ACGA Winter Meeting 2019

This week the American Cranberry Growers Association once again held its annual winter meeting. The ACGA winter meeting is always a good opportunity for growers to listen to research findings from experiments during the previous growing season and the researchers’ recommendations for the 2019 growing season. In addition, it’s a great chance for the local cranberry community to catch up to each other after the busy harvest season.

Pine Island sent a big crew this year, and they all came away pleased with the experience. CEO Bill Haines thought this year was particularly good, and as always, enjoyed the the chance to sit down and chat with fellow growers at lunch. ““You can get as much from just having a conversation over lunch as you can from the presentation,” he says.

The rest of the team were equally glad they attended. “It was good to know about some regulatory changes that are coming up,” says Justin Ross. “Knowing what will and won’t be available now will help us plan things better for later.”

“I thought Thierry’s research with the effectiveness of of some treatments on red root was interesting,” says Matt Giberson. “I think more testing should be done on the timing of the application that would be most effective, though. Very interested to know more about how we can kill that swan loving devil weed.” One other side note he thought was interesting: how some treatments seem to greatly reduce yield when applied early in berry development. “From talking to Peter, it seems that it causes phytotoxicity to the flower making it less likely to produce fruit, hence the cause of pin fruit development.”

Newer team member Mike Scullion says, “I enjoyed learning about the management of red root in our bogs as that is an ongoing issue we are dealing with on our farm. My favorite part of the meeting, as always, is learning about the new varieties Nick Vorsa is working on. They are getting closer and closer to producing a strain of cranberry that not only has a higher resistance to fruit rot, but still has a higher yield.”

“I found Nakorn’s presentation really interesting,” says Mike Haines. “We know that we don’t want blunt-nosed leafhopper in the bogs, as they spread false blossom disease, but it was interesting to hear his hypotheses and thoughts on why this interaction occurs, like how the leafhoppers that feed on diseased plants end up being larger adults, and that nutrient levels are actually higher in infected plants.”

All in all, it was another productive day for our Pine Island team as well another excellent program put together by Dr. Cesar Rodriguez-Saona. Thank you, Cesar!

Ocean Spray Regional Meeting

This week, Ocean Spray held one of their regular regional meetings at the Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research to provide a business and cooperative update for New Jersey grower-owners. Not everyone manages to get to every Annual Growers Meeting, so it was a great chance to hear from CEO Bobby Chacko as well as several senior executives about where Ocean Spray is, where we’re going, and how we’re getting there!

Pine Island CEO and member of the Ocean Spray Board of Directors Bill Haines opened the meeting by introducing the management team. “Two things you can count on from this management team: one, they’re working hard, and two, they’ll tell us the truth,” he said.

Bobby said, upon his selection, “Ocean Spray’s story is close to nine decades old, but we are just getting started,” and everyone’s presentations this week are in line with that vision. We heard from Board Chairman Peter Dhillon, Bobby, and new senior executives Joseph Vanderstelt (SVP, Chief Financial Officer), Brian Schiegg (SVP, Chief Commercial Officer), and Jamie Head (Chief Information Officer), as well as board advisor Marla Gottschalk. Each speaker gave us a little bit of their background and what strengths they bring to Ocean Spray as an organization as well as their vision for the coop’s future. They touched upon supply, marketing, and the importance of emphasizing that the company is grower-owned, and spent a great deal of time answering questions both respectfully and openly.

“I thought it was great,” says grower Steve Sooy. “The more they’re here to talk with us, the better off they are and the better off we are. I appreciate straight talk, no sugarcoating, and they gave us that.”

“Honesty,” Steve says. “You can’t ask for better than that.”

ACGA Summer Field Day 2018

This week several Pine Island Cranberry team members attended the annual American Cranberry Growers Association (ACGA) summer field day at the Rutgers extension center. While several topics are similar to those discussed at the winter meeting, the field day is a chance to go out and explore the researchers’ valuable work first hand!

Though Dr. Cesar Rodriguez-Saona was sadly absent due to a conflicting academic commitment, he once again put together an excellent and informative program, and Dr. Nick Vorsa stepped in to make sure everything ran smoothly.

Justin Ross:

“I liked seeing everyone all together. Nick and Jennifer’s calcium study was interesting; that’s something to keep in mind if we were to try liquid fertilizer.”

Mike Scullion:

“My favorite parts of today’s meeting was Nick’s talk on the health benefits of cranberries and how they’re a rich source of phenolic compounds, especially the flavonoids. Also, he mentioned that they are working on a new variety of cranberry that has reduced acid levels. This will be great because you won’t need as much added sugar to make them more palatable. Exciting stuff!”

Matt Stiles:

“I thought Thierry’s talk was really interesting; he’s doing a lot of work. It’s great to have that research, especially for the young bogs, where you have to control weeds early on in order to keep them out of there. So it’s interesting to see what he’s working on and where he thinks it’s going to go. I also always like hearing the latest updates on new varieties, especially the work on fruit rot resistance.”

