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Cranberry growers meet at historic Whitesbog

By BILL PERSSON
AFP Correspondent

Pemberton Township, Burlington County — A very pleasant late spring evening, and a very full program, greeted those attending the annual Cranberry Growers Twilight Meeting. This year, it was held at Whitesbog Village.
An apt location since Whitesbog has a lot of relevant history associated with it. In the early part of the 20th century, Whitesbog was the largest cranberry farm in New Jersey. It was also here that cultivated highbush blueberries were initially developed and grown.
Ray Samulis, Burlington County Cooperative Extension ag agent, who coordinated the evening’s program, first introduced a topic that was not on the formal list of presentations for the meeting.
A discussion and demonstration of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) had been added.
Satellite imagery and aerial imagery have been used for years to map cranberry bogs (and other agriculture).
With UAV-mounted cameras, fields can be mapped and measured with high precision.
And with different types of cameras (such as infra-red) and other sensors, even more information can be developed about bogs and fields, including areas of plant stress.
The day of the meeting, the group had used a fixed-wing UAV (a standard, airplane-shaped vehicle) that weighed about 2.5 pounds, to map a field of 24 acres in about 10 minutes.
The result was an image with a pixel resolution of about four centimeters, which is a high level of detail.
“The drone looks just like a model airplane, and basically it is,” said one member of the group discussing the development of their UAV.
The drone has GPS and a compass. It can be controlled directly from the ground or flown with a pre-programmed “mission.”
That mission can be prepared on a regular laptop computer that has the software package installed.
The mission is then downloaded to the vehicle which can fly the complete mission and return to the take-off site or other specified location, all on autopilot.
During the flight, real-time video can be watched on the controller or other receiver.
Outdoors, a live flight demonstration displayed the speed and maneuverability of the UAV.
The vehicle demonstrated has an average flight time capacity of about 45 minutes.
Cesar Rodriguez-Saona, who is based at the Marucci Center and doing research on pest management for cranberries and blueberries, presented methods of monitoring cranberry plants for pests.
Rodriguez-Saona discussed more than eight different pests affecting New Jersey cranberry bogs.
Around the date of publication of this article, most cranberry plants will be in bloom. Two of the pests he indicated in particular that should be monitored now are the Black-Headed Fireworm, and the Sparganothis Fruitworm.
During post-bloom, monitoring is recommended to continue for Sparganothis Fruitworm, and monitoring should be added for the Spotted Fireworm. In response to a question, he answered that “studies show no threat to cranberries from Spotted-Wing Drosophila, because Spotted-Wing Drosophila need soft fruit.”
He said that to treat for toad bugs (Gelastocoridae), now beginning their nymph stage, which will continue into August, that if monitoring results in an action threshold (a population count of pests indicating that treatment is needed to prevent significant plant damage), to “spray in mid-July, after bloom.”
In mid-July, overlapping populations of nymph lifecycle stage and adults will be present.
He said pheromone traps should be in the bogs now to monitor for Sparganothis Fruitworm and Black-Headed Fireworm. Showing examples of pheromone traps, he said, “We compared red delta traps (triangular-shaped trap, open on one or both ends) and white wing traps (flat-shaped trap, usually open on three or all sides).
“These work the same way, so you can use red delta traps — but do not go with white delta traps because that catches a lot of honeybees.”
Rodriguez-Saona listed some of the basic supplies needed to sample bogs for insects — a sweep net to capture the insects, a scouting book (for record keeping: date, bog, 10X magnifier or microscope to help accurately identify pests, and pheromone traps.
Brad Majek, specialist in weed science, at Rutgers Agricultural Research and Extension Center, spoke about treating for Yellow Loosestrife, a perennial broadleaf which can spread through rhizomes, seeds, or bulblets, and can cause moderate yield decreases in cranberry harvests.
Brenda Darlington of J.J. White Cranberry Company, talked about plans for the new Cranberry Harvest Kick-off, an event scheduled for Sept. 27, at Whitesbog.
It will be an educational forum — including the history, methodology, health benefits, and other facets of cranberries — intended for the public.
Ray Samulis provided information about the US EPA Worker Protection Standard for agricultural workers and pesticide handlers.
The American Cranberry Growers Association summer meeting will be held on Aug. 22, at the Marucci Center for Cranberry and Blueberry Research, in Chatsworth. Information is available at www.pemaruccicenter.rutgers.edu.
The Cranberry Harvest Kick-off website is at: njcranberryharvest.com.
The 31st annual Cranberry Festival will be held in Chatsworth on Oct. 18-19, for more information see www.cranfest.org.