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Cranberries are headed north

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A recent report by the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment (NECIA), which looked at the impact of global warming on the Northeast's character and economy, says the region's food commodities are likely to be hit hard, with berries perhaps feeling it most of all. The report, a two-year collaboration between the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and a team of more than 50 independent scientists and economists, points to two greenhouse-gas-emission scenarios (one high, one low) mapped out by the Inter­governmental Panel on Climate Change. The NECIA used the data to forecast a range of climate effects in nine states, from New Jersey to Maine.

A host of environmental pressures are exacerbated by global warming, scientists say, ranging from more weeds and pests to reduced winter chill periods. That could threaten the viability of berry production generally, while all but wiping out cranberry and Concord grape production in the region's southernmost states. The report warns that as temperatures rise and growing seasons lengthen, the minimum chilling requirement need­­ed for fruiting buds to mature may not be met, causing a precipitous drop in fruit yield as far north as Massachusetts.

Peter Beaton, a third-generation cranberry grow­­er here in Wareham, Mass., near the Cape Cod Canal, has seen growing effects from what he concludes is a warming climate since the 1970s.

"Quite often, when you would get into late October or the first of November, there would be an inch or two of ice on the bogs when it was time to harvest the cranberries. And that was not a rare occurrence – that was a common occurrence," says Mr. Beaton, outgoing president of the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association (CCCGA). He can't recall a time once during the past 10 years when the cranberry harvest was delayed because of ice. The CCCGA, founded in 1888, represents 87 percent of the cranberry growers in Massachusetts.

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