Jeremy Fenstermaker:

It’s always nice to see all the other growers; being able to catch up with them and see if they’re seeing the same effects of the weather, how they’re handling things, get some ideas. I also liked Peter’s update; I like the direction he’s going with regard to fruit quality, seeing what hasn’t worked, taking it a step farther. if you find a way to keep scald from happening, then you take the chance, and it’s exciting to see that work being done. It was also neat to have the the drone to see how we could do it on a larger scale. It’s good that the meeting coincided with the marketing committee, too; we were all able to chat with people from different growing areas.”

Mike Haines:

“It’s cool seeing the progress on everyone’s experiments. One of my favorite talks is always hearing Nick and Jennifer talk about fruit rot resistance breeding, and getting to actually go into into the research bed and see all the trials where they’re mixing resistant low-yield varieties with Crimson Queen to see if they can get a good producer. Hand in hand with that, Jim Polashock’s talk about genomics was interesting; it’s not something I’m overly familiar with, but the way he presented I was able to follow and understand.

Altogether, another successful field day! Thank you to the entire staff at the Marucci Center for all of your hard work in putting it together.

Twilight Meeting 2018

This week, some Pine Island team members attended the Cranberry Growers Twilight Meeting, hosted this year by the Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research and Extension. In contrast to the American Cranberry Grower Association’s Winter Meeting, the focus here is less research-oriented and uses a more hands-on approach to addressing timely topics of importance to cranberry growers.

The first scheduled talk was with Patricia Hastings of the Rutgers University Agricultural Extension Service, who has taken over the annual safety talk requirements after Ray Samulis retired! We all miss Ray, who’s been a mainstay for many years, but it’s wonderful to have someone willing to step in to assist with continuing education. Other talks included monitoring for cranberry insects, with Dr. Cesar Rodriguez-Saona; an update on cranberry diseases with Dr. Peter Oudemans; an update on weed management by Dr. Thierry Besancon; and finished up with a talk on frost damage in cranberries with Dr. Nick Vorsa. And, of course, there was a good dinner, provided by the hard-working staff of the Marucci Center!

In addition to the importance of new research findings, it’s also a great chance for the cranberry community to get together face-to-face. Our team, and the other growers, work with Rutgers all the time, but it’s good to be able to sit down with other growers and find out if they’re having some of the same problems with pests, or fairy ring, or excessive heat. That additional perspective can help us troubleshoot our own applications.

Cesar stepped in after Ray’s retirement to organize and host this year’s meeting, and we’re all very grateful for it. He set up a highly informative program and an excellent meal, just as he does for the annual Winter Meeting and Summer Field Day, year after year. Thank you, Cesar!

ACGA Winter Meeting 2018

This week the American Cranberry Growers Association once again held its annual winter meeting. The ACGA winter meeting is always a good opportunity for growers to listen to research findings from experiments during the previous growing season and the researchers’ recommendations for the 2018 growing season. In addition, it’s a great chance for the local cranberry community to catch up to each other after the busy harvest season.

This year, the attendees from Pine Island were Mike Haines, Matt Giberson, Matt Stiles, and Justin Ross, and all of them found the presentations useful and informative. The top presentation for all four of them was the work being done by Jennifer Johnson-Cicalese on new varieties. “Jennifer’s was my favorite this time,” says Mike. “Improving rot resistance will keep the industry as viable as possible in NJ, and it sounds like they’re making progress on that.” Matt Giberson agrees: “That’s most important for our needs. If she finds out a way to produce a new variety with lower rot, it can really help us.”

Everyone was also interested in the report by Peter Oudemans on heat, with Matt being especially interested in the use of fake berries with heat sensors to measure internal temperature. It was also his first chance to hear from Thierry Besançon. “I’m glad he’s working on the red root issue,” Matt says. “We can see from Red Road how the different treatments are working, and it looks like he’s been making good progress.”

The final presentation of the day was the safety talk, delivered by someone other than Ray Samulis for the first time any of us can remember. “It was weird not having Ray there!” Matt says. “George did a good job though; that was good info on new regulations throughout the year and I was glad to see we’re a little ahead of the game with our current training program.”

“I thought it was a great meeting,” says Matt Stiles. “All of the presenters did a great job conveying useful information to us that we will be able to use throughout the growing season.” He is also grateful to everyone that helped put it together. So a huge thank you, as always to Dr. Cesar Rodriguez-Saona for yet another fantastic program! Cesar does a ton of work on this every year in addition to his research, and we’re all grateful for the opportunity.

“This was a great learning experience,” says newer Pine Island team member Justin Ross. “There’s a lot of good stuff going on and a lot of energy in the industry.”

