Visitors flock to the Hawaiian Islands for sun-soaked holidays filled with silky beaches, turquoise water, lush green hillsides — and naked palm trees missing their leafy crowns?
That possibility has state officials worried because Hawaii’s iconic swaying palm trees are under attack. Their nemesis is the latest in a long line of invasive species to arrive here: the coconut rhinoceros beetle.
Much as the Asian long-horned beetle attacked maple and elm trees on the East Coast, the coconut rhinoceros beetle could devastate Hawaii’s palm trees and move on to bananas, papayas, sugar cane and other crops afterward. Adult beetles burrow into the crowns of palm trees to feed on their sap, damaging developing leaves and eventually killing the trees.
At this point, eradication is still possible. It’s going to take a long time, but it’s still possible.- Rob Curtiss, incident commander for Hawaii’s coconut rhinoceros beetle eradication program
Concerns that the thumb-sized pest, named for its curved horn, could hitch a ride to California or Florida and attack thriving palm oil and date industries there have prompted federal and state officials to declare the beetle’s discovery in Honolulu a pest emergency.
One year into the fight — Dec. 23, 2014, was the anniversary of the beetle’s discovery on coconut palms at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam — state officials are cautiously optimistic.
“At this point, eradication is still possible. It’s going to take a long time, but it’s still possible,”
She’s baaack, and it’s not good news for science literacy, farmers and food-minded Hawaiians.
I’m referring to Vandana Shiva, the Indian anti-GMO crusader who kicked off a five-day blitz through Hawaii with a talk-and-music fest at the Capitol Building on Wednesday.
It’s a grand tour, marked by private fund-raising pitches to wealthy locals and wannabees from the mainland who view the limited role of biotechnological research in modern agriculture as an anathema–Hawaii is a world center because of its favorable climate.
Campaigns like this tour aimed at shutting down nursery centers, most based in Maui, could send the seed giants fleeing to Puerto Rico or the Philippines, costing Hawaii hundreds of millions of dollars and hurting the cause for sustainability in the process.
Shiva’s tour caps off with a Sunday afternoon rally at the Seabury Theatre on Maui with headlined demands for what the prime organizer–Washington, DC-based Center for Food Safety (CFS)–calls “home rule.” While polls show a majority of Maui farmers and residents oppose the effort to shut down the seed nurseries and research labs, anyone but diehard opponents of modern agriculture will be personae non grata at this rally.
Shiva is reprising her 2013 tour, also led by CFS, which oversees scheduling of her $40,000-a-pop promotional speeches. A Brahmin who professes to stand with women and the poor, Shiva maintains her goal is “giving voice to those who want their agriculture free of poison and GMOs.”
On her arrival two years ago, Shiva was an exotic unknown–an “eco warrior goddess” and a “rock star in the global battle over genetically modified seeds,” in the words of journalist Bill Moyers. Here in Hawaii, she was treated as a foreign dignitary. No one dared criticize her.
Now, two years later, as more details of her philosophy and background have emerged, a darker picture has emerged. She leverages her claim as an expert at every stop. “I am scientist… a Quantum Physicist,” she claimed, until recently on her website and in many books, a claim repeated by journalists, even prominent. But she’s not. Her degree was in humanities–she’s a philosopher of science, but has no professional hard science background or writings.
To her followers? Details, Details.
WAILUKU >> Coffee growers on Maui are bracing for a destructive beetle to eventually make its way to the island.
The coffee berry borer has been wreaking havoc on the Big Island for years. The pest made its way to Oahu in December.
“I’ve been a farmer forever, and I know the reality of these kinds of things, so I expect that at some point it will show up here,” said MauiGrown Coffee President Kimo Falconer. “But we’re ready.”
Preventative measures include some farmers restricting access to their orchards, the Maui News reported Tuesday.
“We’ve had to put signs up trying to reduce the amount of people walking through our fields, but really they can just walk right up there, and maybe they were in Kona yesterday doing a farm tour, and there’s dirt on their shoes,” Falconer said.
Falconer said his farm checks traps regularly and has trimmed back trees that are close to roads.
Some farms that used to offer educational tours no longer do so, said Sydney Smith, president of the Maui Coffee Association and owner of Maliko Estate Coffee. “The beetle is so tiny it gets spread by people coming from the Big Island from dirt on their shoes or their clothes,” Smith said.
The tiny beetle bores into the coffee cherry, and its larvae feed on the coffee bean, reducing its yield and quality. Farmers may not discover them until after harvest.
It’s unknown how the beetle, native to Central Africa, arrived in Hawaii.
“We’re the last coffee growing region on Earth to finally get it,” Falconer said.
The state Department of Agriculture issued a quarantine order that requires a permit to transport unroasted coffee beans, coffee plants and plant parts, used coffee bags and coffee harvesting equipment from Hawaii Island to other islands that are not infested with the coffee berry borer.
The coffee berry borer can cause yield losses of 30 to 35 percent with 100 percent of berries infested at harvest time, according to the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.
Hawaii has identified its first outbreak of a deadly pig virus that emerged in the continental United States last year, confounding officials who are uncertain how the disease arrived over thousands of miles of ocean.
