Hawai'i Agriculture Notes
(For Hawaii Island, primarily)
These notes are maintained by
Local, Sustainable Sources of Fertilizer
- Mac Nut Husks.
- Available around the island, for free or cheap from macnut growers and
- They are an excellent mulch, giving a big boost to microbe and worm life.
- In Pa'auhau, there is a large source of available husk, next to the
office of the Hamakua North Hilo Agricultural Co-op. Contact the Co-op
for more info.
- Horse/Goat/Cow Manure
- Most sustainable if nearby or on-farm. When trucking manure around the island, such as from the North Kohala dairy to
farms, the carbon footprint is potentially bad.
- Blue-green algae from Keahole
- At one point in 2007, the blue-green algae ("spirulina") grown in Keahole
Point was available at the Farm Co-op in Hilo as a interesting
fertilizer at a reasonable price. But, either they stopped making it,
or it is no longer available locally.
- In June 2010, sample of a product "Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica" were at
an event in Kona, the label says it's from the people at
a non-profit garden retreat center. The package lists 334-3300,
443-3340 but those are both unreachable; the website has 334-3340 which
works. I contacted Randyl Rupar, who said the spirulina is
available for $5/lb, interested people should contact him at
- Bone meal or other byproducts from the two slaughterhouses on the island?
- According to some 2006 Mealani proceedings, "the Pa'auilo facility will
be able to convert offal to tallow and meat & bone meal. This in theory
should help the bottom line for the plant." That facility is called
"Hawaii Big Island Beef", which has a
one-page website, phone 866-449-BEEF
(2223). That number isn't right; correct is 776-1109.
- Called them, and Jill said: The rendering plant isn't online yet -
some money holdup - but a farmer could come on down to the plant and
take away raw waste. Plant is between 36/37 mile marker, makai of
- The history of the facility was covered by HIJ (not online) in 2008.
A version appears in Honolulu Weekly (Hawai'i
- Even though there is no rendering plant, reportedly there is
manure available from the area where they hold the cattle waiting to be
- For further research on cattle byproducts, a knowledgeable person, Betty Spence (885-5599) is
wired into the island beef industry
- Mushroom compost
- Hamakua Heritage Farm, Inc.
in Laupahoehoe is a mushroom farm. After they are done with the
growing medium, they sell it as compost. You need to go to their
farm to pick it up. In the early days, they gave it away, but now
it's sold at a modest cost.
- Conventional fertilizer suppliers - do they have anything local?
- Brewer Environmental Industries, LLC (BEI)
appears to be the major fertilizer distributor on the island
- Hilo Branch: 430 Kekuanaoa Street, 933-7800. Apparently, they
do not carry anything that has a local source.
- Crop Production Services (CPS) (formerly United Agri Products -UAP)
- Hilo: 900 Leilani Street, 935-7191. Reported on BISS list:
"purchased Urea (46-0-0) there in June 2010 for $24 for a 50 pound
bag. FYI - BEI buys their supplies from CPS!"
- aka NFTs, "nifties", they are increasingly popular in Hawaii
- Some of the better-known include:
- Gliricidia sepium,
aka madre de cacao, improves soil, shelter, and as
fodder for livestock
- Albizia saman,
aka rain tree, monkeypod
- Inga edulis,
leucocephala, although being careful with the variety, as it can
become an invasive weed as haole koa
- other trees commonly called "Albizia", including Albizia lebbeck
and Paraserianthes falcataria, although these are also considered
invasive. They are already widespread in Puna, and naturalized on
- Erythrina sandwicensis is/was a popular native
NFT, but unfortunately it was wiped out by an introduced pest
- Acacia koa is a native NFT, but in my experience, its roots
are very aggressive and can overpower anything planted around the tree.
There is an open question about whether inoculant is recommended for
Koa, and if so, where to find it. There was one recommendation to
contact Susan Owen at Koolau Seed on Oahu, 808-239-1280.
- there are large number of other popular NFTs in other parts of the world
(Pongamia in India, Sesbania in Africa, etc.)
- A great number of resources are found starting from the
Humanity Development Library 2.0
Nitrogen fixing trees for acid soils - A field manual
Nitrogen fixing trees for fodder production - A Field Manual
Nitrogen Fixing Trees highlights
- General references
- The UH NifTAL (Nitrogen
Fixation by Tropical Agricultural Legumes) began in the 1970s went until
perhaps 2002. "NifTAL conducted international research and training
[..] produced practical information, such as which specific Rhizobium cultures
were the best matches for which species.. mostly shut down around 1998."
- Reported by Peter Graham of the Rhizobium Research Laboratory in
- "I did some literature searching, Calliandra and
Gliricidia each require the same inoculant strain as used for Leucaena.
I checked an old list of inoculant specificities put out by the Nitragin
inoculant company in 1988 and they don't list Gliricidia but do say that
Calliandra requires Leucaena type rhizobium. There is a UH professor named
Dulal Borthakur, who works with Leucaena and so presumably has the inoculant
strain that would also nodulate Gliricidia. If not we have it and could
make it up as an inoculant for you...the disadvantage being that the University
of Minnesota gives us no funding for that activity so we need to charge
for the service, $15.00 + mailing. Let me know if you don't have any luck
with Dulal whose phone number is 808 956 6600,
Other Nitrogen Fixers
- Among the more popular in Hawaii are perennial peanut, crotalaria, and
- Crotalaria - see
NRCS Plant Guide
- I have seen more than one variety of Crotalaria in Hawaii.
