The Food Provider ~ Sept | Oct | Nov 2009

In This Issue


Aloha Kākou

Welcome to the inaugural issue of HānaiʻAi, the sustainable agriculture newsletter of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. Sustainable agricultural systems strive to profitably meet food and fiber needs without degrading the natural and human resources that ensure productivity in the long term. No single model for agricultural sustainability exists. Judicious use of chemical and genetic technology with increased reliance on biological cycles may occur or certified organic systems may be used that exclude many synthetic inputs.

Regardless of the model, achieving sustainability requires the integration of many tools and practices based on extensive knowledge and on-going research. The mission of HānaiʻAi is to provide a venue for dissemination of science-based information to serve all of Hawaii's Farming Community in our quest for agricultural sustainability.

We hope you find the newsletter valuable and welcome your input.

Featured Farmer: Ho Farms, Kahuku, O'ahu

Ho Ohana in Kahuku

Acreage: Growing area 30 acres

Years farming in Hawaii: 18 years

Crops: long beans, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, assorted tomatoes varieties

Fertility management practices: synthetic fertilizers, fertigation, compost

Pest Management: Crop-specific IPM, including net structures to exclude insects, above ground culture in soil-less media, fruit fly traps and pesticide rotations to avoid resistance developing.

What Sustainability Means to You: Conservation of farm resources by constantly improving efficiency; reducing disease incidence in soil through rotations and fallow periods; continuous innovation in production methods to improve efficiency and reduce waste stream.

How did the next generation successfully integrate into the family farm? Opportunities to improve farm efficiency and profitability through technological and marketing innovations attracted the Ho children back home to help manage the farm.

How do you price your products? Pricing is based on costs of production.

How do you promote your product(s)? Website; Labels including farm logo, food safety certification and "Hawai'i Seal of Quality" is used on all packaging (boxes and bags). Perhaps most important, the family actively engages it's consumers by answering email and telephone calls and attending farmers markets.

How do you adapt your production to meet the needs of clients? Perhaps most importantly the farm responds to customer feedback. For example, one customer suggested keeping the leaves on daikon when selling it; when her suggestion was followed they noticed an increase in the amount of daikon sold. Also, a strong focus on quality, which includes high grading standards and use of moisture absorbers in packaging, generates return customers. 

Where do you market your products? Supermarkets, health food stores, farmers markets and at a few restaurants

What does the future look like for your farm? With the raising cost of supplies and increased regulation we must produce higher yields with less land and resources to remain a viable business.  The route for our future is in greenhouse infrastructure giving us the means to produce products with the finest quality and yields.  Meshing the efficiencies that technology can bring would also be top priority.

Ho Farms Logo

Hot Tip from Ho Farms

Focus on quality, and diversify crops so you are not solely reliant on a single commodity, especially in the local market.


From the Field


Compost: Using it Effectively

Composting is a controlled form of biological decomposition in which organic materials are combined and managed to produce a stable or mature product (compost) that can promote plant growth several ways. These include:

One of the most important characteristics of compost is the ratio of carbon to nitrogen by weight (C:N) it contains. Compost C:N should be about 20 to allow for release of plant available nitrogen and avoid “nitrogen robbing” from surrounding soil. Compost is relatively low in nutrients (nitrogen = 0.5-3%), and large amounts (20-40 tons per acre) generally need to be applied in the field to observe short term changes in soil quality or plant growth. The transportation and production costs associated with these application rates can be prohibitive. Innovative use of smaller quantities of compost may improve cost effectiveness and still provide benefits to plants. These include:

See Vermicompost Research Update 2009 for details on research with vermicompost.

For more information on compost and composting please see:

Growing Your Business

Veggies grown and sold by CTAHR SOFT students.

Cost of Production

Many agricultural operations do not know how profitable they were over the past year are until they complete their taxes the following year. Making good business decisions is difficult when much of the important information is not known until as much as a year later. If your profits are not as large as you would like them to be, you cannot make any changes to improve things until the next year.

In order to plan ahead you will need a managerial information system that tells you your cost of production, among other things, so that you know what you must sell your products for in order to be profitable. In order to learn more about Cost of Production see Putting Together a Business Plan for Your Organic Farm.

Cost of Production Spreadsheets are available at CTAHR's website.

FMI: To attend a workshop and learn how to determine your agricultural product's Cost of Production, email Dr. Linda Cox at lcox@hawaii.edu.

CTAHR Sustainable & Organic Research News

Sunnhemp flowers. Photo: K. Wang

Improving sunn hemp benefits by integrating with Solarization

Koon-Hui Wang and Sharadchandra Marahatta

If your land has been cropped continuously for a long period of time, you might want to plant a green manure cover crop to revitalize your soil. Sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea) has been identified as an ideal cover crop that can generate great amounts of organic biomass within 2 1/2 months of growth during spring to summer in Hawaii.

