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Weed Science/IPM

The Cranberry Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Weed Science program develops and promotes the adoption of viable and effective solutions related to weed pests and IPM, mostly through applied research and outreach education.  Results garnered from applied research projects provide accurate outreach information and support the sustainability of the cranberry industry.  IPM is a philosophy that mandates the consideration of chemical, biological, and cultural (non-chemical) methods, in combination with action thresholds, for managing pests.  Economic and social impacts are also integral to the process.  The Weed/IPM lab collaborates in a multidisciplinary fashion with other scientists to achieve a particular goal. The IPM/Weed Extension and Research Program’s primary interests center on:

  • Development and implementation of nonchemical pest management, especially weeds.
  • Understanding the dynamics of crop and weed ecology within the cranberry production system.
  • Investigations on the establishment, weed colonization, and fertilizer management.
  • Effect of hand-held flame cultivation on perennial weeds and dodder.
  • Screening new products for pest management.
  • Producing guides and fact sheets on weed management and biology.

Targeted Weed Pests


An annual parasitic plant, dodder (Cuscuta spp.), is one of the most problematic pests found in this perennial crop system. No single control option is sufficient for control across all farms in all years.  Herbicides, flooding, thermal weeding (i.e., use of handheld propane torches), and hand-weeding are examples of the wide suite of control options that may be required. In addition to projects to elucidate dodder genetics and biology, we actively screen herbicides to identify possible candidates for dodder control.

Perennial Broadleaved Weeds

Perennial plants are the most common weeds in the cranberry production system.  Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), rushes (Juncus spp.), and dewberries (Rubus spp.) interfere with normal crop development, harvest operations, and fruit production.  Since new herbicides are difficult to obtain for cranberry, we seek to maximize the products we have by using them in novel ways, such as spot-treatment applications.  Spot-treatment applications use less herbicide, reducing environmental exposure to off-target areas.  In addition, spot treatments are more cost-effective than broadcast applications and usually provide better control.

Perennial Grasses

Poverty grass (broomsedge bluestem, Andropogon virginicus and little bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium) are species that have become quite problematic since 2010.  A 2015 fact sheet on Poverty Grass, based on research trials, outlines an integrated management plan in a simple grid format so growers can easily view the best practice for each season of the year. Deer-tongued panicgrass (Dichanthelium clandestinum) was identified in 2015 as a grass of interest for IPM strategy development.

Selected Publications

Tjiurutue, M.C., H.A. Sandler, M.F. Kersch-Becker, N. Theis, and L.S. Adler. 2016. Cranberry resistance to dodder parasitism: induced chemical defenses and behavior of a parasitic plant. Journal of Chemical Ecology (accepted).

Ghantous, K.M., H.A. Sandler, W.R. Autio, and B. Bradley. 2015.  Handheld flame cultivators for spot treatment control of soft rush (Juncus effusus).  Weed Technology 29:121-127.

Sandler, H.A. C.J. DeMoranville, F.L. Caruso, M.M. Sylvia, A.L. Averill, and J.E. Vanden Heuvel. 2014.  Increasing sustainability of Massachusetts cranberry production through cultural management of the vine canopy.  Acta Hort. 1017:479-485.

Sandler, H.A. 2013. Response of four cranberry varieties to delayed applications of dichlobenil. Weed Technology 27:108-112.

Ghantous, K.M., H.A. Sandler, W.R. Autio, and P. Jeranyama. 2012. Hand-held flame cultivators as a management option for woody weeds.  Weed Technology 26:371-375.

Ghantous, K.M. and H.A. Sandler. 2012. Mechanical scarification of dodder seeds with a handheld rotary tool.  Weed Technology 26:485-489.

Sandler, H.A. 2011. Nitrogen and vine-harvest method affect cranberry vine production and yield. HortTechnology 21:87-97.

Sandler, H.A., C.J. DeMoranville, and W.R. Autio. 2011. Fertilizer regime and weed pressure minimally influence leaf tissue nutrient levels during cranberry vine establishment.  Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis 42:1209-1222.

O’Connell, J., H.A. Sandler, L.S. Adler, and F.L. Caruso. 2011. Controlled studies further the development of practical guidelines to manage dodder (Cuscuta gronovii) in cranberry production with short-term flooding.  Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 26:269-275.   

Sandler, H.A. 2010. Managing Cuscuta gronovii (swamp dodder) in cranberry requires an integrated approach (invited paper).  Sustainability 2:660-683.

Sandler, H.A. and J. Mason. 2010. Flooding to manage dodder (Cuscuta gronovii) and broad-leaved weed species in cranberry: An innovative use of a traditional strategy. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 25:257-262.