Cranberries Processing


Cranberries Processing: Cranberry is a slender, grows in moist, sandy soil. The fruit berry is small, quite tart, red, and high in vitamin C. Berries are used either fresh or in processed foods such as jams, juices and jellies. Vines are planted in sandy, peat-rich soil that is acidic and flooded with water for more efficient harvesting.


Preparing the cranberry beds:
Cranberrry cultivation begins with the preparation of cranberry beds. Cranberries are grown on dry land, flooded at various points, during cultivation, for ease of harvesting and sometimes to protect the crop from Dry harvesting is the method used to harvest cranberries that will be sold fresh.


Ripe cranberries from the vines by using a mechanical picker that combs through the vines with its teeth. The machine deposits the berries in an attached burlap sack. A sack is emptied onto a metal screen that sifts debris from the berries.

Berries are crated and transported to the processing plant, where bruised and rotten berries are sorted out and discarded.


Dry harvesting is the method used to harvest cranberries that will be sold fresh. Ripe cranberries from the vines by using a mechanical picker that combs through the vines with its teeth. Machine deposits the berries in an attached burlap sack.




Sack is emptied onto a metal screen that sifts debris from the berries. The berries are crated and transported to the processing plant, where bruised and rotten berries are sorted out and discarded. One cranberry bed can take up few acres of land, a grower may have many beds in close proximity.

The top layer of soil is sheared off and used to build earthwork dikes around the perimeter of each bed. The cranberry bed is leveled with laser-guided equipment.


Planting
New plantings are developed from vine cuttings taken from well-established beds. In the spring cuttings are spread over the prepared soil bed and embedded into the dirt with a dull planting disk. By the end of summer, the vines have rooted. It takes five years for these cuttings to begin producing quantities of fruit for commercial processing, but once established, they will produce high quality fruit for decades.


Caring for the crop
Cranberry vine begins to bloom in early June. Cranberry vines blossom and flowers begin to open around mid-June. By the end of the month, all of the flowers are in full bloom. The vines must be pollinated by honeybees so they reach their full productivity. Growers bring in about one to two beehives per acre. Approximately nine million bees in a 100 acre conglomeration of beds. The honeybees continue to pollinate the flowers until early July, when blooming is complete.

Small berries appear in July and grow larger until they are harvested in October. During the growing season the vines are irrigated and fertilized. Pest and weed are controlled in order to maximize fruit production.


Wet harvesting methods are used when cranberries will be processed into jam, juice, and jellied sauce. The cranberry beds are flooded the night before harvesting. The next day, a machine called a water reel is driven through the water, its paddles churning up the water. Ripe cranberries are agitated just enough to separated from the vine and float to the surface of the water. The floating berries are corralled together with an inflatable boom and a large pipe siphons the berries into a metal box called a hopper, which separates the debris from the berries.




Temperature alarm systems are installed to alert the growers to low temperatures. When frost is impending, the irrigation system sprays of water over the plants. Heat is released from the water before it freezes thus protecting the plants from damage.

Dry harvesting:
Dry harvesting is the best method for obtaining a firm, fresh bagged cranberry. Cranberry growers use a mechanical picker that resembles a reel lawn mower. Allowing the picker's metal teeth to comb the berries off the vine. Berries are placed onto a bucket conveyor that carries them to a burlap sack in the back of the machine. When the sack is full, it is lifted off the conveyor and another is put in its place.

The sacks are emptied onto metal screens that are used to separate the berries from leaves and debris. When the crates are stacked three high, they are bundled together with a nylon belt. Many cranberry growers use helicopters to airlift crates to nearby flatbed trucks.

Dry berries are taken to the plant to be sorted. Machines sort out unsuitable berries by bouncing them over a 1 in (2.54 cm) high "bounce board". Round berries bounce over the board, while rotten or bruised berries remain trapped and are discarded. Berries that clear the bounce boards are carried away by conveyor belts and are packaged by machines that check weight and package accordingly.


Wet harvesting:
Wet harvesting is used when the final product will be juices, jams, and jellied sauces. Wet harvesting is a quicker processing method than dry harvesting. Ninety-five percent of a crop can be wet harvested in 60% of the time it takes to dry harvest. However, since wet harvested berries are more perishable than dry harvested berries, only used for processed cranberry foods. Flooding occurs the night before harvesting is to begin. The beds are flooded with 18 in (45.72 cm) of water. The next day, a machine called a water reel (nicknamed egg beaters) is driven through the water, its paddles churning up the water. The ripe cranberries are agitated just enough to separated from the vine and float to the surface of the water. The floating berries are corralled together with an inflatable boom.




A large pipe is placed just beneath the surface of the water in the center of the aggregation of gathered, floating cranberries. The pipe sucks up the berries (along with impurities in the water such as leaves, water, twigs) into a metal box called a hopper.

Hopper separates the debris from the berries, pumps the water back into the bog, pumps the berries into a trail truck. The loading of cleaned berries continues until thousands of pounds of berries are loaded into the truck, taken to the plant for processed cranberry foods.


After harvest:
From late December through March, the cranberry beds are flooded with water until they are completely frozen. Ice forms a protective layer around the plants, protecting them from dehydration and the weather. The plants remain dormant until the following spring.

Every four years, a layer of sand is added to the top of the frozen beds, ice begins to melt, the sand falls to the ground, creating a more established root system and promoting growth.

The beds are also periodically moved to encourage shrub health and growth. Moving occurs in spring and the plants do not produce fruit the year of a mowing.

Quality Control:
First and foremost, it is important to propagate new vines from old vines that have produced full, luscious, large berries.

The vines must be planted in soil that is truly sandy and full of rich peat to ensure necessary nutrients are provided. the earthworks and dikes adequately control the water flooding. Frost warning equipment which alerts that grower as temperatures drop dangerously low must be heeded and sprinkling equipment put into action or the entire crop is at risk.




The grower must be vigilant about checking for pests such as cranberry tipworm or cranberry fruitworm that can ruin a crop if left unchecked. Ultraviolet light traps can be used to attract the fruitworm and then spray the concentration of bugs with a USDA approved insecticide. Insecticides are used for many different bugs but the industry tries to keep their use to a minimum.

Fruit fungi and diseases are also issues for cultivators. The industry uses chemicals and carefully monitors weeds, over fertilization, and handling in order to reduce these diseases.

Machinery used in the processing of cranberries is constructed so as not to bruise or damage the berries, these are fairly firm berries, they can be bruised if overhandled.

Byproducts/Waste:
Cranberry growers do not use pesticides on their crops most do use chemicals to keep pests away from the berries. Washing and cleaning the fruit minimizes chemical residue remaining on the harvested fruit. Because the cranberry is harvested in or near water and some of the chemicals specifically formulated to fight diseases and berry blight are moderately toxic to fish, the cultivators must carefully monitor the effects of chemicals on the local fish population.

Cranberry juice has been an effective home treatment for urinary tract infections for some time and new studies suggest that cranberries are rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants.


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