Cranberries Covered by Science Friday

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Four mature cranberry cultivars (clockwise, from upper left): early black, a Massachusetts native; DeMoranville, a hybrid developed at Rutgers University (named for Carolyn DeMoranville’s father); Stevens, a hybrid from the first USDA cranberry breeding program, released in 1960, and the most widely planted hybrid in the U.S. today; bugle, an unusually shaped Massachusetts native (not widely planted). Photo by Carolyn DeMoranville, UMass Cranberry Station

We’ve featured a post solely dedicated to cranberry bogs in the past, and have also seen some of the classic holiday sauce as part of a Thanksgiving art celebration. Now, with Thanksgiving Day coming up in the United States on Thursday, we’re learning even more about the North American fruit from Science Friday’s Thanksgiving Science Spotlight:

There are certain things that might come to mind when thinking about cranberries: A certain shade of red, a certain small size, and a certain kind of tartness. But these characteristics can differ among cranberry varieties—of which there are more than 100, according to Carolyn DeMoranville, an associate extension professor and station director at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Cranberry Station.

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Throwback Thursday: Bog

Photo credit: BU Dining Services

About this time two years ago, I came across the YouTube video featured in the #throwback Thursday post below. Hope you enjoy it, especially in light of this week’s post on peatlands!

Original Post Date: December 28, 2012

Earlier this week I wrote about an entirely different sort of swamp. This brief post is about a topic much more in tune with the holiday season: cranberries. Grown in bogs with layers of peat, sand, gravel, and clay, cranberries are native to North American wetlands (our readers across the pond will probably know the European variety of the fruit as lingonberries). In the United States they are primarily grown in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin (ordered alphabetically, not by output). Something not many people may know is that these cranberry bogs are cyclically flooded with vast amounts of water every season; some might worry over the constant waste of this precious liquid in areas of major cranberry production, or the contamination of water tables with pesticides and fertilizers common to agricultural use.

But I am about to tell you about some of the advantages cranberry-growers have over other industrial agriculturalists in terms of their water utilization. Why will I share this with you? Well, cranberry sauce features prevalently in the traditions of recent holidays, namely Thanksgiving and Christmas (and was thus probably consumed in an overwhelming majority of American households at least once in the past 60 days), plus my grandparents swear by cranberry juice, but I also recently found out that cranberries–and the water they are flooded with for harvesting–make for excellent art, or sport. What I never would have guessed is that Red Bull would be the one to show me this; just watch the video below:

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Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Photo by Milo Inman, India

During my last post I mentioned this agricultural strategy in passing, and I’m actually fairly surprised that the topic hasn’t come up anywhere on the blog before. After all, IPM is an increasingly effective and interdisciplinary way to curb economic losses in crops around the world, and one that often attempts to reduce reliance on environmentally unfriendly chemicals like pesticides.

Completely eliminating an agricultural pest is not the ultimate goal of IPM. In fact, due to ecological intricacies and the risks of removing certain species from an ecosystem, merely lowering the number of pests to numbers that do not cause significant economic damage is more advisable. Achieving this reduction in pest populations “requires an understanding of the ecology of the cropping system, including that of the pests, their natural enemies, and the surrounding environment,” according to Professor Anthony Shelton of the Entomology Department at Cornell University. For example, knowing that a certain pest caterpillar species has certain predator species, a farmer might introduce some of the natural predators into his crop to prey on the harmful caterpillars. If the farmer also physically removes the caterpillars by hand and the pest population dwindles to zero, the natural predators might turn to a beneficial insect, like a pollinator, or even attack the crop itself. This is a very vague and hypothetical example but one that reflects the need to understand causes and effects in an ecosystem if one is planning to employ IPM effectively.

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Bog

Photo credit: BU Dining Services

Earlier this week I wrote about an entirely different sort of swamp. This brief post is about a topic much more in tune with the holiday season: cranberries. Grown in bogs with layers of peat, sand, gravel, and clay, cranberries are native to North American wetlands (our readers across the pond will probably know the European variety of the fruit as lingonberries). In the United States they are primarily grown in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin (ordered alphabetically, not by output). Something not many people may know is that these cranberry bogs are cyclically flooded with vast amounts of water every season; some might worry over the constant waste of this precious liquid in areas of major cranberry production, or the contamination of water tables with pesticides and fertilizers common to agricultural use.

But I am about to tell you about some of the advantages cranberry-growers have over other industrial agriculturalists in terms of their water utilization. Why will I share this with you? Well, cranberry sauce features prevalently in the traditions of recent holidays, namely Thanksgiving and Christmas (and was thus probably consumed in an overwhelming majority of American households at least once in the past 60 days), plus my grandparents swear by cranberry juice, but I also recently found out that cranberries–and the water they are flooded with for harvesting–make for excellent art, or sport. What I never would have guessed is that Red Bull would be the one to show me this; just watch the video below:

Continue reading