Increasing the sustainability of Massachusetts cranberry production through cultural management of the bog habitat

Final Report for LNE05-217

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $169,885.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Matching Federal Funds: $22,662.00
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $211,173.00
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Dr. Carolyn DeMoranville
UMass Amherst Cranberry Station
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Project Information

Summary:

The primary goal of this 4-year project was to develop, demonstrate, and implement grower-identified practices on Massachusetts cranberry farms that would improve water and plant canopy management to reduce costs and improve pest management. In consultation with a team that included 5 cranberry farmers, we identified sanding, pruning, fertilizer use, irrigation, and drainage as the most importance practices to study during this project. During the project we found that while the practices studied and adopted (especially drainage improvement) had some potential to impact pest management, they had even greater potential for reducing costs, reducing nutrient pollution, conserving water, and sustaining productivity. We identified five practices that could improve nutrient, water, and canopy management from environmental and/or cost perspectives — pruning (as an alternative to sanding), reduced phosphorus fertilizer, irrigation scheduling with water floats or sensors, installation of drainage tiles, and cycling sprinklers on and off during frost protection (in most cases using automation).

In our final survey, 102 growers responded representing 5520 acres (~40% of the total acres in Massachusetts). Of those growers, 25 adopted none of the five practices, 21 adopted one, 34 adopted two, 14 adopted three, 6 adopted four, and 2 adopted all five. At least three of the five grower project team members did not fill out a survey. We also interviewed 28 growers representing 3100 acres (~22% of total). Of those growers, 4 implemented none of the five practices, 4 were using one, 6 were using two, 6 were using three, 4 were using four, and 4 were using all five practices. Based on combined data from the 2009 written and telephone surveys we determined that 60 growers implemented two or more practices, 6 implemented all five practices.

During the 4 years of this project, we held 6 on-farm workshops (4 at grower team member farms); participated in 3 grower panel discussions at UMass and grower organization workshops – attendance 524; presented project results at 3 UMass winter grower meetings; conducted two replicated trials (one at a grower site) of pruning; evaluated pruning at 10 grower demonstration sites; established grower demonstration sites for irrigation scheduling (6) and drainage improvement (6); worked with 7 growers to study the changes associated with the reduction in phosphorus fertilizer; began a study of the economics of periodic mowing for canopy management with 5 growers; produced 2 journal articles; and published 7 newsletter articles relevant to the project.

By the end of this project, 197 growers attended on-farm demonstrations; 1340 attended workshops to learn about water, nutrition, and canopy management; 6 established demonstration research areas on their farms; and 6 participated in panel discussions on nutrient management, water conservation, or irrigation scheduling.

Introduction:

In 1999, the U. S. cranberry industry saw a catastrophic drop in the price paid for fruit. As the industry recovered, growers had become more cost-conscious. In 2004, a group of Massachusetts growers met with faculty and staff members from the UMass Amherst Cranberry Station to discuss the importance of looking at cranberry production in an integrated way to identify cost savings and improvements to productivity and sustainability (financial and environmental). The primary goal of the resulting project was to develop, demonstrate, and implement grower-identified practices on MA cranberry farms that improve water and canopy management so as to reduce costs and improve pest management efficacy. Essential to the success of this endeavor was the reputation of the implementation team – a group of respected and forward-thinking growers who provided project guidance, demonstration sites, and testimonials regarding what worked. Integration of new practices can be costly and had been somewhat haphazard. As we brought growers together to assess needs and develop this proposal, this was the key item echoed by all – we need to maximize our use of new and existing practices so as to take advantage of new technologies, particularly to reduce labor costs.

MA cranberry growers have identified the high cost of production as an impediment to sustainability. While some of this is due to external forces (e.g., land value, labor costs), there are some practices that are particularly costly in MA cranberry management. Specifically, sanding (adding up to 1 inch of sand to the planting bed every 4-5 years for canopy renewal and pest suppression) and pest management are more costly in MA than elsewhere. Sanding is only used extensively in the eastern and mid-western cranberry regions, MA, NJ and WI. In MA, the extreme demand for sand for construction has driven the price of this non-renewable resource to rates unaffordable for many growers. Sanding has been defined as a unique form of pruning. This led our team to ask the question: Can pruning replace or reduce the need for sanding? The applied research component of this project focused on this question.

Each member of the grower-scientist team identified their top priority practices and as a group we chose water and canopy management as the most important topics, encompassing some of the industry’s most expensive practices (sanding and frost/irrigation management), most environmentally risky practices (nutrient and pest management), and the need for the system as a whole to sustain high levels of crop production. Over the next 5 years, our team identified, studied, and implemented 5 practices that can reduce costs, conserve water and energy, and reduce nutrient and pesticide inputs. Those practices are the use of pruning or mowing as a substitute for sanding in canopy management; the use of various devices (e.g., water level floats, sensors, tensiometers) to properly schedule irrigation; cycling of irrigation during frost protection to save energy and water; the use of subsurface drainage (perforated pipe/tile) to increase efficiency (fewer ditches to impede harvest), improve yield, and prevent disease (and decrease the need for fungicide applications); and the implementation of reduced phosphorus fertilizers to reduce environmental pollution. These practices have been demonstrated to the grower community at field events, discussed by grower panels at meetings, and have been the subject of several education programs presented by the UMass Cranberry Station Extension team. Grower adoption has been assessed in surveys and in interviews.

Performance Target:

At least 50 Massachusetts cranberry growers/farm managers will participate in on-farm educational opportunities regarding pruning, irrigation scheduling, nutrition management, and drainage enhancement practices.

197 growers attended 6 on-farm workshops, four of these (canopy management, frost irrigation cycling (2), irrigation management) were held on the farms of project team members (Garretson and A.D. Makepeace Co.), the other two were held at the UMass Cranberry Station and provided an opportunity for growers to build water level floats to be used in irrigation scheduling on their farms. Nutrition management education was conducted at indoor workshops including a grower panel. Since the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association (CCCGA) conducted a bog tour in 2008 that included 2 sites with drainage tiles and hosted a New Jersey grower who has worked extensively to install drainage on his farm as a speaker at their 2008 winter meeting, our project participants did not host additional drainage workshops.

At least 20 of these will adopt two or more of the practices by the end of the project, 5 adopting the entire suite as project designer/participants.

We developed and promoted 5 practices as part of this project. A survey regarding adoption was administered at our January 2009 meeting. We had 102 responses of growers who were decision makers for their farms and represented 5520 acres (~40% of the Massachusetts total) — 34 had implemented two practices, 14 implemented three practices, 6 implemented four practices, and 2 implemented all five (one of these was a project designer). Three of the project designers were not in attendance and were not surveyed. In telephone interviews, three additional 5-practice implementers were identified (two were project designers). All but one of the project designers has implemented all five practices. The remaining grower (Gilmore) has implemented phosphorus reduction and has entirely eliminated sanding on his farm (the only grower to do so to our knowledge). Totals from written and phone surveys: 60 implemented at least two practices, 6 implemented all five.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Anne Averill
  • Matt Beaton
  • Frank Caruso
  • Gary Garretson
  • Ben Gilmore
  • Louis Lemmertz
  • Matthew Rhodes
  • Hilary Sandler
  • Justine Vanden Heuvel

Research

Materials and methods:

The project participation team met in early 2005 and discussed project design. At that meeting, we confirmed that the primary components of this project would be 1) sanding; 2) pruning; 3) irrigation scheduling; 4) nutrient management; and 5) drainage.

