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Wisconsin cranberry crop gets a boost from summer heat

July and early-August heat accelerated the development of the 2019 Wisconsin cranberry crop. The state's marshes had a slow start with snow and a long, chilly spring.Habelman-harvest-1

The recent warmth “helped us immensely. We’re almost caught up to normal,” said Bob Wilson, managing member of Wisconsin Rapids-based The Cranberry Network LLC, a sales and marketing company specializing in fresh cranberries.

“We have a soft harvest date of Sept. 16, which is early in order to serve Canada’s Thanksgiving (Oct. 14) and the offshore market. This is normal. But the key is that the next 30-odd days will make or break the season.”

By early September, vine dormancy will force cranberries to color-up.

The Cranberry Network represents the century-old Wisconsin grower Habelman Bros. Co., which needs still more berry size, something that will come through continued heat and cool nights.

Wilson said he has regretted previous August public expressions of optimism for cranberry harvests. But he said anything could happen with the cranberry crop in southern Wisconsin, depending on coming weather.

“Our big competition is in Massachusetts, where I hear things have been kind of wet," he said. "It’s not a disaster but they’ve had a lot of rain.” Prior to the harvest of a fresh-market cranberry crop, dry weather is important, Wilson noted.

There is growing demand for organic fresh cranberries “and we are situated very well” to serve that demand, he said.