ACGA Summer Field Day – 2016

This week, some Pine Island team members were able to attend the annual Summer Field Day at the Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research, sponsored by the American Cranberry Growers Association (ACGA). The field day is an opportunity for various members of the cranberry community to visit the research center and check out ongoing experiments from several of the center’s scientists as well as those from outside the region.

This year’s topics included the most recent findings with various ongoing studies, such as the current work on breeding for fruit rot resistance, scald and heat stress, fungus, and pest resistance, as well as research on the return of toadbug in the region. And of course, there was the ever-popular “show and tell”, where growers can demonstrate some of the latest tools or techniques they’ve been using on their own operations.

Both veterans and new team members learned a lot, as always. “We got to see a lot of projects we’re already familiar with and how they’re progressing,” says manager Mike Haines. “Like Jim Polashock’s talk on Mycorrhizae, Cesar with toadbug, and Peter with heat stress. And I always like to hear from Tim [Waller]; he really digs into the background of both what he’s doing and why he’s doing it.” Mike also enoys the chance to hear from people from different cranberry regions: “It was cool to hear the research from Wisconsin on pest resistance in different cranberry varieties.”

“It was a good lineup of speakers on variety subject matter,” says crop supervisor Tim Bourgeois. “It was a great chance for me to get a broad range of info, considering this is my first year in the business.” He was especially pleased at the social aspect. “The NJ cranberry community is a close-knit group of growers, which is always nice. It was a good day, a great experience, and a chance to make some new contacts and some new friends yesterday.”

And, of course, we would be remiss in not thanking the staff at Rutgers for all of their hard work yesterday as well as Dr. Cesar Rodriguez-Saona for setting up such an informative program. The cranberry community is fortunate to have such a resource close by to help us do what we do better every day!

IPM – Drones

Last month we spoke with Dr. Peter Oudemans of Rutgers University about how our fairy ring treatment is progressing. This week, he had a team out mapping the selected treatment site with drones.

Using aerial technology to pinpoint treatment is a crucial component in integrated pest management, or IPM. What is IPM? The UC Cooperative Extension says:

“IPM is an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties. . . . [T]reatments are made with the goal of removing only the target organism.”

Drones can be a tremendous help with this. Per an earlier article from Robohub, “agriculture is a big data problem without the big data.” The article goes on to explain:

“Rather than taking pictures and videos of people, [drones will] be surveying fields, using their high-resolution sensors to improve crop yield and decrease agricultural water and [treatment] use. . . About half of the “inputs” in farming. . . are typically wasted because they’re applied in greater amount than needed or in the wrong place, such as the ground between plants rather than the plants themselves.”

At the Pine Island experimental site “we use two different types, a fixed-wing and a quad copter,” Peter says. “The fixed-wing is good for surveying because it can cover a large area in a short amount of time, while the quad is for more precise work.” The quad is also easier to fly. This week, however, they only flew the fixed-wing. “It took three sets of images, which will hopefully tell us more about how the fairy ring treatments are progressing.”

“They’re going to change the whole way we do things,” says CEO Bill Haines. “It’s moving us toward site specific agriculture, not just treating the whole bog.”

ACGA Winter Meeting – 2016

Yesterday, several team members attended the American Cranberry Growers Association’s annual winter meeting. The ACGA winter meeting is always a good opportunity for growers and scientists to listen to research findings from experiments during the previous growing season and the researchers’ recommendations for the 2016 growing season. This year, Pine Island sent new team member Matt Stiles, as well as COO Bryan vonHahmann and Mike Haines, Matt Giberson, and Jeremy Fenstermaker from our management/supervisory team. Everyone from Pine Island who attended (both the newer and the more experienced) were able to take a lot away from the experience.

“I always say this, but the main thing I like about the winter meeting is it gives you a chance to hear from other regions,” says Mike Haines. “I especially liked hearing from Hilary [Sandler, of UMass Cranberry Station]; I corresponded with her this summer about some issues we were having with poison ivy out at Boricua, and she had some excellent recommendations.” He also likes hearing from various vendors: “It’s great to hear about new things people are developing and how they can be applied to the cranberry industry.”

Matt Giberson was especially pleased to hear from DPI on the use of drones for mapping. “I think that’s the way of the future, depending on regulations,” he says. “It could definitely improve our applications. I know Peter [Oudemans, of the Marucci Center at Rutgers] has been working with him; this kind of tech can give us a better chance to examine sun damage, as well.” Matt also enjoyed hearing from Hilary: “She talked about paying attention to the perimeter being an important aspect in weed control, which is something we’ve talked about here as we continue renovation.” He also appreciates the chance to catch up on research updates every year. “We hear from a lot of the same researchers, obviously, but there’s always something different, something new. Research is always ongoing, and it’s good to hear about the progress everyone’s making.”