Some have small yellow seeds producing tall plants (mine grew to 9'),
others have larger brown seeds producing shorter plants.
- "NRCS and CTAHR released the cultivar ‘Tropic Sun’ sunn hemp in
1983. This cultivar is non-toxic to poultry and
livestock as shown by laboratory tests and feeding trials."
Understanding and Managing the Soils of Puna for Sustainable Food Production
is mostly about soils, but touches on nitrogen fixing specifically for
Effective Microorganisms (EM)
- There is a lot of hype about the benefits of EM.
- The Wikipedia page for
EM says that
"There is no scientific support of the positive effects claimed by EM-technology
- Why not? Why aren't there tests by impartial people as to how effective
EM is, or not?
- EM Hawaii LLC is the local information
source. The actual site lists two formulations for sale:
- EM 1 Microbial Inoculant
- EM 1 Waste Treatment
Activating EM: Dilute with water (typically 1:20) and molasses, and wait
5-10 days. You have about 30-45 days to use it at that point.
- EM and composting
- The teaching guide "Transforming Waste…to Wonderful!" (page 11) says
there are two approaches for composting:
- EM Bokashi for anaerobic.
- EM 1 liquid for aerobic, including traditional compost piles.
"Aerobic compost can be made in the usual manner of layering organic
materials. Inoculate the materials with a solution of EM 1 and molasses
at a dilution of 1:1000 as they are added to the pile. Use 3 gallons
of this diluted solution per cubic yard of materials in the pile. This
is equivalent to 3 teaspoons of EM 1, 3 teaspoons of molasses to 3 gallons
of water. Apply with sufficient water to be wringing wet."
- EM America's
composting page says: "For 100% green waste, add 1 gallon activated
EM 1 Waste Treatment, per ton."
- So.. if i apply EM 1 to an aerobic compost pile, should i cover the
pile to make it deliberately anaerobic?
- If EM is a group of microbes that feed off each other and reproduce, can't
we farmers just buy one batch to start with and grow it ourselves?
- Does it perhaps require strict laboratory conditions to keep the
microbial balance just right? Or do the strains of microbe need to
be grown separately, and only combined later?
- EM America says it's all produced
at EMRO USA's "food-grade facility in Tucson, AZ."
FAQ says: "In the U.S., the microorganisms are purchased from a U.S.
national microbial bank and then kept and cultured within EMRO USA's laboratory
at its manufacturing facility. [..] [the result] is a controlled
and stable microbial culture with a 9-month shelf life."
- There are other EM-like formulations of microbes, including:
- Plant Growth Activator
(PGA) claims to contain 47 strains of beneficial soil
microorganisms. Based in Florida.
- Bio Soil Products
(awful Flash site) claims to contain "at least 20 strains of microbes",
plus humates. Based in Mississippi.
IMO / Natural Farming
EM vs. Compost Tea
- Both methods have their fanatic adherents. Both involve plants and
soil benefiting from heightened levels of naturally occurring microbes.
The difference seems to be that Compost Tea is more perishable (use within a
day) and variable (not sure what mix of microbes you might get, could be great,
or so-so.) The advantage of EM seems to be that it's controlled (known
useful microbes) and has a shelf-life, so it can be stored (and shipped and
sold as a franchise.) The advantage of Compost Tea is that any farmer
can make it themselves, with no need for some laboratory to buy it from and
Compost Tea, Biodynamics
- Bobby Grimes is a enthusiast in Pa'auilo working with a large vortex compost
Biochar, and Biochar in Hawaii
See the biochar notes page.
- If carbon markets are properly set up to reward requesting carbon, then
farmers should be able to receive payments for building the carbon in their
soil or on their land. What's the status of being able to do this in Hawai'i?
- The National
Farmers Union’s Carbon Credit Program just began in 2007.
- "allows [people] to earn income by storing carbon in their soil through
no-till crop production, conversion of cropland to grass, sustainable management
of native rangelands and tree plantings on previously non-forested or degraded
land. In addition, the capture of methane from anaerobic manure digester
systems can also earn carbon credits."
- Evolution Sage is a Hawai'i-based
entity, launched 2008
- provides two primary services: providing carbon offsets for sale to the
public and helping local businesses inventory and evaluate their greenhouse
- Do they work with farms? They say they work "largely through renewable
- Carbon Trading: Market Opportunities
for Agriculture (agcarbontrading.com)
- This site covers a workshop to try to educate carbon-trading systems
on the many ways in which agriculture can sequester carbon. It is
based in the northeast USA.
- Terra Preta:
Agriculture Carbon Trading, David Yarrow, May 21, 2008, attended the
workshop and found that nobody was educated on biochar. There were
just 3 methods recognized:
- 1) avoided or destroyed methane (primarily from anaerobic manure handling)
- 2) afforestation (replanting land with no recent history with trees)
- 3) conservation grassland (no till, except ridge till & planting grassland
set asides, no hay or grazing)
- US EPA: Carbon Sequestration
Carbon Offset Certification
- Carbon Farmers of
- Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS):
Guidance for Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use Projects
Rodale Institute: Making carbon crediting really work for farmers
describes some methods of testing soil C (November 2009)
Press Stories about Hamakua Ag