This isn’t berry good news.
Extreme drought in Massachusetts could wreak havoc on this year’s Thanksgiving festivities as the heat wave is destroying cranberry crops.
That means cranberry sauce and cosmopolitans are at risk as the Northeast dry spell is threatening crops and the whole industry.
Out of the 14 counties in the state, 10 had extreme droughts, while the remaining four were only named as severe.
Zachary Zobel, a scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center in Massachusetts, said the “boom or bust” predicament is a direct result of climate change and poses problems for harvests.
“The boom or bust scenario that climate change presents when it comes to precipitation events — the boom being the large precipitation event, the bust being long dry spells — that’s not a good thing,” Zobel told Grist.
It’s a delicate fruit — too much rain and there’s a fungus, but without enough water, the berries won’t grow.
The cranberries are grown in flood fields using freshwater, which protects the crop from frigid winters. In the spring, the bogs are drained to allow cranberries to flourish, but this year, the climate was dangerously dry.
“We’ve had so much dry heat that people’s water is getting all used up. It’s going to be a difficult harvest for a lot of people,” Rochester resident and Select Board member Greenwood Hartley III, who grows berries, told Sippican Week. “We’re getting these extreme weather conditions as the weather is changing where it’s hotter than usual or rainier than usual,” he added. “It’s difficult for any farmer. Everybody is really struggling.”
But the growing season isn’t over yet — farmers have another month before harvest to cross their fingers and pray for rain.
“We’ll see what we get for rainfall over the next few weeks,” said Brian Wick, executive director of the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association, adding that farmers will need “to adapt” to the challenges.
“You’re not going to have that nice, consistent growing season, it just seems to be one extreme or another.”
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