For many families, a Thanksgiving meal would not be the same without the sweet, tart goodness of cranberry dishes. A project funded by USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) at Oregon State University (OSU) is working to ensure that staple stays on the table.
“Weeds – moss in particular – are a big challenge to cranberry production, but the number of herbicides labeled for use on cranberry is relatively low,” said Cassie Bouska, associate professor of practice with OSU Extension Service. “We lack effective controls for weeds that can, and ultimately will, take over a cranberry bed and drastically reduce production.”
Research from Washington state found that increasing moss pressure reduced yield by at least half. With decreased cranberry yields and lower prices, some growers have struggled to break even in recent years.
“That impacts the economic stability of farm families and rural communities,” Bouska said. “An economically sustainable farm can move forward and find ways to improve its environmental sustainability.”
A cranberry bed is a complete mat of cranberry vines – 100% ground cover. Established weeds are difficult to control and hand weeding is time-consuming and expensive. As a result, the research team is studying various weed control tools and techniques to tackle troublesome weeds and may be closing in on a breakthrough.
“We’ve tested some products that are very effective at controlling moss, while causing minimal or no damage to the cranberries,” Bouska said. “Next year’s field work will provide indications of whether there are additive effects of year-on-year applications. We’re optimistic that we have some good candidates.”
Ensuring farming stays viable and profitable for our producers is essential. USDA research like this is helping to maintain and improve U.S. cranberry production so that your family can continue to enjoy your favorite cranberry dishes during the holiday season and throughout the year.