Five Local Nurseries Pass the “Plant Pono” Test

Six retail nurseries on the Big Island are the latest to receive an endorsement for their commitment to preventing the spread of invasive species. The Plant Pono program, a state wide initiative being implemented on Hawai’i island by the Big Island Invasive Species Committee (BIISC), recognizes nurseries who implement best practices for control of certain pests and who agree not to import, sell or propagate any potentially invasive plant species.
“I really want to improve the land and beautify it, not cause damage with invasive plants and animals [like] little fire ant and coqui,” says Jacque Green, owner of Green’s Garden Gifts and Things. Her nursery is one of the latest to have earned the Plant Pono endorsement, along with ESP Nursery, Nui Loa Hiki nursery, Sustainable Bioresources, Tropical Edibles, and Pana’ewa Foliage. They joined The Nursery, Inc., Southern Turf, Kalaoa Gardens, and South Kona Nursery, which were the first Big Island businesses to receive endorsements in early 2015.
To maintain the endorsement, nurseries must undergo annual surveys by BIISC early detection specialists and implement stringent prevention measures against invasive pests developed by the Hawaii Ant Lab and the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) at the University of Hawaii. Nurseries can play a critical role in preventing the spread of pest plants and animals. Invasive species are defined as introduced organisms that cause harm to the economy, environment, or human health. Worldwide, 10–?15% of introduced species become invasive. Many invasive plants, such as miconia and Himalayan (kahili) ginger, were originally introduced as ornamentals and spread through planting by garden enthusiasts before expanding into natural areas and disrupting native ecosystems.
Potted plants were identified as one of the top vectors in the spread of Little Fire Ant, which have cost millions for government and businesses in Hawai’i since they were first detected on the Big Island in 1999. Subsequent surveys completed in 2002 revealed populations of LFA from Kalapana to Laupahoehoe, indicating the ants were already present and well spread across the Puna and Hilo areas before they were noticed.
“Getting nurseries involved in detecting and preventing the spread of pest animals and plants just makes sense,” according to Jimmy Parker, botanist and coordinator of BIISC’s early detection team. “Very often we find that invasive plants are sold unknowingly by nurseries and then planted by well–?meaning citizens and landscapers. A Plant Pono endorsement lets the public know the plants they have purchased will not become the next albizia or miconia.”
The likelihood of a plant being invasive in Hawaii can be predicted accurately thanks to an online assessment tool called the Hawaii Pacific Weed Risk Assessment (HPWRA). HPWRA was developed by botanists from Hawaii and around the globe, and uses 49 questions about a plant’s biology, ecology, and weedy tendencies elsewhere in the world to score its potential invasive threat. HPWRA is 95% accurate in identifying invasive plants. More than a thousand plants have already been assessed and can be viewed on the website, which also suggests safe alternatives to invasive ornamentals. While the Plant Pono program reserves the endorsement for exemplary nurseries, the risk assessment tool is free and available on to any nursery or home gardener considering adding a new plant to their collection. The Plant Pono program was initiated in 2014 by the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species (CGAPS) and is funded through the Hawaii Invasive Species Council and the U.S. Forest Service.
Contact information for all Plant Pono nurseries is available on the BIISC website at

Natural Farming Meeting Looks at Farming Through the Microscope

The Natural Farming Hawai’i June potluck meeting will be about looking through the microscope to understand the benefits of natural farming down to their smallest detail.

Soil isn’t just a dead medium in which crops grow; it’s a matrix of living things, some beneficial, some harmful.  In healthy soil, microorganisms interact in complimentary ways, but pesticides herbicides fertilizers can disrupt that balance.  The presentation at the meeting will cover how to use the microscope, how to identify bacteria, fungus, and nematodes, and what all this means for soil health.

The potluck meeting takes place on the second Tuesday of each month–in this case, June 9, June 9th, 2015, at  6-8 p.m at the Komohana Ag Research Center in Hilo, Hawai’i.


New Program Will Foster New Farmers

Press release from Kohala Center:

KAMUELA, Hawai‘i—November 3, 2014—A program aimed at beginning farmers and ranchers on Hawai‘i Island is seeking applicants for an upcoming classroom and on-farm mentorship initiative beginning in November.

The Kohala Center’s Beginning Farmer-Rancher Mentorship Program is accepting applications from prospective students for its first cohort. The re-vamped program consists of ten full-day classroom and hands-on sessions held one Saturday per month in Honoka‘a, and 160 hours of on-farm mentorship with a successful farmer or rancher. More information and application materials are available online at or by calling The Kohala Center at (808) 887-6411. The deadline to apply is Friday, November 14.

Although no previous farming or ranching experience is required, program applicants must meet the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) definition of a socially disadvantaged group or a socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher or be a United States military veteran in order to apply. Prospective applicants who have questions about their eligibility are encouraged to contact The Kohala Center. The course covers a wide range of critical subject areas such as soil management, irrigation, composting, cover cropping, and pest management, as well as the “business” side of farming—marketing, accounting, budgeting, and record-keeping. Students who successfully complete the course and create viable farm and business plans will be eligible for additional support services from The Kohala Center, including access to leasable farmland, technical assistance in agricultural businesses development, and guidance through additional support programs administered by the USDA.

The Beginning Farmer-Rancher Mentorship Program represents a unique partnership between The Kohala Center, local government agencies, academic institutions, and leading agricultural professionals. The program is funded primarily by an initiative of the United States Department of Agriculture that supports outreach and assistance for farmers and ranchers who are socially disadvantaged and/or U.S. veterans.

