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NE-SARE) Research and Education Grant Project LNE 12-316.
Duration: June 2012 - June 2016

Maintaining optimal saturation levels and draining ponded water remains a challenge for many cranberry growers in southeastern Massachusetts.  Wet conditions as a result of inadequate drainage in cranberry production could result in increased root rot and fruit rot diseases, inhibition of root development, reduced fruit retention and reduced productivity.  Subsurface tile drainage provides a mechanism for removing excess moisture from the soils by draining to field capacity in a reasonable time so that plant growth is not significantly impaired. Without artificial drainage, plants have difficulty establishing a healthy root system on poorly drained soils since excess water prevents air and oxygen from getting to the plant root zone. In addition, subsurface tile drainage can be used to reduce overhead irrigation usage by effectively managing water from below.

The goals of this project were to encourage the adoption of tile drainage by Massachusetts cranberry growers and to use on-farm research and grower feedback to develop Best Management Practices (BMPs) for tile installation and use.  The project included 6 research/extension scientists and 8 grower advisors, 2 of whom provided sites for large-scale field experiments.  Research results confirmed the consensus practice of growers - 20 foot spacing between the tiles provides adequate but not excessive drainage and accommodates common in-ground irrigation designs.  We learned from research and grower experiences that the optimum depth for tile installation is more site-specific, depending on soil texture, sub-grade depth and composition, and site hydrology.  These results were presented at 3 large grower meetings and 2 on-farm workshops reaching 300 cranberry growers, and were summarized for distribution in a 13-page fact sheet and BMP document.  We also recorded a video of grower testimonials regarding tile drainage.

Over 200 cranberry growers were surveyed at the end of the project; 85 responses were received from growers who were the decision-maker for the farm.  These growers represented 64% of the Massachusetts cranberry acreage.  During the project they installed tile on 747 acres (6% of the MA acreage) and planned to install on an additional 347 acres by the end of 2017.  Of those that installed tile since 2012, 37% reported that information from this project changed how they used tile or encouraged them to use tile for the first time.  Of the 39 growers who installed tile into existing cranberry beds (retrofit), 70% reported increased yield and improved fruit quality (less fruit rot).

Kennedy, Casey; DeMoranville, Carolyn J.; Jeranyama, Peter; Sandler, Hilary A.; Caruso, Frank L.; and Alverson, Nick, "2014 Update Mtg: Tile Drainage in Massachusetts Cranberry Production - Implementation and Best Management Practices" (2014). Cranberry Station Extension meetings. Paper 173.

Kennedy, Casey; DeMoranville, Carolyn J.; Jeranyama, Peter; Sandler, Hilary A.; Caruso, Frank L., "Drainage management for reducing nutrient loss" (2014). Cranberry Station Community Presentations. Paper 3.

DeMoranville, C., P. Jeranyama, and C. Kennedy. 2016. Tile drainage in Massachusetts Cranberry Production. Cranberry Station Extension meetings. Paper 215.

Agriculture topics: 
Cultural Practices
Water topics: