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US (WI): Cranberry farmers show much improved sustainability

According to a new University of Wisconsin-Madison survey Wisconsin's cranberry growers have made significant gains in the adoption of sustainable management practices over the past two decades.

114 cranberry producers (representing 70% of Wisconsin's cranberry acreage) were surveyed about how they handle issues of sustainability from an economic, environmental and social standpoint.

Among the most significant improvements was nutrient management, says Jed Colquhoun, associate professor of horticulture, who surveyed producers in late 2009. Seventy-three percent of growers say they now follow a nutrient management plan, while 13 percent say they were doing that in 1989, reports wqow.com

There has been an increase of 20% in farmers who base fertilizer inputs on soil tests since 1990, making it 80% in total. This greatly reduces the risk of excessive application of nutrients.

Wisconsin's 250 cranberry growers have more than 17,000 acres in production. Cranberries are the state's leading fruit crop, valued at about $250 million in 2008.

This study shows that the states cranberry growers have made huge advances in the last 20 years. It also sets the benchmark for assessing future improvements in environmental, social and economic metrics

Among other survey findings:

. Eighty-eight percent of growers use non-chemical practices, such as flooding and weather monitoring to predict insect life cycles, to control pests.

. Ninety-seven percent say they make spraying decisions based on pest thresholds rather than spraying by calendar. That's up from 68 percent in 1989.

. Seventy-seven percent hire integrated pest management consultants to focus on biological and ecological approaches to pest management, up from 55 percent in 1989. Cranberry acreage is scouted for pests an average of 14 times per season.

. Growers maintain more than 6.3 acres of support lands, including natural wetlands and conserved wildlife habitats, for each acre of cranberry marsh.

. Ninety-eight percent of the state's cranberry operations are family owned.

The average operation has been producing for 39 years and involves two generations of family members.

. The state's growers average two year-round employees and three seasonal employees. About 70 percent of year-round employees receive health and retirement benefits.

. Wisconsin's cranberries travel an average of 35 miles from field to receiving facility.

. About 40 percent of growers either host or conduct research on their farms.


Publication date: 7/9/2010
Author: Nichola Watson
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


 


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