The state confirmed Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) on a farm on Oahu, the most populous Hawaiian island, on Nov. 20, according to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.
Farmers and the federal government have been working to contain PEDv since it was first detected in the United States in the spring of 2013. The virus has killed at least 8 million pigs, roughly 10 percent of the U.S. hog population. PEDv was previously found in parts of Asia and Europe. It is unknown how it came to the United States.
Hawaii had toughened import requirements for live pigs in July in a bid to prevent the spread of PEDv, banning infected hogs and requiring tests for PEDv prior to shipping.
State officials do not know how PEDv arrived on their shores and are testing animal feed from the infected farm to try to determine whether it may have transmitted the virus, acting State Veterinarian Isaac Maeda said in a telephone interview Monday.
“We live out in the ocean,” Maeda said. “A lot of things you see on the continental U.S., we don’t see out here.”
Chances of determining how PEDv arrived in Hawaii are “not looking very promising,” he added.
The outbreak occurred on a farm with about 150 pigs, and about 25 percent died, according to Hawaii’s agriculture department. Veterinarians sent samples from the farm to the Kansas State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, which confirmed the PEDv infection.
“It was surprising because it was a long distance from your traditional swine channels,” Tom Burkgren, executive director of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, said about the outbreak.
The farm did not use feed containing porcine plasma, which has been suspected of spreading PEDv, Maeda said. Continue reading
KAPAA — If you want a pumpkin, Kauai has them. Grows them, even. Plenty, too, despite the whacky weather.
“People didn’t know we could grow pumpkins,” said Earl Kashiwagi, owner and operator of Esaki’s Produce. He delivered 4,500 pounds of pumpkins to the Kauai Fall Festival on Sunday and still has more.
Harry Yamamoto, a Kapahi resident, grew a crop of pumpkins this year. The seed companies, including Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer and Syngenta Seeds, also joined the lineup of those growing pumpkins for Halloween.
“We had people growing, everywhere,” Kashiwagi said, after learning of the seed companies’ intent. “But the weather came into play.”
It was hot. Then it rained.
“Pumpkins were exploding in the field,” Kashiwagi said. “Harry lost 75 percent of his crop in the field, and salvaged the rest of the crop by bringing it to us. But with all the water the pumpkins absorbed from the rain, we lost a lot of what came here.”
But there’s still no pumpkin shortage on Kauai.
“Everybody can get a pumpkin for Halloween at either very reasonable prices, or at one of the free events,” Kashiwagi said.
Peter Wiederoder, Kauai site leader for Dow, said they got some 90-day pumpkins to plant, but no one accounted for the Westside heat, which forced the pumpkins to mature in a little more than 60 days.
“We had to harvest early, and store them for Halloween,” he said. “We had about a thousand pumpkins in storage.”
Despite the challenges, both natural and manmade, Kashiwagi said the wholesale produce business is fun.
“We took a hit for Halloween,” Kashiwagi said. “But this is just some first-year challenges. People should be glad to know we can grow pumpkins here in Hawaii, and on Kauai. It’s all for the kids.”
Next Tuesday, voters statewide will face five constitutional amendments, two of which relate to agriculture. Get to know what these amendment questions mean before heading to the polls so you can choose either Yes or No, since a blank vote counts as a No. Here’s what you need to know about Amendment 2, which would support the local food industry and agriculture.
What it says:
CON AMEND: Relating to Agricultural Enterprises
“Shall the State be authorized to issue special purpose revenue bonds and use the proceeds from the bonds to assist agricultural enterprises on any type of land, rather than only important agricultural lands?”
What it means:
Special purpose revenue bonds are issued to allow private investors to give loans to borrowers—say, a farmer. The investor, not the state, is responsible for paying back the funds if the borrower falls short. These loans come with a lower interest rate, which benefits the borrower, and the interest is tax-free, which benefits the investor. The state does nothing other than facilitate, meaning no taxpayer money is spent, and the state’s credit is not affected if the borrower doesn’t make payments.
Right now, only 6 percent of Hawai‘i is designated as important agricultural lands. It’s a lengthy and complicated process to apply, says Brandon Lee of Ulupono Initiative, and the designation requires the lands must be used only as ag lands, never for any other purpose, such as development. Farmers on these lands are allowed to seek special purpose revenue bonds; though, according to Lee, none has been granted in the past four years.
“There is an allocation [of bonds],” Lee says. Because the state can’t allow the special bonds for every single project, there are designated categories, such as early childhood education and nonprofit healthcare facilities. “But, roughly, in four years, four or five projects have been approved as special purpose revenue bonds, and none of them under agriculture. Ag hasn’t gotten its fair share.”
Broadening the category from important agricultural lands to ag enterprises on any lands will increase the chances that farmers, ranchers and other ag businesses can get the money they need to update their operations, improve facilities and, ultimately, grow more food.
A Yes vote is a vote for local food
The 23rd annual Pumpkin Patch Festival at Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s upper campus, sponsored by the school’s Ohana Association and Dr. Joan Greco, is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
This year, the family festival in Waimea will feature a pumpkin patch with locally grown pumpkins and a new $20 wristband for keiki.
