Monty Richards, Kahua Ranch patriarch, on the slopes of North Kohala. (Photo: Glen Fukumoto)
At the heart of CTAHR’s history is the College’s support of local agriculture, and this work continues to benefit the community of farmers, ranchers, and horticulturalists to this day. Here are three important ways CTAHR is making an impact:
When the papaya ringspot virus appeared in Hawai‘i, it almost destroyed the Islands’ papaya industry. It was so difficult, costly, and toxic to effectively control the virus with pesticides that production fell by nearly 40%, and farmers were going out of business. Growers looked to UH for help. In 1997, the Rainbow papaya, genetically engineered to be resistant to the virus, was released to a small group of farmers in Hawai‘i for field-testing; it was commercialized in 1998 and today represents most of Hawai‘i’s papaya crop. CTAHR continues research to aid the local papaya industry, including working on a conventionally bred papaya resistant to ringspot.
Harold Tanouye, owner of Greenpoint Nurseries, holds up ‘Tropic Sunrise’, one of many anthuriums bred by CTAHR that have been awarded ribbons by the Society of American Florists.
Hawai‘i’s tradition of cattle ranching and paniolo has its share of challenges. Ranchers used to be forced to ship most calves to be sold on the mainland, adding operational costs, so ranchers and UH sought solutions to improve Hawai‘i’s market for local beef. The CTAHR Beef Initiative provides research and outreach to support all aspects of Hawai‘i’s cattle industry: tenderness and carcass quality of grass-finished beef, best management practices for sustainable forage, improved breeding of cattle for grass-based production systems, and economic development and marketing tools for the ranchers. Now demand is high, with cattle ranked third highest among the state’s commodities, and so is the quality of the beef!
Anthurium is the most important cut flower in Hawai‘i’s floriculture industry, consistently supplying local, national, and international markets. But when anthurium blight struck down the industry in 1985, Hawai‘i production dropped by half, with many farms losing their entire harvest. UH scientists developed best management practices for growers to help mitigate the disease, but while Hawai‘i’s production was damaged, foreign competitors stepped in to meet worldwide demand. To maintain Hawai‘i’s prominence, new and unique varieties of anthurium were developed, including CTAHR’s ‘Tropic Fire’, ‘Maggie Inouye’, and ‘Centennial’. These new varieties, provided only to Hawai‘i growers, give our farmers a competitive advantage in the world market again.
And these three areas alone account for almost $60 million of the local economy, giving just a small idea of CTAHR’s large-scale impact.