Seasonal Frost Hardiness Changes in the Cranberry Plant

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  • 1 1Dept. of Horticulture, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706
  • 2 2Northland Cranberries, Inc., 800 First Ave. South, Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54495-8020

In Wisconsin, the cranberry plant (Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait.) is protected from freezing temperatures by flooding and sprinkle irrigation. Due to the high value of the crop, growers typically overprotect by taking action at relatively warm temperatures. Our goal is to provide recommendations for improved frost protection strategies by studying seasonal hardiness changes in different parts of the cranberry plant (leaves, stems, buds, flowers, fruit). Stages of bud growth were defined and utilized in the hardiness determinations. Samples were collected from mid-April to mid-Oct. 1996 and cuttings were subjected to a series of freezing temperatures in a circulating glycol bath. Damage to plant parts was assessed by visual scoring and observation, ion leakage, and evaluation of the capability to regrow. The following results were obtained: 1) Overwintering structures, such as leaves, stems, and buds, can survive temperatures <–18°C in early spring, and then deacclimate to hardinesses between 0 and –2°C by late spring. 2) In the terminal bud floral meristems are much more sensitive to freeze–thaw stress than are the vegetative meristems. 3) Deacclimation of various plant parts occurred within 1 week, when minimum canopy temperatures were above 0°C, and when the most numerous bud stage collected stayed the same (bud swell). 4) Fruits >75% blush can survive temperatures of –5°C for short durations. By collecting environmental data from the same location we are attempting to relate plant development, frost hardiness, and canopy temperatures (heat units).

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