The wristband covers the climbing wall, horseback rides, laser tag, The Zoo Choo Train, inflatable bouncer and a new 28-foot high double lane slip and slide. This year’s musical lineup includes the Honokaa High School Jazz Band, Ms. B and The Boys, Mikiala Yardley and her trio. Food booths will be plentiful, offering hamburgers, hot dogs, and island favorites, such as lau lau, GJ Huli Chicken and foods with an Asian flair.
Again this year, the festival will host several nonprofit organizations.
The pumpkin patch is now a zero-waste event coordinated by Noah Dodd, HPA lower school garden coordinator and Sam Robinson. Both will be available to offer their expertise to make it an educational day.
For more information, contact Pamela Heitz at email@example.com or 405-740-4937.
Ahh, October—time for pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin mochi and Hawai‘i-grown pumpkins. Aloun Farms, which celebrates its 10th year of educational tours this year, hosts an average of 15,000 students at its annual pumpkin patch. Event coordinator Michael Moefu says the student tours run Tuesdays through Fridays. “They learn a little bit more about agriculture, not just pumpkins,” he says. “Corn, sunflowers, beans and over a dozen different varieties of pumpkins.”
This is also the 14th annual Pumpkin Festival at Aloun in Kapolei, which is open to the public the last three weekends of October from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. 91-1440 Farrington Highway, Kapolei, 677-9516, alounfarms.com.
It’s been one tough year to raise pumpkins on Kohala Mountain.
The crop has been hit with the triple whammy of a mouse plague, cut worms and a tropical storm that stressed the plants so much they dropped their flowers.
None of this has deterred the Kohala Mountain Farm Pumpkin Patch from opening for its eighth year of Halloween pumpkins, food, rides and other attractions. While visitors to the farm — which commenced a fun-filled month Saturday — may see fewer pumpkins than in previous years, they’ll find expanded offerings in other areas.
“All we could do was laugh and carry on,” farm manager Benjie Kent said.
Visitors can hop on a wagon for a tour of the fields. The ride, pulled by draft horses and offered by Naalapa Stables, is new this year. The petting zoo has been expanded and there is a new miniature pony cart ride and cake walk. Musical offerings have been expanded as well, with the Pau Hana Pickers set to play several days and Beyond Paradise out of Hilo set to play Nov. 18.
Families can have their photos snapped by a sign painted with height markers. If they come back each year, they can take photos showing how their child is growing. And there are plenty of opportunities for snapping the obligatory shots of kids in wheelbarrows with pumpkins.
The farm recently added an observation platform made with lumber donated by HPM Buiding Supply. The platform gives a good view down the coast and into the corn maze so observers can help their friends find their way out — or confuse them further.
Central to this year’s story at the 23-acre educational farm on Kohala Mountain Road, however, is the shortage of fruit suitable to be carved into jack-o-lanterns. Continue reading
SUGARCANE: The 2014 production of sugarcane in Hawaii is forecast at 1.43 million tons, up 2 percent from the previous year, but unchanged from the August forecast. Harvested acreage is estimated at 19.0 thousand acres, up 7 percent from last year. Yield is forecast at 75.0 tons per acre.
The 2014 U.S. production of sugarcane for sugar and seed in 2014 is forecast at 29.4 million tons, down 4 percent from last year. Producers intend to harvest 883 thousand acres for sugar and seed during the 2014 crop year, down 28.3 thousand acres from last year. Expected yield for sugar and seed is forecast at 33.3 tons per acre, down 0.5 tons from 2013.
COTTON: California Upland cotton production in California is forecast at 215 thousand bales, down 35 percent from the 2013 crop. Harvested acreage is estimated at 59.0 thousand acres, down 35 percent from a year ago. Yield is forecast at 1,749 pounds per acre, up 1 percent from last year.
California American Pima cotton production is forecast at 510 thousand bales, down 16 percent from the 2013 crop. Harvested acreage is forecast at 154 thousand acres, down 17 percent from last year. Yield is forecast at 1,590 pounds per acre.
U.S. upland cotton production is forecast at 16.0 million 480-pound bales, up 30 percent from 2013. Harvested area is expected to total 9.69 million acres, down 4 percent from last month but up 32 percent from 2013.
The U.S. American Pima cotton production, forecast at 578 thousand bales, is down 9 percent from last year. Expected harvested area, at 189.4 thousand acres, is down 5 percent from 2013.
RICE: California’s 2014 rice crop forecast, at 36.8 million cwt., is down 23 percent from the previous year. The yield forecast is 8,600 pounds per acre, up 2 percent from last month and up 1 percent from last year. Planted and harvested acreages are forecast at 433 thousand and 428 thousand acres, respectively. As of September 1, nearly all of the rice acres had headed.
The 2014 U.S. rice production is forecast at 218 million cwt, down 5 percent from August, but up 15 percent from last year. Area for harvest is expected to total 2.91 million acres, down 4 percent from August, but 18 percent higher than 2013. Based on conditions as of September 1, the average United States yield is forecast at a record high 7,501 pounds per acre, down 59 pounds from August and down 193 pounds from last year. Continue reading