Sanding and pruning. As originally proposed, we compared sanding and pruning in a replicated study of these two practices (see below and Figure 1). A Masters student, Brett Suhayda was hired under the direction of Dr. Justine Vanden Heuvel [Dr. Carolyn DeMoranville took over supervision when Vanden Heuvel relocated to Cornell University at the end of 2006]. He carried out this replicated study as part of his degree requirement. An additional replicated study comparing the interaction of pruning and nitrogen fertilization was conducted by Dr. Hilary Sandler on two commercial farms.

Growers established pruning demonstrations on their farms at intervals 2, 3, or 4+ years after sanding as described below. Over the 10 sites, we had multiple repetitions of the following protocols: 1) sand-no treatment-prune; 2) sand-no treatment-no treatment-prune; 3) four or more years since sanding, then prune. The first and second of these protocols mimic the substitution of pruning in the most common sanding cycles currently used.

At one site we also had a mowed area on the bog that was compared to sanded or pruned areas. This site was established on Matt Beaton’s farm. He has been looking at the alternative idea of mowing the ‘Stevens’ variety periodically to renew the canopy (similar to practices in lowbush blueberry cultivation). Based on these preliminary data, 5 additional grower sites are participating in a grower organization-funded study of mowing as part of ‘Stevens’ management that began in 2008 under the direction of DeMoranville and Sandler. Sanding, mowing, and pruning and their interaction with nutrient management were the topics of the summer 2008 bogside demonstration field event at a participant farm (Garretson).

Demonstration experiments of pruning after sanding – protocol. These demonstrations were designed to show that at certain intervals after sanding, pruning could replace the next sanding event. Growers identified 10 beds where sand had last been applied 2, 3, or 4+ years previously. If they had a pair of similar beds that had been sanded in the same year, one of the pair was pruned for the demonstration and the other was not. If there was only one bed available, then part of the bed was pruned and compared to the unpruned area. Beds were pruned in 2005 or 2006 and followed through 2008. Yield and vine density were compared in pruned and unpruned areas. Yield was evaluated by collecting and weighing fruit from six 1-ft2 areas (as described in the pruning study below) chosen randomly in each treatment and control pair. Vine density was evaluated by counting uprights collected from six randomly selected areas (using a 6-inch ring template) of each treatment or control (as described below for the sanding/pruning study).

In initial grower surveys in January 2006 many identified pest management as a benefit of sanding. Previous research on dodder (a key weed pest) and tipworm has shown that, unless deep layers of sand are applied, pest control is inconsistent or absent. As part of this project Dr. Anne Averill examined the potential of sanding to control cranberry fruitworm, the key insect pest in Massachusetts cranberry. If, as is the case with previously studied pests, sanding is not effective in fruitworm management, this would remove a barrier to grower adoption of reduced sanding management.

Does sanding suppress cranberry fruitworm? Cranberry fruitworm larvae in hibernacula (this stage overwinters on the bog floor) were placed under different conditions in semi-natural and natural settings to determine the direct effect of how a change in cultural practice (increased bed sanitation, change in sand and trash (fallen leaf duff) levels) might make the system more/less favorable to this key insect pest.
Field trials were set up in September and October 2006 using hibernacula (there were two hibernacula treatments — formed of either sand or trash) placed in plots covered with 2 cm of sand, cranberry leaf trash, or sand/trash mix (four replicates). We included the trash treatment since we hypothesized that phenolics in the cranberry leaf trash might reduce fungal inoculum and thus enhance overwintering survivorship. The hibernacula were collected in the spring of 2007 and assessed for survivorship and fungal infection. Greenhouse trials were established to evaluate the possible ramifications of eliminating the sanding practice on cranberry fruitworm populations. Sand hibernacula (10 replicates of 10 hibernacula) were placed under various (0, 1.5 cm, 3.0 cm, 4.5 cm, and 6.0 cm) sand layers in 5-inch pots and were held in a cold frame greenhouse over the winter. A portion was assessed for survivorship and fungal infection in the spring of 2007. The remainder was held until May 2007 when moth emergence was assessed.

We conducted two replicated field trials, one looking at the interaction of pruning with nitrogen fertilizer which began prior to the start date of this SARE grant, but was completed during this project and was used as part of the educational effort regarding pruning and the other (comparing sanding and pruning) that was entirely conducted as part of this project.

Pruning and nitrogen interaction field trial. Two commercial ‘Stevens’ cranberry farms in southeastern Massachusetts were utilized in this study and are identified by location: South Carver (SC, Gilmore) and Rochester (RCH). At each site, the study was set out in a randomized complete block design with treatments arranged in a split-plot with three replicates. Pruning severity (none, low, medium, and high) was the main effect and nitrogen (N) rate (0, 50, 100, and 150 lb/A) was the sub-plot. At each site, any pest or horticultural management practices (e.g., irrigation and frost protection), except fertilization, applied to the commercial bed was applied to the experimental study area.

Pruning treatments. Pruning treatments were conducted each year in early spring (generally April) from 2003 to 2006. Pruning was accomplished with rotating head pruners with multiple slats with ca. 10-12 equally spaced knives per slat. The use of two different pruners, which were owned and modified by the individual growers, necessitated different approaches to create low, medium, and high pruning severities. At SC, the pruning treatments were accomplished by pruning the plots once, twice, or three times (low = one pass, moderate = two passes, and heavy = three passes) while keeping the pruning head at the same height. At RCH, each plot was pruned once but the head was lowered into the vine canopy at three equally spaced settings to prune at three different depths (low = highest head height, moderate = middle head height, and heavy = lowest head height). Vine clippings from each plot were raked, placed into black plastic bags and weighed in the field using a hanging digital scale.

Nitrogen treatments. Granular formulations of fertilizer for all treatments were applied at both sites in four equal portions (equal four-way split) in all years. Each year the fertilizer applications were made at the roughneck, bloom, fruit set, and bud set stages. We varied the amount of N applied to the vines while holding phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) applications equal among treatments. Plots designated as 0 N received applications of 0-25-25 for a total rate of 22 lb/A P and 42 lb/A K per year, applied in an equal 4-way split. N was applied to the low, medium, and high N plots four times at the rates of 12.5, 25, and 37.5 lb/A, respectively. Fertilizer was applied to these N plots using combinations of 20-10-10, 21-0-0, and 0-25-25 in adjusted proportions so that each plot received the N rate and a total seasonal P and K rate matching that in the 0 N plots.

Upright evaluation. To assess the effect of pruning and N rate on upright number and biomass, vine samples were collected yearly at each site. One vine sample was collected from every treatment plot by excising all uprights close to the bog surface within a 28-in2 area. Sampling templates were made by cutting 6-in diameter PVC pipe into 1-in wide bands. The sampling ring was randomly placed into a plot and positioned as close to the bog surface as possible. Using hand clippers, cuts were made around the entire inner perimeter to permit collection of runners that were passing through the area of the ring. The uprights were then held together and clipped as close as possible to the bog surface. Vine samples were evaluated for various yield components including number and biomass of flowering and vegetative (nonflowering) uprights, as well as runner and total plant dry biomass.

Fruit yield. Plots were harvested in the fall each year by collecting all fruit from a randomly selected 1-ft2 area within each. Fruit infected by fruit rot fungi, damaged by insects or physiological causes, or bruised by mechanical means were deemed unusable. Marketable yield was calculated from the weight of all healthy berries collected from the sample area. Potential yield was determined by multiplying the total number of fruit (healthy and unusable) by the average berry weight of the healthy fruit.

Economic analysis. Numbers generated for the economic analysis assumed payment for fruit based on yearly price per barrel (1 barrel = 100 pounds) reports (National Agricultural Statistics Service, 2006; National Agricultural Statistics Service, 2008) and a purchase price for ‘Stevens’ vines of $2,500 per ton. Pruning costs were estimated based on values provided by commercial growers for machine, operator, and laborer costs. Net income was calculated as the revenues generated from the sum of fruit yield plus the cost savings from on-farm generated vines minus the sum of the cost of fertilizer and the cost of pruning.

Statistical analysis. Data were analyzed with Statistical Analysis System software (v. 9.1; SAS Institute, Cary, NC). Model assumptions were tested through residual analysis (Shapiro-Wilk statistic) and no transformations were needed. Since the same measurements were collected annually over a 4-yr period, data were analyzed as a repeated measures experiment in Proc Mixed with an unstructured model. Significant levels that could be legitimately tested for best fit were determined by utilizing partitioning of the sum of squares via Slice option in Proc Mixed. Responses to nitrogen rate and/or pruning severity were determined by evaluating linear and quadratic trends from single degree of freedom analysis. Whenever trends were significant, regression equations were calculated.

Replicated comparison of sanding and pruning. A mature ‘Stevens’ cranberry bed in Myles Standish State Forest, North Carver, MA was used for this experiment. The bed was renovated in 2000 and was never pruned prior to the study. Applications of fertilizers each year were made to the entire bed, including the study area, based on standard nutrition recommendations. The study was established in 2006 as a randomized complete block design arranged in a split-plot with the main effect of either sanding or pruning and the sub-plot was severity level. All treatments were replicated four times. The layout is shown in Figure 1.

Sanding treatments. The sanding treatments were applied on 14 Apr. 2006 using coarse sand, mined on-site. A commercial sander (a small self-propelled vehicle with a hopper and a drop spreader) was used for on-vine sanding. The sander was calibrated to deliver a depth of 1.5 cm sand on each pass. The levels of sanding were determined by the number of times the sander passed over the plot: control (0 passes), light (one pass), moderate (two passes), and heavy (three passes). Each sanding plot was 8 ft (the width of the sander) x 25 ft.

Pruning treatments. The pruning treatments were applied on 17 Apr. 2006 using the same commercial pruner used at the SC site in the experiment above. As with the sanding, the levels of pruning were determined by the number of times the pruner passed over the plots: control (0 passes), light (one pass), moderate (two passes), and heavy (three passes). Each pruning plot was 6 ft (the width of the machine) x 25 ft. Fresh weights of vines excised during the pruning process were collected and weighed in the field.

Upright density, leaf area, and dry weight. A 6-inch-diameter ring (28 inch2) was placed randomly in each plot on 2 June 2006 and again on 4 June 2007. All plant material originating from within the ring was removed. This sampling was repeated twice in each plot. The excised plant material from each ring was evaluated as follows. The uprights were removed at the origin and counted to determine density. The leaves were removed, and leaf area was measured using a leaf area meter. All of the collected plant material was dried and weighed.

Fruiting uprights (Uf) / total upright (Ut) ratio. Once each year in late summer, random samples of approximately 25 uprights were collected from each plot, counted, and evaluated as fruiting (presence of fruit or persistent pedicels) or non-fruiting. The ratio of Uf to Ut was then calculated.

Light penetration. Light penetration into the cranberry canopy was measured in the second week of July and the third week of August in 2006 and 2007 using an Accupar linear PAR/LAI ceptometer. An external, unobstructed sensor was also employed to determine the ratio of below-canopy light to above-canopy light (tau). The ceptometer was placed under the canopy in a south-west direction at four randomly selected locations in each plot; hence 32 readings were taken in each block. Readings were converted to percent light penetration by multiplying tau by 100. In both years, readings were only taken from Blocks 1 and 2 due to weather and time restrictions.

Leaf wetness. Leaf wetness was recorded at 0.5 h intervals using micro dataloggers and leaf wetness sensors. Based on field observations, the dry/wet threshold was set at 20% to control for error in the sensor readings. Data were collected for 4 weeks in each year by deploying eight logger/sensor pairs each time. Block 1 was monitored in the first week of July 2006; the eight logger/sensor pairs were relocated to Block 2 during the second week of July 2006. Using these data, the average number of dry hours per week in early July was determined. Sensors were redeployed similarly in the third and fourth weeks of August, and the average number of dry hours per week in late August was calculated. The procedure was repeated in 2007.

Penetration of chemigation into the canopy. Water-sensitive papers were used to measure spray penetration through the canopy. The papers change color (from yellow to blue) when water contacts the papers. Attached to a stake, papers were placed at the base of the canopy and mid-way between the base and tips of the uprights. Irrigation was applied through a solid-set sprinkler system for 15 min, simulating a typical chemigation event for a pesticide application. The papers were allowed to dry, collected and brought back to the lab for evaluation. Penetration was visually evaluated using a grid system and a scale of 0=no penetration (all yellow) to 100=total penetration (all blue).

Berry yield and marketable yield. In 2006 and 2007, berry yield was estimated as in the previous experiment. Two subsamples were taken from each plot, and the data from the subsamples were averaged.

Total anthocyanin concentration (TAcy). Additional fruit were collected randomly (outside the area sampled for yield) at harvest for TAcy determination. Total anthocyanin concentration (mg per 100 g fresh weight) in harvested cranberry fruit samples was determined with a modification of the protocol of Fuleki and Francis (1968) using an acidified aqueous extractant (0.2N hydrochloric acid).

Economic analysis. The cost of treatments, including equipment and labor costs on a per acre basis, were assigned based on information provided by two commercial cranberry growers (R. Gilmore of AD Makepeace Co. and M. Beaton, personal communication). The costs for light pruning included the pruning machine ($40/h), the buggy to remove cut vines ($40/h), one equipment operator ($75/h), and five laborers ($14/h each). The total cost for 8 h (time to prune 10 acres) was $1,800 or $180 per acre. Costs for the moderate and heavy pruning treatments were calculated by doubling or tripling, respectively, the cost of the light severity treatment as more severe pruning required multiple passes with the pruner.
The costs for the light sanding treatment included one front end loader ($60/h), three sanders ($27.50/h each), four skilled laborers ($30.50/h each), and a daily move-in charge for the equipment of $150. The total cost for an 8-h day (time to sand 7 acres at light severity) was $2,388 or $341/acre for machines and labor. To define a multiplier for the moderate and heavy treatments, it was recognized that fewer acres would be sanded on a daily basis compared to the light treatment and costs would be higher due to longer equipment rental and labor expenditures. Based on grower experience, costs for the moderate and heavy sanding treatments were calculated by multiplying the cost of the light sanding by 1.5 and two, respectively. To these costs was added the cost of sand, $12/yard3 screened and delivered so that the total costs per acre for the sanding treatments were $1,291, $2,415, and $3,536 for light, moderate and heavy severities, respectively. Purchased sand was used in this calculation since not all growers have access to on-farm sand.

The average total cost of production for beds that were not sanded or pruned was $3,200/acre in 2006 and $3,300/acre in 2007 (G. Rogers, AD Makepeace Co., personal communication). The price of cranberries used for the analysis ($38.80 and $43.40 per 100-lb barrel in 2006 and 2007, respectively) was the blended return for fresh and processed fruit to growers in Massachusetts (U.S. Dept. Agr, 2008).

Data analysis. Analyses of variance were conducted on all data using the Proc GLM procedure in SAS (version 9.1; SAS Institute, Cary, NC). Model assumptions were tested through residual analysis (Shaprio-Wilk statistic) and no transformations were needed. Although pruning and sanding severity is referred to in the text with the labels of light, moderate, and heavy, treatment levels were analyzed as continuous variables to reflect the continuity of treatment application (e.g., sequential number of passes) with which the vines were sanded or pruned. Responses to pruning or sanding severity were determined by evaluating linear and quadratic trends from single degree of freedom analysis.

Irrigation scheduling. The grower-scientist team agreed that the most important tool available at the beginning of the project for use in irrigation scheduling was the water level float developed by Dr. Bruce Lampinen in 2000. Growers were reporting that they were interested in its use but were uncertain how to make, install and utilize the device. To address this issue, we held workshops in 2005 and 2006 at the UMass Cranberry Station. Growers were provided with a factsheet of directions and all materials necessary to construct a float. They were then led through the construction during the workshop. After they built their floats, they were taken out onto the research bog and shown how to install and use a float to schedule irrigation. We also constructed extra floats and offered them for sale to growers. This was designed to overcome the financial barrier faced by small growers — some of the materials needed must be purchased in bulk so that those needing only one or two floats found the cost prohibitive.

By 2006, a local firm had begun to market automated irrigation systems to local cranberry farmers. At the 2007 winter meeting, we held a discussion panel consisting of growers, the automation vendor, and a moisture sensor vendor. During that panel, the idea of using the automated systems with temperature sensors to manage frost protection remotely was discussed as was the use of this technology to conserve water and energy during frost protection (see next topic). Some of the project participants were early adopters of automation and Chris Severance hosted a bogside workshop in the summer of 2007 to show how he was testing the moisture sensors marketed with the system and comparing that technology to the water level float.

In 2007, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources funded CCCGA, Dr. Peter Jeranyama (Vanden Heuvel’s replacement at the UMass Cranberry Station) and DeMoranville to work with growers to conduct on-farm evaluations of next generation sensors and to develop a model for the use of these sensors in irrigation scheduling based on plant needs. That research is ongoing on 6 farms, 4 owned by project participants.

Irrigation cycling in frost management. As the popularity of automation for irrigation began to grow, CCCGA secured a USDA grant to fund installations by growers, including some of the project participants. Matt Rhodes hosted a field day so that others could see how the system was designed. Growers, including project participants, began to experiment with using temperature set points to cycle irrigation on and off during frost nights so as to apply less water and use less energy (for pumping). We incorporated this practice into our project and participants hosted field days (2) and participated on workshop panels to share their methodologies. This topic has become important enough that CCCGA has funded a current study by DeMoranville and Jeranyama to help growers evaluate cycling on-farm to make sure that the various proposed methods for cycling are indeed preventing frost damage.

Nutrient management. At the beginning of this project, two of the grower participants (Beaton and Gilmore) expressed strong views on directions for nutrient management based on their on-farm experiences. Ben Gilmore advocated for the study of slow-release fertilizers for even growth of the canopy. However, these materials were not very popular or affordable (and he has since ceased using them). Matt Beaton had been dealing with the potential degradation of his water source due to phosphorus (P) loading. He had been working with custom fertilizer blenders to design a low-P fertilizer suitable for cranberry. Given the potential for environmental benefit if we could demonstrate sustainable yield when using low-P blends, this became the nutrition focus for our team. Whole bog yields (based on grower records of returns and historic yields) were compared on paired low-P/standard-P bogs and additional growers were encouraged to adopt low-P blends based on the outcomes. Education on how to use P reduction was conducted at winter meetings and in a panel discussion (including Matt Beaton). CCCGA is encouraging adoption of the low-P protocol by funding a 5-year study to compare yield before and after adoption, provide free tissue testing to participating growers (to show adequate tissue P is maintained), and to fund water quality sampling to demonstrate the environmental benefits. Two of the project growers are participating in this ongoing study. Interestingly, Matt Beaton is currently working with a fertilizer company to design a low-P slow release material for use on new cranberry plantings, so the two ideas have come back together. We also looked at the interaction of pruning and nitrogen (Sandler and DeMoranville study, see above) and Garretson hosted a field workshop to discuss the interaction of sanding, pruning, and mowing with nutrient (primarily nitrogen) management.

Drainage. At the beginning of this project, team plant pathologist, Dr. Frank Caruso identified cranberry sites with varied drainage and bed sanitation practices. After two years of sampling, no differences in disease incidence were found so sampling was discontinued. However, growers surveyed strongly believed that improving drainage on their bogs improved productivity and reduced disease incidence. Further, uniform drainage using tiles (pipes) can aid in maintaining a uniform water table as shown when using water level floats. We have also found that in beds with non-uniform soil moisture, vine discoloration (known as yellow vine syndrome) develops in the wettest and driest areas during dry summers. In 2007, CCCGA received funding from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources to establish a grant program for growers to implement innovative bog renovations (replants). Thirteen of those projects (73 acres) included the installation of drainage tile. Two of those properties were included in a farm tour in the summer of 2008, attended by about 35 farmers. In March of 2008, at their winter meeting (~150 attendees), CCCGA hosted a New Jersey grower to share his experiences in installing drain tiles into established beds. In 2008, CCCGA secured USDA funding for growers to implement various drainage tile protocols (depths, spacing) and for Dr. Jeranyama to assist them in evaluating their effectiveness. These installations are being evaluated at 6 sites, 4 of which are properties of our project participants.

Grower surveys. All attendees at the UMass Cranberry Station winter meetings in 2006, 2008, and 2009 were handed surveys regarding their management practices and were instructed to complete them during the presentation regarding this project (2006) or during meeting breaks (2008, 2009). These three surveys are attached in Appendix 7. In addition, growers were surveyed as part of the Extension follow-up regarding the value of information presented.
A final phone survey was conducted in August 2009 using the script shown in Appendix 7. The growers to be surveyed were chosen based on 2006 respondents who indicated they would be willing to be interviewed for the project or because they were members of the project team.

Research results and discussion:

Year 1
160 farmers become familiar with the project and its goals by attending a grower meeting and documenting their current practices (completing the pre-survey)

248 attended the UMass Cranberry Station winter meeting on January 18, 2006 (the first large meeting held after the start of the project). The project was described and growers were handed the pre-survey (Appendix 7) and given time to complete it during the meeting. At the end of the day, 186 surveys were returned. Of those, 146 were completed by growers or managers that were the decision makers for their farms. These respondents represented 10,737 acres, about 77% of the Massachusetts total (Table 1). At that time, 94% indicated that sanding improved vine growth and 75% thought that it provided pest management benefits. In contrast, 76% thought that pruning improved vine growth but only 28% saw a pest management benefit to pruning. Regular sanding schedules were common, with 72% sanding on a 3-year schedule; 44% pruned on a regular schedule (Table 2.) Other highlights of survey responses included:

Ice sanding was the industry choice for canopy renewal — 93% had used this practice in the past 5 years; 63% had beds that they sand but never prune while only 9% had beds that they prune but never sand.

Pruning is a part of canopy management for a larger than expected number of growers — 58% have beds that have been both pruned and sanded; 15% intentionally alternate the practices.

Few growers scheduled irrigation based on monitoring of soil moisture — 53% used a hand touch test (not considered very accurate) and 55% just applied according to a 1″ per week rule.

5 farmers (participation team) provide input into the final project design and establish (with the research team) the demonstration plots and replicated research elements on their farms

The project participation team met in spring 2005 and discussed project design. At that meeting, we confirmed that the primary components of this project would be 1) sanding; 2) pruning; 3) irrigation scheduling; 4) nutrient management; and 5) drainage. It was agreed that the best way to compare sanding and pruning was in the originally proposed, replicated study of these two practices. To this end, a graduate student, Brett Suhayda began a Masters degree under the direction of Dr. Justine Vanden Heuvel {Dr. DeMoranville took over this responsibility at the end of 2006 when Vanden Heuvel left UMass for Cornell, Vanden Heuvel did remain on the graduate committee}. He carried out this replicated study as part of his degree requirements. The replicated study was established in May 2006 at Rocky Pond Bog, a property managed by the UMass Cranberry Station.

During the 2005 meeting, the growers identified the following as the primary question of interest to them regarding these practices: “Can pruning be integrated into sanding cycles in order to reduce the need for sanding?” To answer this question, they established pruning demonstrations on their farms as follows: 1) prune ½ of an area sanded 2 years previously; 2) prune ½ of an area sanded 3 years previously; or 3) prune ½ of an area sanded 4 or more years previously. Options to prune in the year of sanding or the year following sanding were not included, since if the two practices accomplish the same thing, and sanding is done on a three-year cycle normally, there would be no need for additional treatment in those years. By tackling all three treatment combinations at multiple sites in each year of the project, at the end of three years we had multiple repetitions of the following protocols: 1) sand-no treatment-prune; 2) sand-no treatment-no treatment-prune; 3) 4 or more years since sanding, then prune. The first and second of these protocols mimicked the substitution of pruning in the most common sanding cycles currently used. By the end of 2006, demonstration sites had been established at 10 locations.

Year 2
The 5 farmer participation team evaluates practice outcomes with the research team and suggests modifications and improvements to project practices

The project team met in the spring of 2006 and agreed to keep the major project focus on integrating pruning into sanding regimens and to evaluate reduced-P fertilizer regimens at the farm-scale. In addition, interest was building in the use of irrigation automation so the team agreed to present information at our next winter grower meetings regarding the use of moisture sensors with auto-start sprinklers. Some project growers began to explore reduction in water use by intermittent sprinkling for frost protection and the project team agreed to include that topic in a panel discussion at the 2007 winter meeting.

Based on grower belief that sanding can impact insect populations, we established a field study in 2006 to look at our key insect, cranberry fruitworm. This study was designed to help determine any negative impacts of reducing the use of the sanding practice. Prior to the 2006-2007 winter, cranberry fruitworm larvae in hibernacula (this stage overwinters on the bog floor) were placed either under sand (simulating winter sanding), under duff (simulating unsanded bogs), or under a combination of the two on the Cranberry Station research farm at Rocky Pond. In the spring of 2007 we found that more fruitworm survived in the sanded treatments (46% vs. 29% in the duff treatment) — that is, the insects were not suppressed but were protected by the sand. Follow-up studies with varied sand depths covering fruitworm hibernacula in pots held in a cold frame over the winter showed that sand could suppress insect emergence but only if it was at least 1.5 inches deep. This depth is not practical due to cost and was also shown to severely suppress yield for at least 2 years in all of our field studies of the practice (see below). So limiting or eliminating sanding should have no adverse impacts to cranberry fruitworm management. Dr. Averill observed that populations of cranberry tipworm, another pest of interest, appeared to be reduced on pruned sites compared to those that were not pruned, a possible benefit to that practice.

In 2007, CCCGA received funding from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources to establish a grant program for growers to implement innovative bog renovations (replants). Thirteen of those projects (73 acres) included the installation of drainage tile. Project participants received some of that grant funding. As part of their renovations, some growers installed innovative drainage systems. Due to growing interest in drainage tiles, at their March 2008 meeting, CCCGA hosted a New Jersey grower experienced at working with tiles. He discussed his experiences with installing drain tiles into existing bogs. About 150 growers attended that session. CCCGA also hosted a tour in 2008 that featured two of the grant-funded renovated properties and allowed growers to see the installed drainage systems and discuss them with other farmers. Initial results were so good that several growers planned to participate in an additional study using these drainage systems as a means to irrigate from the subgrade (as opposed to overhead sprinkling). In 2008, CCCGA secured USDA funding for growers to implement various drainage tile protocols (depths, spacing) and for Dr. Jeranyama to assist them in evaluating their effectiveness for drainage and subirrigation. These installations are being evaluated at 6 sites, 4 of which are properties of our project participants.

160 farmers learn (at a winter meeting) about preliminary impacts of the project practices at the participant farms — combined total of 214 attendees for two sessions.

Our winter meeting took place on January 31, 2007. At that meeting, preliminary results were presented from both the field demonstration sites (pruning as an alternate to sanding) and from the replicated trial of sanding and pruning. Pruning outcomes at grower demonstration sites were mixed: some showed increased yield with pruning, while others showed decreased yield. In the replicated trial comparing sanding to pruning, sanded plots had lower yields overall had than those that were pruned. However, the lightest severity treatments of either practice (single pass pruning or half inch sand) increased yield in the year of treatment. Due to prime sanding conditions that week, attendance was lower than previous years (164), so we held a make-up session in March — this was attended by an additional 50 growers.

During the afternoon session of the Jan. 31st meeting, we held a panel discussion regarding the use of sensors and automated irrigation. Topics included irrigation management with moisture sensors and use of temperature sensors to remotely manage frost protection using the sprinkler system. Two growers (one was project participant Chris Severance) discussed the concept of intermittent sprinkling (cycling) to conserve energy and water. One grower reported saving as much as 60% in energy and water use. Since we would not be able to replicate the panel at the makeup session in March, an article summarizing this discussion was published in the February 2007 Cranberry Station newsletter.

Vanden Heuvel conducted research showing that sanding, especially at depths of 1-1.5 inches, could adversely impact yields. The research report was provided to growers in the Cranberry Station December 2006 newsletter (circulation 350).

Dr. Hilary Sandler conducted a study of the interaction of pruning and nitrogen fertilizer at two grower ‘Stevens’ cranberry sites, one that of a grower participant. Her results have been published (Sandler, H. A. and C. J. DeMoranville. 2009. Economic analysis of nitrogen rate on vine production and fruit yield of pruned cranberry beds. HortTechnology 19(3):572-579) and were presented to growers in the August 2007 Cranberry Station newsletter. Two different grower designed/modified pruning machines were used (one at each site). Both machines performed well and comparably. Annual light severity pruning combined with up to 50 lb/acre/year nitrogen did not suppress yield and sometimes increased yield. The biggest take-home message was that these sites were maintained for 4 years with no sanding and yields did not decline (Appendix Table A4-3).

50 farmers attend an on-farm field day and learn how to implement the practices in the project demonstrations and research elements — 79 attended

We held 2 workshops regarding irrigation scheduling using water-level floats (April 2005 and May 2006). These were held at the Cranberry Station farm and participants (36) built their own device to take back to the farm. We made additional floats that have been sold to growers (55 to date). These devices are used to monitor water table in the cranberry bog and that information is then used to schedule irrigation. Follow-up surveying (verbal) indicated that growers who attended these workshops installed and used the devices were surprised that they are irrigating much less than previously. Growers provided testimonials at year-end meetings in 2005 and 2006 (reported in the December 2005 and December 2006 Cranberry Station newsletters). “I used water level floats and irrigated less than most of my neighbors and I had no poorer crop” [the 2005 crop was poor statewide.] At the 2006 session, growers reported that they were surprised that their bogs were wetter than they thought and most indicated that when using floats, they irrigated less frequently and for shorter durations. They also reported crop increases that they attributed to installing the floats and using them to manage irrigation scheduling. An additional newsletter article regarding the impacts of supplying too much irrigation was published in June 2006.

In July 2007, we held a workshop at an AD Makepeace Co. farm (hosted by Chris Severance) on irrigation scheduling using sensors and floats – 43 attended.

Growers have signed up for a new project regarding irrigation scheduling based on plant needs as determined using sensor technology. This on-going project began in 2008 with funding from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources and is a joint effort of CCCGA, Dr. DeMoranville and Dr. Peter Jeranyama (Dr. Vanden Heuvel’s replacement on faculty at the Cranberry Station). Interest for the project came directly from the educational efforts undertaken in this SARE project. Six grower sites are participating, 4 of them properties of grower participants from this project.

10 farmers adopt two or more project practices (determined by surveys)

Our first follow-up survey was conducted in January 2008 (year 3). Results are shown below.

Year 3-4
The 5 farmer participation team evaluates practice outcomes with the research team and suggests additional modifications and improvements to project practices
The project team met in March 2008 to evaluate progress. Farmers agreed that the project was on target. Participant Beaton noted the increasing attention from regulators and the public to water quality as it interacts with nutrient management. He has implemented low-P fertilizers on his bogs and is encouraging adoption by his peers. This topic was covered in presentations by DeMoranville at two winter meetings in 2008 (attendance 281 in January; 275 in March). In 2009, Beaton and DeMoranville participated in a panel discussion on this topic at the CCCGA Winter meeting (attendance 210). DeMoranville is working with 7 growers (with funding from CCCGA) to compare yields, tissue test P, and water quality at bogs that are implementing low-P fertilizers.

An additional practice of interest to project participants is the use of a mowing cycle inserted into crop management at 3-5 year intervals as an alternative to both sanding and pruning and as a way to harvest vines for replanting. Participant Beaton related his positive experiences in mowing, noting that he often integrated this practice with a very light application of sand (equivalent of less than 0.5 inch) and that with this practice long-term cumulative yield more than compensates for the zero yield in the year of mowing. We studied a demonstration site with part mowed (2004), part sanded (2005), and part pruned (2005). In 2005, yield was equal in sanded and mowed areas and lowest in the pruned area. In 2007, yield in previously sanded or pruned areas was equal, while yield was 33% greater in the mowed areas (compared to the other two treatments). This indicated that the ability to compensate for crop loss in the mowing year is real and warrants further investigation. Combined yield for 2007-2008 was similar across all treatments (Table 3). We have initiated (2008) a long-term study of this practice funded by grower organizations at 5 paired (mow-no mow) sites, 3 of these sites are growers who are not participants in the planning team. Participant Garretson offered to host a bogside workshop regarding water conservation, fertility management and canopy management using mowing (this workshop was held in July 2008).

160 farmers learn (at a winter meeting) about continuing impacts of the project practices at the participant farms.

The Cranberry Station hosted a grower meeting on January 24, 2008 (attendance 281). The program included a report on this SARE project (sanding vs. pruning and mowing studies), a presentation by Dr. DeMoranville on P reduction, and a presentation by plant physiologist, Dr. Jeranyama, on soil moisture monitoring.

Sanding/pruning comparison research. This study compared the effects of varying levels of sanding and pruning in April 2006 on vine canopy characteristics and yield over the course of two growing seasons (2006-2007). Each practice was applied at four levels: sanding application directly onto the vines at four depths: control (0 cm), light (1.5 cm), moderate (3.0 cm), or heavy (4.5 cm); pruning at four severities with a commercial fixed-head pruner: control (not pruned), light (1 pass with pruner), moderate (2 passes), and heavy (3 passes). Based on the study results we can state the following:

Light pruning or sanding (a single pass with a knife-rake pruner or 1.5 cm of sand) can be a useful tool for cranberry canopy management as both practices can open up the canopy resulting in decreased wetness duration (pruning, Fig. 2A) and improved light interception (both practices Fig 3). Light severity treatments appeared to have had a positive effect on yield and net returns compared to that in untreated controls (Fig. 4). Sanding is more risky than pruning due to its greater negative impact on yield when treatments are heavy and because nonuniform application of sand may not provide the intended benefits. Further, sanding is more expensive than pruning (see economic data below). On average, pruning plots had higher yield than sanding plots in the year of treatment. Heavy pruning treatments were able to recover after the first year, whereas heavy sanding treatments still had lower yields in the second year. This is an important consideration since the pest management benefits of sanding are only effective with the equivalent of the moderate or heavy treatments used in this study. The prolonged decrease in yield may make sanding an impractical pest management option. Due to the potential benefits of light pruning and the reduced risk of over-treatment compared to sanding, it may be a viable option for cranberry growers as a replacement for or as a supplement to sanding for canopy management.

Pruning demonstrations at 10 grower sites. Effects of pruning on yield were variable (Tables 3 and 4): 2 of 4 sites that were 2 years out from sanding had improved yield in pruned areas; 2 of 3 sites that were 3 years out from sanding had improved yield in pruned areas; and 1 of 2 of the 4+ years since sand sites had equal yield in pruned and unpruned areas, the other had greater yield in the pruned area. Fruit rot was more correlated with yield (greater yield – greater rot) than with pruning treatment. All sites were evaluated in 2007 and 2008 for carry-over effects. Two and three years after treatment, most pruned areas had yield equal to or greater than that in the unpruned controls. This outcome is similar to that with sanding in previous studies: that is, treatment improves or modestly decreases yield in the first year but improves yield in the following year. In this study of pruning as an alternate to sanding, 4 of 6 fields that were followed for 2-3 years showed cumulative yield improved in the pruning treatment compared to that in the untreated controls. However, most of the sites showed strong biennial bearing trends (alternating large and small crops) so that in some cases the pruned areas were more productive than those not pruned in the first year and the opposite was true in the second year.

P reduction. Yields were documented at four of Matt Beaton’s bogs before and after reducing P fertilizer. Yields were at minimum maintained and often increased as P rates went from 20-30 lb/acre to 10-15 lb/acre (Tables 5 and 6). These data were shared with other growers at the 2008 and 2009 Cranberry Station winter meetings. Beginning in 2008, DeMoranville, with funding from CCCGA is working with growers at 6 additional sites to evaluate yield, tissue test P, and changes to water quality as the growers reduce P inputs.

2008 grower survey. During the January meeting, we conducted a mini-survey regarding sanding, pruning, fertilizer use, and irrigation management. 156 attendees completed the survey, however, results were only compiled for the 135 identifying themselves as the decision-maker for their farm (representing 8,292 acres). Results were as follows (Tables 7-10):

70% of respondents (35% of the reporting acres) sanded in the winter of 2006-2007, 89% on the ice; and a similar percent planned to sand in the 2007-2008 winter. About half of those who sanded in 2006-2007 believed that their 2007 crop was reduced as a result of the sanding.

33% indicated that if they could not sand, that they would use pruning as an alternative (up from 15% in the initial survey). However, in 2006 only 785 acres were reported as pruned and in 2007 only 600 acres (compared to 2,930 acres sanded), this did represent ~35% of respondents for each year. Of the 600 aces pruned in 2007, 23% of the growers indicated that the pruning was done as an alternative to sanding.

In this initial year of education and peer recommendation to reduce fertilizer phosphorus (P), 36% indicated that they will develop or had developed a plan for P reduction and 33% were exclusively using materials with a N:P ratio of 1:less than 1.

It was most encouraging to see that in the two years between surveys, dependence on technology to plan irrigation increased substantially to 11% using water level floats and 14% using sensors or tensiometers. In addition, 10% of respondents are using irrigation cycling to conserve fuel and water during frost protection.

50 farmers attend an on-farm field day and share experiences in implementing project practices – 118 attended.

We held one field event in 2008. This was a bogside workshop held at participant Garretson’s farm (33 attendees). The focus was an opportunity to compare areas that had been pruned, sanded, or mowed in the past 3 years. Growers were able to observe the canopy and the crop and note that mowing (in the previous year) had evened the canopy and that crop was similar to that in unmowed areas. Interaction of these practices with nutrition management was also discussed.

In 2009, the AD Makepeace Co. hosted the CCCGA summer meeting including a tour (~ 50 participants) of their innovative renovation project where they have reconfigured the irrigation system on a 29-acre bog specifically so that they can cycle irrigation for frost protection. A second bog at this site was one of the locations for the irrigation scheduling study. Jeranyama demonstrated some of the potential methods and sensors that may be used to schedule irrigation in the future. A follow-up grower exchange regarding irrigation scheduling and cycling for frost protection was held at the winter workshops of the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association on March 5-6, 2009.

We held our final early season bogside workshop at the AD Makepeace Co. in April 2009 (attendance 35). The topic was frost management (cycling of sprinklers and frost tolerance). Based on the significant interest in frost cycling and the reports of up to 60% savings of water and energy, Jeranyama and DeMoranville have received funding from CCCGA (2009) to work with growers to document cycling methods, determine that frost damage is prevented, and estimate cost savings.

A total of 20 farmers have adopted two or more project practices (determined by final survey)

At the UMass Cranberry Station winter meeting on January 22, 2009, surveys were handed to the 237 in attendance. 120 were returned, and 102 of those were the decision makers for their farm. Results highlighting adoption of practices are shown in Tables 7-11.

33% would prune in place of sanding, up from 15%
51% have reduced their use of P fertilizer
21% have adopted the use of sensors or floats to schedule irrigation
16% cycle sprinklers during frost protection (up from zero)
39% installed drainage in the past 2 years and 65% would install tiles during bog renovation.

34 adopted two of these practices, 14 adopted three, 6 adopted four, and 2 adopted all five.

We also conducted a phone survey in August 2009. We spoke to 28 growers chosen to represent the project team growers and other grower who self-identified as willing to discuss the project in the initial 2006 survey. They told us (Table 12.)

13 would prune in lieu of sanding
11 use sensors or floats to schedule irrigation
7 use cycling of their sprinklers on frost nights
15 have added drainage
21 have reduced P

5 adopted two practices, 6 adopted three, 4 (each) adopted four or five.

Four of the original 5 member grower team adopted all practices as did at least 2 other growers (based on survey and interview).

Adopters have provided testimonials/experiences to encourage further adoption

During the final phone survey, respondents indicated that they are saving anywhere from 10-60% of energy and water use by cycling sprinklers during frost protection.

Matt Beaton has become the industry spokesperson promoting the reduction of phosphorus fertilizer use. He has worked with fertilizer manufacturers to develop custom blends and custom slow release, low-P fertilizers. He has participated in panel discussions on this topic at grower meetings and even acted as a broker for small growers wishing to adopt low-P blends, buying in bulk and selling to those growers at his cost. He has since worked out an arrangement to have the local Agway handle these sales, boosting that small business.

Gary Garretson wrote: “Thanks for asking us to cooperate on such a diverse project. Pruning our overgrown ‘Howes’ varieties helped us plant new bog acreage and learn how to fertilize newly mowed vines. The savings on skipping around ice sanding allowed us to catch up on other acres that needed sand. The savings on sanding versus pruning was 10% of the cost of sanding. Our work with low P fertilizer looks very promising and a good crop set up this year. We are saving raw materials costs along with application costs, with a commensurate benefit to the environment. This will need to be proven over a multi-year period. The cycling of the auto start irrigation systems continues to prove worthwhile with about a 20% savings in fuel, water and labor. We will be glad to participate in more projects with you.”

Matt Beaton said (in a phone interview): “I think this project has backed up and reinforced with concrete science the practices we undertook, especially things like the subsurface drainage. Quite frankly, it opened my eyes to how important drainage is, not only to the bog itself but to crop yields and fruit quality. The project has made me realize how important, going forward, technology (such things as tensiometers) is, not only to become a better grower, but to compete internationally.”

Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

Outreach activities:

Grower workshops (winter educational meetings):
4 were held by the UMass Cranberry Station; 2 held by CCCGA included project topics; included 4 panel discussions with grower participants
Attendance UMass = 248, 214, 281, 237; CCCGA = 150, 210

Field days (bogside workshops):
2 on water level floats, 1 on irrigation scheduling, 1 on mowing, sanding and pruning, 2 on irrigation cycling for frost
Attendance = 22, 14, 43, 33, 50, 35 Sold 55 additional floats.

Results of the sanding and pruning research were presented at the 2009 Annual Conference of the American Society for Horticultural Science and at the 2009 meeting of the North American Cranberry Research and Extension Workers (NACREW). The NACREW meeting allowed us to provide project information to cranberry extension professionals from throughout North America.

We plan to archive PowerPoint presentations from grower and professional meetings and the journal articles produced as part of this research on the Cranberry Station section of the UMass Amherst library’s digital repository, ScholarWorks.

Publications:

Manuscript – HortTechnology published article about pruning and nitrogen management. Sandler, H. A. and C. J. DeMoranville. 2009. Economic analysis of nitrogen rate on vine production and fruit yield of pruned cranberry beds. HortTechnology 19(3):572-579.

Fact sheet – Constructing Water Level Floats (existing resource used in project education) http://www.umass.edu/cranberry/services/publications.shtml

UMass Cranberry Station Newsletters –http://www.umass.edu/cranberry/news/newsletters.shtml

December 2005 — Notes from a discussion session with about 30 growers regarding challenges during the 2005 season. Importance of maintaining a farming community and exchange of information stated. Grower testimonial on use of water level floats.

