Massachusetts cranberry growers look to tech solutions for climate concerns

Cranberry harvest is beginning in Massachusetts on a crop that looks to be average to good-sized. “As we get further along into harvest, the question is: how is it going to come together?” says Brian Wick, executive director of the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association (CCCGA), adding that harvest generally wraps up the second week in November. “Some growers say things look really good while others say it looks okay. It’s been an uneven year overall in terms of crop expectations.”

Photos: Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association

Cranberry growers in the state have had to contend with a particularly rainy season this year and that, along with inflationary challenges, have made it a challenging time for them. “There’s a lot being thrown at growers in terms of climate. This year there’s too much rain and prior to that, there was a drought,” he says, noting that in drought times, pumps were running to get more water in the bogs while during the rainy season, pumps were running to get water off the bogs. “Most growers can’t recall such a cold, wet spring,” says Wick.

Colder nights of course also meant running irrigation systems to protect the cranberry bogs. “All of these climactic changes are shifting how cranberry growers need to farm given our winters aren’t cold enough and our springs tend to be longer, colder and wetter.”

Exploring ag drones
Meanwhile, ongoing increasing costs--such as fuel needed to run those pumps-- are challenging for growers to stay ahead which has growers looking elsewhere for solutions. “We’ve been working with the University of Massachusetts Cranberry Research Station and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources to look at using larger, agricultural drones that can apply ag chemicals,” says Wick. “We’re in the research stage and we’re hoping that down the road, growers can use them as a tool. Even if it’s for spot treatment where you can do precision ag to help with the overall farm costs. It would help with efficiencies and production.”

As it is across the country, labor retention also continues to be an issue that concerns growers and it’s an area the association also has initiatives it’s working on to help develop the future workforce.

Back to this season, the CCCGA anticipates that demand will continue to be good for cranberries in the state, 96 percent of which goes towards processing while the remainder is for the fresh market. “Sales have been strong as of late and the industry is opening up new export markets such as India,” says Wick.

For more information:
Brian Wick
Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association
Tel: +1 (508) 866-7878

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