Cranberry growers are closely watching the weather

While many farmers wait for warmer weather to plant annual crops, there’s a perennial crop that has growers up late monitoring the weather. 

Tom Lochner with the Wisconsin Cranberry Growers Association tells Brownfield the cranberry vines started coming out of dormancy during the unusually warm 80-degree weather two weeks ago, so growers are watching for overnight frost now. “Usually at night, you’ll find growers out, especially this time of year and this week, watching frosts. They’ll run their irrigation systems. As long as we keep a stream of water going across the vines, that will protect them down to about 15 to 17 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Lochner says by irrigating, or on very cold nights flooding the cranberries, it protects the vines from freezing because frost damage means less yield. “Most growers have some type of a system that will alert them when temperatures start to drop. At a preset level, the irrigation systems will automatically start and run until growers can get out there and check things out.”

Lochner says the temperature when cranberries become susceptible to cold depends on the variety and the growth stage, and he says many growers in northern Wisconsin still have their beds flooded, while others in central Wisconsin have been using irrigation as needed to protect the vines.

Lochner says cranberries don’t grow in water, but they tolerate it well.  He says the bud counts from last fall look good, but the summer weather will determine how good the yields are.

Wisconsin is the number one cranberry producer, with 65% of the U.S. crop and more than half of the world’s cranberry production with an average yield of nearly five and a half million barrels.

Tom Lochner discusses cranberries and protecting the vines from frost with Brownfield’s Larry Lee

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