Growers in Hawaii can also take advantage of solar heat to suppress various soil-borne pests. Recently, sunn hemp cover cropping followed by soil solarization to improve weed suppression was investigated.

Grafted acacia koa seedling. Photo: S. Nelson

Grafting for Managing Soilborne Diseases

Plant grafting is a highly successful organic method used for the management of root pests of tree species worldwide. Pathogen-susceptible tree varieties are grafted onto the rootstocks of related plant species that possess resistance to or tolerance of important plant diseases.

Two research projects underway on the Big Island examine the potential of grafting to manage coffee nematode decline caused by the root-knot nematode Meloidogyne konaensis and koa wilt caused by the soilborne fungus Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. koae. These are the two most important and deadly diseases of Coffea arabica and Acacia koa in Hawaii.


Varroa Mite in Bees

Dr. Mark Wright and Dr. Ethel Villalobos

Varroa mite control posses many challenges since it may be difficult to kill mites without affecting the bees. Formic acid, an organic compound, can be used as a bio-pesticide for Varroa destructor control. A new formic acid treatment was tested at 42 hives and the large number of mites killed within the first ten days after treatment indicate that the treatment holds great promise.


Vermicompost Research Update 2009

Dr. Ted Radovich

Vermicompost is compost generated by worms and associated microorganisms. Vermicompost quality will vary depending on many factors including worm species, raw material used, and age of the compost. CTAHR research provides information on how to use vermicomposts for growing media and compost tea.

For more information about our research, see our monthly CTAHR Research News Magazine.

CTAHR Publications

Coffee cherry

OLDER PUBLICATIONS: Many of these publications are no longer available in print, yet contain research information of great value to Hawai'i farmers. Many agricultural practices used prior to the invention of agrochemicals are relevant for sustainable and organic systems.

Checklist of Plant Diseases in Hawaii, by R.D. Raabe, I. Conners, and L. Martinez, A. P. (1981). This previously out-of-print book is now available for free download as a .pdf file.

ScholarSpace Update: The library at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa has digital versions of many important agricultural publications available at ScholarSpace. For example, the Taro Collection now contains 64 items, including Sedgwick's 1902 bulletin, The root rot of taro, the 1911 general guide to taro cultivation, No ka hooulu ana i ke kalo, and all issues of The Taro Tattler newsletter from the early 1990s. http://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/handle/10125/5959

Video Resources


: Many farmers would like to use micro-organisms such as Rhizobia and Mycorrhizae to enhance crop growth. Some local vendors are importing inoculum and many maniland sources are available. If you do import inoculum from the mainland, please be aware that you must obtain an approval from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. Contact Amy N. Takahashi, Microorganism Specialist, Plant Quarantine Branch, 1849 Auiki Street, Honolulu, Hawaii 96819. Phone: (808) 832-0589. Fax: (808) 832-0584. Email: Amy.N.Takahashi@hawaii.gov

For more information on using beneficial microorganisms in agriculture, please see:

The Hawaii Host-Pathogen Database is a searchable database from contains 2,800 unique host-pathogen records.

OFRF (Organic Farming Research Foundation) has a resource and information page about the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) for organic farmers.

Actually, it's the same problem found for all farms: lack of Worker Protection training and signage. This is a serious, but simple problem for farmers to fix. Training in the Worker Protection Standard is required for any employees at a farm (with the immediate family being exempt: mother, father, wife, children, brother, sister). A specific poster must be displayed and records of training and application must be kept. Farmers who are unaware can learn about the requirements from the pesticides education program by contacting Mike Matsukawa, HDOA 793-9424.

This report examines recent economic research on the adoption of organic farming systems, organic production costs and returns, and market conditions to gain a better understanding of the organic supply squeeze and other emerging issues in this rapidly changing industry.

Report highlights include:

For the full report, please see: http://ers.usda.gov/Publications/EIB55/

Western Region Sustainable Agriculture and Education Program (WSARE)

WSARE logo

Since 1988, the WSARE program has been supporting agricultural profitability, environmental integrity and community strength through grants that enable cutting-edge research and education to open windows on sustainability across the West, including Hawaii. The goals of WSARE are:

For more information, please see: https://wsare.usu.edu/ or contact Hawaii WSARE coordinator Dr. Ted Radovich at theodore@hawaii.edu.

Mahalo nui loa to Kalae Akioka and Kukui Maunakea-Forth for their guidance with naming our newsletter.

This e-publication has been prepared by CTAHR research scientists and extension staff to deliver science-based information about sustainable and organic production systems to serve Hawaii's farming community.

Mahalo nui loa,

Dr. Ted Radovich and Dr. Linda Cox
Jody Smith, e-Extension Manager
Sustainable and Organic Agriculture Program
Cooperative Extension Service
College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources