Hirono co-introduces legislation to fund ag research

The Garden Island

WASHINGTON — There’s an estimated backlog of $11.5 billion in deferred maintenance and modernization needed at various agricultural-research facilities, including the University of Hawai‘i’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources in Manoa and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service facilities.

Earlier this week, U.S. Sens. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Angus King (I-Maine), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) introduced the AG RESEARCH Act to address the multi-billion-dollar backlog.

The Augmenting Research and Educational Sites to Ensure Agriculture Remains Cutting-edge and Helpful Act would create competitive grants to be administered by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to fund renovations at schools of agriculture and direct funds to the modernization of ARS facilities.

“Hawai‘i’s agricultural industry faces ongoing threats like climate change and invasive species,” said Hirono. “Now more than ever, we must make certain that schools like the University of Hawai‘i have the tools and resources to continue conducting cutting-edge research,” she said. “The AG RESEARCH Act provides overdue investments that will continue America’s global agricultural leadership.”

The AG RESEARCH Act would provide competitive grants to schools of agriculture for altering, modernizing, renovating or remodeling research facilities and equipment. The USDA secretary is directed to distribute the grants equitably based on geography, diversity and size of institutions. The bill would also allow the use of Commodity Credit Corporation funds for continued maintenance of ARS facilities, with priority given to the most-critical projects as indicated in the ARS Capital Investment Strategy.

“We deeply appreciate Sen. Hirono’s leadership to support critical agricultural research that addresses community health, food security and food safety,” said Nicholas Comerford, dean, UH CTAHR. “Such research is dependent on state-of-the-art facilities as well as the creativity of scientists. Support to modernize these facilities is tremendously needed and welcome.”

An initial report in 2015 estimated the deferred-maintenance backlog at schools of agriculture to be $8.4 billion, with a total replacement cost of $29 billion. The report warned that without significant federal investment, the need would continue to grow. An updated report published earlier this year found just that, with the need now totaling at least $11.5 billion, with a total replacement cost of $38.1 billion.

Sweet potato protection! CTAHR team joins nationwide effort

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

CTAHR will use a new grant to study ‘Okinawan’ sweet potato

When a virus or virus-like agent infects a vegetatively propagated crop, the negative consequences can go far beyond a disappointing yield, appearance, taste and plant longevity. If the difficult-to-find disease goes undetected inside the propagation material, the problem could be passed on to a new farm, establish itself, and spread even further.

With a new grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a group of University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) extension agents and researchers on Oʻahu, Kauaʻi, Maui and the Big Island have joined a national network’s sweet potato research group.

Since 2008, the National Clean Plant Network has brought together growers, scientists and government agencies with the shared goal of safeguarding clean plants and ensuring a sustainable source of disease-free, vegetative propagation materials (such as cuttings, slips, scionwood, etc.).

For their first project, Amjad Ahmad, Rosemary Gutierrez, Roshan Manandhar, Susan Miyasaka, Sharon Motomura-Wages and Jensen Uyeda, along with Jon Suzuki from the USDA’s Daniel K. Inouye U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center in Hilo, will focus on ‘Okinawan’ sweet potato, the purple-fleshed variety that is a primary commercial cultivar in Hawaiʻi.

“During the first year, we hope to produce a total of 100 virus-tested ‘Okinawan’ plantlets in the tissue-culture laboratory of the Komohana Research and Extension Center, then distribute to extension agents across the state,” Miyasaka says.

The plan calls for the extension agents to multiply the clean material to produce 500 cuttings, and distribute them to growers. The agents will use either pot or hydroponic cultures under conditions that will minimize any re-introduction of disease, while Suzuki will test for major sweet potato viruses in order to ensure that the propagating materials are clean. If all goes well, by the second year of funding, the agents will be able to ramp up production to distribute 2,500 clean cuttings to growers.

Pesticide Rotation on Onion Thrips and Onion Variety Trial in Bulb and Green Onion Crops Webinar

This free webinar is open to all growers in Hawaii

The webinar discussion will cover:

  • Pesticide rotations to control onion thrips: yield and pest pressure
  • Variety trials of green and bulb onions
When: Wednesday, July 27th, 2021, from 4:00 to 5:30 PM
Zoom information will be sent to registrants
Registration is required: RSVP to Rosemary by emailing to gr6@hawaii.edu


  • Rosemary Gutierrez-Coarite
  • Joshua Silva
  • Kylie Tavares

HDOA Continuing Education Credits:

  • CEUs 1.5 hours
  • Approved categories: Commercial 1a, 9, 10, and Private 1

DOWNLOAD the Webinar Flyer

Open to everyone without regard to race, age, sex, color, or disability. Educational activities are accessible for individuals with disabilities. For more information or to request an auxiliary aid or service (e.g., sign language interpreter, designated parking, or material in alternative format), contact Rosemary Gutierrez-Coarite at (808) 244-3242 or via email at gr6@hawaii.edu seven days before the activity/event.

Rosemary Gutierrez-Coarite Ph.D.
Assistant Extension Agent, Edible Crops
Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Science
UH CTAHR Maui Cooperative Extension Service
310 Kaahumanu Ave., Bldg. 214 Kahului, HI 96732
808-244-3242 ext. 232
" No task is too big when done together by all"

Fred Baldwin Memorial Foundation grant supports outdoor service learning with seed storage and propagation

Maui Nui Botanical Gardens was granted $7,000 from the Fred Baldwin Memorial Foundation in support of high school and college student outdoor service learning in native Hawaiian seed storage and plant propagation. Garden staff will train and supervise volunteers in preparing wild collected seeds for drying and propagating native plants from the Garden’s plant collection. The public native plant garden manages a seed bank for Maui County native plant populations, which provides conservation land managers materials for research and future restoration. Space is limited; students enrolled in high school or college who are seeking volunteer experience required for graduation are encouraged to call Maui Nui Botanical Gardens at 808-249-2798.

Download the Press Release

Priva Academy and Hortitech Join Forces


With the Priva Academy, we offer knowledge and courses in the field of horticulture. By working together with other parties, we are adding even more horticulture-related knowledge as well as expanding the range of courses we offer. We are therefore pleased to announce that the first agreement with HortiTech has recently been officially signed. The first, brand new course is expected to be available this summer.

High-tech detection determines pineapple harvest needs

UH News

In a new study funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Small Business Innovation Research program, researchers in the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, IntelinAir, Inc. and Columbia University are investigating whether remote sensing and computer vision can help pineapple growers carry out regular inspection of the field and automated counting of flower intensity.

The natural flowering of pineapple was the basis of the industry up until the 1960s. Now, pineapple fields are forced in blocks to flower, with a chemical that releases ethylene and induces flowering, making the fruit available year-round. Since pineapple is hand-harvested, a grower’s ability to harvest all of the fruit of a field in a single pass is critical to reduce field losses, costs, and waste, and to maximize efficiency.

“Our work used deep learning-based density-estimation approaches to count the number of flowering pineapple plants in a field block,” said Robert Paull of the Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences. “This enables growers to optimize their planning and management practices for getting optimum fruit harvest.”

Paull explained that drones are being used worldwide to monitor crop growth, disease and weeds, and to apply fertilizer and crop protection products. The tool allows growers to be more flexible, efficient and highly targeted, with lower costs and input application. They are also able to service hard-to-reach areas and where weather prevents access by heavy equipment.

“New technology and management strategies are critical for the economic success of farming in Hawaiʻi,” added Paull. “Drones are used widely, though less effort has been devoted to tropical agriculture systems. In the tropics, drones offer the ability to enhance precision agriculture, improve crop management, and reduce environmental impacts and costs.”

The full study appears in a recent edition of Frontiers in Plant Science.

This work is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015-2025 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.