Adaptation of No-Till Transplanting as an Innovative Method to Improve Cranberry Farm Sustainability

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2018: $14,903.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2019
Grant Recipient: Mayflower Cranberries, LLC
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Jeffrey LaFleur
Mayflower Cranberries, LLC


  • Fruits: berries (cranberries)


  • Crop Production: no-till
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer
  • Farm Business Management: feasibility study

    Proposal summary:

    I am seeking to investigate a completely new method of renovating established cranberry vines utilizing no-till technology. As a result of the large amount of earth moved and construction equipment used, traditional renovation of cranberry farms is expensive, resource-intensive and economically unfeasible for many small producers. To remain competitive in both local and global markets, renovating existing acreage to more desirable varieties has become a necessity. My proposal is innovative since I will evaluate two methods that have never been used in cranberry production: one using traditional no-till method and a second involving a partial no-till. Traditional renovation of cranberry bogs includes heavy equipment to strip off old vines and removing 6-8” of soil, replacing the soil with a layer of sand usually more than 8 inches deep, installing a new irrigation system, and planting vines either from cuttings or rooted plugs. This method is expensive and can cost anywhere from $25,000-40,000 per acre. Working on my own farm, I will renovate neighboring sections that will allow for easy comparison and demonstration purposes. The traditional no-till method will transplant rooted plugs into the old cranberry vines, which has been killed and mowed to create a thatch layer similar to the thatch layers found in no-till plantings of cucurbit crops. The partial no-till method involves killing the existing vines, mowing the vines then spreading a layer of sand to plant the vine through into the turf. Both no-till methods allow for the utilization of the existing irrigation system.

    Working with the UMass Cranberry Station, I will host a twilight meeting towards the end of August 2018 and prior to harvest. This would give sufficient time for plugs to grow and produce runners that will cover the production surface. I would have a no-till transplanter available for viewing, and demonstration in an adjacent upland field site, as many growers would not have seen this type of equipment. I will photo document each step of the project and write up the procedures used for each step, including the horticultural practices implemented. It will be important to document the cost of each procedure to demonstrate the savings, so I will track expenditures made during the project.

    I will then develop a PowerPoint presentation that can be used at the annual UMass Cranberry Station update meeting held in January 2019. The project description and results can also be published in the UMass Cranberry Station newsletter. Videos of the activities will be posted on the UMass Cranberry Station You Tube channel and image gallery on the UMass Cranberry Scholar Works page (a digital repository hosted by UMass libraries).

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The main purpose of this project is evaluate a completely new method of renovating cranberry farms by employing technology utilized in other sectors of agriculture. No one has ever tried planting rooted cranberry cuttings with a no-till transplanter. Cranberry growers have only used a traditional transplanter, going into in a deep clean sand surface. As with no-till in conventional crops, adoption must be preceded by a change in the ‘mind set’ that the soil surface must be clean and free of residue. If successful, my on-farm research and demonstration project will provide real-life results that can be showcased to the grower community.

    If no-till transplanting is a viable method of changing varieties for growers, it could revolutionize the renovation of cranberry bogs. It will reduce the resource intensity of sand use and excavation of soil that comes with traditional renovation. It will reduce renovation costs by as much as 75 percent per acre.

    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.