UMass Amherst Cranberry Research Center to Receive $5.75 Million in State Support for Laboratory Improvements

The University of Massachusetts Amherst Cranberry Station in East Wareham, Mass., will receive $5.75 million in state support to fund laboratory improvements to its lab facilities.

The funding, which includes $5 million in capital spending authorized in the 2018 Environmental Bond Bill and a $750,000 grant from the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM), will be used by the Cranberry Station to modernize and expand its research facilities, improve the environmental profile of the facility, and provide the research tools needed to support vigorous research programs in cranberry water, pest, and nutrient management. In addition, in 2018 UMass Amherst also committed $2 million for necessary deferred maintenance projects on the Cranberry Station, bringing the total cost of the project to approximately $7.75 million.

“Cranberries are one of Massachusetts’ signature agricultural products, and this funding will support vital research that ensures the cranberry industry will remain a thriving and sustainable sector in the Commonwealth for generations to come,” said Gov. Charlie Baker in a statement. “The infrastructure improvements made possible through this funding will enhance the research capacity of the Cranberry Station and provide an essential base of knowledge that will help the cranberry industry adjust to the impacts of climate change and remain an economic driver for Southeastern Massachusetts.”

“The research made possible through these important upgrades to the Cranberry Station’s lab capacity will provide significant benefits to this historic sector of Massachusetts’ agricultural economy,” said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. “As the cranberry industry continues to work to increase the sustainability of production while adjusting to a changing climate, this research will lead to important strategies for water conservation and pest control.”

The Cranberry Station is an outreach and research center charged with the mission of maintaining and enhancing the economic viability of the Massachusetts cranberry industry. The project will include a renovation of existing laboratory space, the addition of two new laboratories and the addition of a meeting space and faculty offices. It also supports economic development and the protection of the environment. The center works on issues related to cranberries such as weed management, plant nutrition and physiology, and integrative pest management (IPM) practices.  

Cranberries are the top commercial crop grown in Massachusetts on more than 60,000 acres, generating over $1.4 billion for the state’s economy. In recent years, however, producers have faced increasing pressure from bogs in the Midwest and Canada.  

UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy credited legislators Sen. Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport) and Rep. Bill Straus (D-Mattapoisett) with spearheading the funding request with Baker’s administration.

The Massachusetts Cranberry Revitalization Task Force created in 2016 to assess the state of the industry, which Sen. Rodrigues and Rep. Straus were members, identified innovation in crop production as one of its key recommendations for sustaining growers in southeastern Massachusetts. The task force specifically cited the need for funding infrastructure upgrades to the Cranberry Station, which has been a leader in cranberry research since 1910, to support research and outreach focused on the industry’s barriers to sustainability  

The project is expected to break ground in the winter of 2020 with completion expected by the summer of 2022.   

“As the flagship university of the Commonwealth, UMass Amherst is proud to play a pivotal research and development role in this essential agricultural industry, which harkens back to our roots as a land grant college,” said Subbaswamy. “Through the efforts of Chairman Rodrigues, Chairman Straus, our cranberry faculty and staff and, of course, Gov. Baker, Lt. Gov. Polito and their team, including Secretary Michael Heffernan and Secretary Kathleen Theoharides, we are excited that this work will continue and will thrive in a state-of-the-art facility for decades to come.”