June 2006 — Article regarding the impact of irrigation management on yield. Irrigation by grower practice compared to use of water level floats and tensiometers.

December 2006 — Notes from a discussion session with about 30 growers regarding challenges during the 2006 season. Includes testimonials about using water level floats. Grower statement that overuse of water is confounding nutrition management.
Article by Vanden Heuvel and Salvas showing research results of a sanding trial on two cultivars — sanding reduced crop in at least the year of treatment and into the following year with heavy sanding.

February 2007 — Article regarding the use of automated irrigation and cycling for frost protection. Growers report up to 60% savings in energy and water.

August 2007 — Interaction of annual pruning and nitrogen fertilizer article by Hilary Sandler. Article on yellow vine syndrome linking to water management problems.

January 2008 — Notes from a discussion session with about 30 growers regarding challenges during the 2007 season. Use of water level floats and impact of extensive sanding on industry crop are discussed.

December 2008 — Notes from a discussion session with about 30 growers regarding challenges during the 2008 season. Potential rebound effects two years after sanding discussed as was the interaction of nutrient management and water quality. Drainage tile implementation and subsurface irrigation was also discussed.

Manuscript – HortTechnology in press article on pruning and sanding comparison.
Suhayda, B. et al. 2009. Sanding and pruning differentially impact canopy characteristics, yield, and economic returns in cranberry. HortTechnology 19 (4): in press.

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Impacts of Results/Outcomes

Canopy Management:
We were successful in identifying alternatives to the very resource-intensive practice of sanding (adding layers of sand to the bog surface). Massachusetts cranberry growers use this practice extensively (in our pre-survey, 72% reported sanding every 3 years) to improve vine growth and for pest management (94% and 75% of respondents, respectively). In a replicated scientific study comparing sanding to the alternative of pruning, we showed that pruning accomplished the same plant growth goals as sanding (more uprights, greater light penetration) with less risk to crop production, enhanced dryness in the canopy, and substantially lower cost. Grower members of our team implemented pruning demonstrations on their farms (10 sites) and showed that pruning had little or no negative impact on yield (in some cases yield increased). Grower participants also identified mowing of the canopy as a second alternative to sanding. This practice continues to be studied at 5 grower sites (with funding from CCCGA) to determine if the economics make sense. In our pre-survey, 15% of respondents indicated that they are using pruning as a sanding alternative. In our final survey, that number had increased to 22%. Based on a January 2009 survey, in the 2008 season, only 4% of surveyed acres were sanded — 7% were pruned.

Our economic analysis showed that a light pruning costs $179/acre compared to half-inch sanding at $1291/acre.

Nutrient management:
One of our grower team members, Matt Beaton, has been in the forefront of implementing reduced phosphorus (P) fertilizers in order to minimize off-site impacts. Based on his advocacy, we focused on educational efforts to encourage adoption of this change in practice with workshops and grower panels. In our pre-survey, 69% of all fertilizers used had an N:P ratio of 1N:more than 1P. This had not changed in January of 2008 but by January of 2009, use of these materials accounted for only 54% of applications. More importantly, 61% of the growers surveyed used only materials with an N:P ratio of 1N:1 or less than 1P during the 2008 season. In January 2008, 36% said they planned to reduce P in the 2008 season. In January 2009, 51% (52 growers) reported that they did reduce P use in 2008. In our final phone survey, 21 of 28 had purposely reduced their use of P since the project began. On one of Matt Beaton’s bogs, P reduction has led to a >75% reduction in P output in his flood water discharges. Seven growers are currently participating in a study of how their P reductions can improve water quality.

Irrigation:
36 growers attended hands-on workshops at the Cranberry Station Farm regarding how to construct a water-level float, a device recommended for use in irrigation scheduling. Each participant left with a float ready to install and was provided with a contact person for follow-up instruction regarding installation. Growers reported implementation and are pleased with the reduction in irrigation when using the floats as a basis for scheduling.
In 2007, an additional 43 growers attended an on-farm workshop comparing the use of floats to that of moisture sensors. Four growers signed up for an on-farm moisture monitoring project that began in 2008, with funding from the MA Department of Agricultural Resources.

Sprinkler cycling for frost protection:
By the end of the project, 16% of surveyed growers were using this practice. At the beginning of the project, it was basically not used except for very few growers who had limitations to their water supplies. In workshops and surveys, adopters of this practice reported savings of fuel and water of anywhere from 10 to 60% depending on methods implemented. This variability has pointed out a need for systematic study of this practice to determine best methods.

Drainage:
During the course of this project, interest in and use of drainage tiles has exploded: 39% of those surveyed reporting that they had installed drains in the past 2 years. Matt Beaton: “I think this project has backed up and reinforced with concrete science the practices we undertook, especially things like the subsurface drainage. Quite frankly, it opened my eyes to how important drainage is, not only to the bog itself but to crop yields and fruit quality.” Six growers are participating in a study of the use of drains for subirrigation, funded by USDA.

Economic Analysis

Adoption of project practices can lower production costs:

Cost of a half-inch sanding $1291/acre – substitute light pruning at $179/acre.

Reduce P inputs by changing NPK formulation to higher N, lower P and use less material. The fertilizer may cost about the same but application costs will be less due to fewer pounds applied.

Use floats or sensors to schedule irrigation. Most growers irrigated about 25% less when they implemented these methods. 25% savings in water and fuel.

Improve drainage to increase crop and reduce disease.

Cycle sprinklers during frost protection and save as much as 60% in fuel and water costs.

During this project, we found no evidence that any of these practices reduce yield. In fact, yield often improved. And as the industry was adopting these practices, the 2008 Massachusetts cranberry crop set an all time record – 2.3 million barrels.

Farmer Adoption

Massachusetts cranberry farmers have identified the need to reduce costs, including labor. We developed and promoted 5 practices as part of this project that have the potential to save labor, fuel, and water. A survey regarding adoption was administered at our January 2009 meeting. We had 102 responses of growers who were decision makers for their farms and represented 5520 acres (~40% of the Massachusetts total) — 34 had implemented two practices, 14 implemented three practices, 6 implemented four practices, and 2 implemented all five (one of these was a project designer). Three of the project designers were not in attendance and were not surveyed. In telephone interviews, three additional 5-practice implementers were identified (two were project designers). All but one of the project designers has implemented all five practices. The remaining grower (Gilmore) has implemented phosphorus reduction and has entirely eliminated sanding on his farm (the only grower to do so to our knowledge). Totals: 60 implemented at least two practices, 6 implemented all five practices.

During the course of this project, growers participated in a grant program for renovating their farms. Eight used grant funds to automate irrigation and 13 used grant funds to install drainage tiles. More than 50% of growers surveyed have reduced their use of P fertilizer.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Areas needing additional study

We have already begun further studies on grower farms. Irrigation scheduling and drainage research is being undertaken by Jeranyama, DeMoranville, and CCCGA with funding from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources and USDA. Mowing cycles are being evaluated by DeMoranville and Sandler with funding from grower organizations. Frost cycling is being evaluated by DeMoranville and Jeranyama with funding from CCCGA and DeMoranville continues to evaluate P reduction and interactions of P with water management. This further study should assure greater adoption of these sustainable practices.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.