Bryan vonHahmann back ups Matt’s observation: “It’s great that we are able to attract quality speakers that provide research and information to help the growers improve their operations. We got to see a glimpse of the future with drones and precision agriculture to the basics on weed management. Another huge benefit is getting the growers together so that we can share ideas and information during the breaks; it’s a good collaborative event.” And as always, we’re grateful to Cesar Rodriguez-Saona for putting together yet another fantastic program!

ACGA Summer Field Day – 2015

Yesterday several Pine Island Cranberry team members once again attended the annual American Cranberry Growers Association (ACGA) summer field day at the Rutgers extension center. While several topics are similar to those discussed at the winter meeting, the field day is a chance to go out and explore the researchers’ valuable work first hand.

All in attendance found the demonstrations highly useful! Some took particular notice of Dr. Peter Oudemans’ talk on his work on the heat stress factor in disease management. “Peter’s talk on understanding the factors that lead to heat damage was a hot topic for us…no pun intended,” says PIICM manager Cristina Tassone. “This year we have been trying to monitor the weather with our thermometer–both automated and analog–our new weather stations, our new thermal camera, and we started testing internal heat this season with meat thermometers. We have been going back and forth with Peter trying to find the best threshold for when we should turn on the sprinklers, and his talk yesterday provided the analysis of the data he collected along with a threshold that will help us make better decisions.” GM Fred Torres agrees: “You never have all the answers; there are always what-ifs, but we’re feeling better about what to do and what to try. Peter’s work is really narrowing it down, and it’s getting better and easier.”

The other speakers were also quite well-received. “It’s always good to hear about the new varieties, what they’re coming up with,” Fred says. Cristina was very interested in Dr. Jim Polashock’s talk on virus symptoms and detection. “It helped me make a connection with what we are seeing in the bogs,” she says. “We have seen scarring on the fruit in the past, and weren’t always sure what to attribute it to. Seeing the fruit samples with the viruses yesterday will help us identify what we are seeing in the bogs better. I am also anxious to see what they find out about the ‘footprint’ disease in the near future.”

Yesterday the ACGA also distributed the “Identification Guide for Weeds in Cranberries”. Hilary Sandler, weed specialist at UMass, had Quebec’s cranberry weed identification guide translated to English for growers on the east coast. This weed guide is of very high quality: 200+ pages with color photos of each weed’s stages of growth, in addition to a lot of information on the weeds. In addition to translating this guide, Hilary added new weeds and information to be sure that it covers all the weeds present in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and the other east coast Canadian growing areas. “I was very excited to receive this,” Cristina says. “I know it will be very helpful when we create our 2016 Weed Control Plan.”

As always, Dr. Cesar Rodriguez-Saona and his team did a spectacular job planning the program; it was well-organized, informative, and somehow or other, he found a way to control the weather! Many thanks to Cesar, Peter, Jim, and all of the fantastic scientists at the Marucci Center, whose work with all of us makes the NJ cranberry industry increasingly better, year after year.

Rutgers Haines™ Variety

Some exciting recent news from the research side of the cranberry industry: Rutgers has released their latest variety, named for the late Bill Haines, Sr.

From the release:

The Haines™ Cranberry Variety…resulted from a 1999 cross between the Crimson Queen® variety as the seed parent and #35 as the pollen parent. The #35 variety is an unpatented variety from a ‘Howes x Searles’ cross from the 1940s USDA/NJAES Cranberry Breeding Program. Haines variety was one of 138 progeny of this 1999 cross, made at the Philip E. Marucci Center for Cranberry Research in Chatsworth, NJ. Haines variety was initially selected for its very high yield potential, mid-season ripening, large round berry (averaging about two grams per berry) and uniform fruit color. In 2007, the Haines variety was selected for further testing in advanced replication selection trials in Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin. The plots continued to exhibit the variety’s consistent high yields with mid-season ripening. Haines has also exhibited less fruit rot than Stevens in these plots.

Dr. Nick Vorsa of Rutgers explains: “Prior to Integrity Propagation and the diligence of Abbot Lee in DNA fingerprinting and virus indexing with Rutgers varieties, there was little or no effort for cranberry propagators to sell vines of 100% purity of a variety and there was little assurance that a grower purchasing prunings, mowings, or plants of a variety were ‘true-to-type’, nor the level of ‘off-type’ contamination.”

Part of the reason behind the decision to name the new variety for Bill Sr, Nick says, is that Bill generously offered beds for the early Rutgers cranberry breeding program: “He greatly enjoyed walking the Rutgers breeding plots on the bed and observing the performance of over 1,600 plots.” As the release says, “[e]mbracing new technology was a priority for Bill”; he never took anything for granted and was always looking for ways to improve the crop not just for his own farm, but for his fellow growers as well.

Integrity Propagation has been working with Rutgers for several years to develop Haines stock and is currently taking orders for 2016. We look forward to seeing the results!