Sweet and Tart: Massachusetts cranberry farmer balances sustainability and pest management

Steve Ward exemplifies sustainable farming practices at his Massachusetts cranberry operation by embracing Integrated Pest Management alongside conservation practices, exemplifying the balance between agricultural productivity and environmental responsibility.

When it comes to the delicate balance between pest control and environmental stewardship, look no further than Steve Ward’s cranberry-growing operation in Wareham, Massachusetts. Woven into the fabric of his seasoned operation is a tale of innovation and sustainability, slowly unfolding over the last five decades. Ward’s cranberry bogs serve as a living testament to the seamless integration of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) with conservation practices—a testament to the delicate balance between pest control and environmental stewardship.

Ward, a steward of several bogs in the region, underscores the significance of using multiple strategies to control agricultural pests while preserving natural resources. Given that cranberry cultivation occurs in water, water quality concerns are paramount. Integrated Pest Management emerges as a strategic choice, effectively mitigating the risk of pesticides entering adjacent water sources.

Ward’s commitment to responsible pest management extends to his innovative use of chemigation—a process where a positive displacement pump injects chemicals directly into the irrigation water. This method not only enhances precision but also minimizes the risk of chemical runoff, ensuring that pesticides are utilized efficiently without compromising water quality.

Ward acknowledges the role played by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in shaping his conservation journey. With NRCS’s technical assistance, Ward’s cranberry bogs are designed for 90% efficiency, maximizing the efficacy of chemicals while minimizing environmental impact. NRCS’s incentive programs provide an extra layer of support, illustrating the tangible impact of collaboration between farmers and conservationists.

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