The USDA estimates that 50 percent of farmers in the United States will retire in the next decade. Since 2012, the agency has awarded $37.2 million in grants to farmer training programs across the country in an effort to enlist and support new farmers and ranchers. “The average age of our farmers is increasing, while the number of farms locally and nationally is declining,” said Nicole Milne, associate vice president for programs at The Kohala Center. “Meanwhile, Hawai‘i imports nearly 90 percent of its food. This program seeks to train new farmers and ranchers—particularly those who may have societal or economic barriers to entering agricultural careers—and move Hawai‘i toward greater food self-reliance and security. By increasing the volume of food grown and produced locally, we can decrease our dependence on imports, create jobs, and diversify Hawai‘i’s rural economy.”

Free Presentation: How to “Succeed the Weeds ” with Trees

 From :

Agroforestry Solutions for Hilo-H?m?kua Districts

A free evening presentation at UH-Hilo by Dave Sansone, agroforestry consultant

Date: Friday, September 19th, 2014
Time: 7 pm
Location: UH-Hilo, University Classroom Building (UCB), Room 100
Sponsored by: UH-Hilo College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management (CAFNRM)
and Agroforestry Design, LLC

Rampant weeds, acidic soil, nutrient leaching (loss) from heavy rain, erosion and deforestation are some the issues that Hilo and Hamakua farmers and gardeners face. Dave Sansone, agroforestry consultant and owner of Agroforestry, will be offering a free slideshow presentation called “Agroforestry Solutions for Hilo and H?m?kua Districts”, on Friday, September 19th at 7pm at UH-Hilo, UCB Room 100.   Uncommon and rare plant prizes.

Hilo and H?m?kua Districts have a diversity of growing conditions including various soil types, elevations, rainfall patterns and totals; yet there are a number agroforestry practices that can be adapted to help farmers and gardeners overcome each area’s challenges and limitations. “Agroforestry, is the targeted integration of agriculture and forestry crops and practices, and can be used to win the war on weeds, increase fertility and production, improve soil quality and plant health, recycle nutrients, trap erosion, and reduce reliance on outside inputs”, says Sansone.

One of the most common challenges are the many weeds that never seem to take a break, especially in the warm high humidity and rainfall areas. A number of the more noxious weeds such as wainaku or hono hono will grow if they are dropped on the ground. No spray farms and gardens usually struggle in these conditions and often resort to mowing, weed whacking, or importing mulch to keep weeds down.

Rather than fighting a never ending battle against the weeds, agroforestry can empower people to “succeed the weeds” by planting a mix of fast growing food plants, nitrogen fixing tree and shrub (NFTS) hedgerows that eliminate weeds, especially through shading and mulch created by severely pruning hedgerows. This system has been shown to reduce leaching, recycle nutrients, and increase available fertility and organic matter.

Well-designed rapid growing acid tolerant polycultures such as cow pea or other vigorous legumes, cassava, pigeon pea (aka Gandudi bean or Cajan Cajanus), and banana can quickly shade and mulch out low growing weed seedlings while NFTS hedgerows become established. This can offer early, reliable production with minimal inputs or effort after established.

Occasional alleys can utilize strategic companion planting of grains, beans, roots, shrubs, crop trees, and overstory trees in intercrop rows between the NFTS hedgerows. Shade loving and tolerant plants can be added later including cardamom or maile. This model offers increasing production while reducing effort and inputs along with biological weed control while reducing the amount of land needed to grow vegetables and tree crops. Slow growing spice and exotic fruit crops command high prices due to the time it takes to reach maturity, but farmers who integrate them into diverse farms can adapt operations to have continuous production while the high value trees grow.

Acidic soil due to leaching of calcium, sodium and magnesium by heavy rain is a more complex issue. While agricultural lime can raise the pH, it is a short term solution that is largely dependent on outside inputs. It seems that acidic soils have been a major limiting factor here for thousands of years. To learn more about new and traditional agroforestry solutions to overcome acid soils and other challenges that Hilo and H?m?kua farmers and gardeners face, attend “Agroforestry Solutions for Hilo and H?m?kua Districts”.

More information is available at

About the presenter: Dave Sansone is owner of Agroforestry, LLC which offers agroforestry and permaculture consultation and research and services on Hawai’i Island. He has been developing restoration agroforestry models since 2002 and has worked with over 1,000 species of plants in a diversity of climates, conditions, and cultivation systems.   Dave promotes agroforestry models that integrate site adapted species, perennials, native species, and endangered species as a way to effectively address the 6th Great Extinction, climate change, and increasing population while growing the best food possible.  He has offered inspiring and informative presentations at numerous venues including conferences, universities, and colleges.

Gardening — It’s Important To Grow Native Hawaiian Plants

By Barbara Fahs

Sometimes native Hawaiian plants produce beautiful flowers, like the ma‘o hau hele hibiscus. Sometimes they are plain and nondescript. And they are often hard to find in nurseries.

Before 1998, Hawaii state law did not allow native plants to be grown in home gardens. The fear was that people would go trekking through the jungles and forests in search of them and possibly damage plants as well as deplete them from the wild. But more enlightened legislators finally realized that growing native plants at home was a means of conserving them: the more native plants that grow, the more secure the dwindling populations in the wild.

What is Considered Native? Native plants are also called indigenous and sometimes endemic. They occur naturally here and arrived without human help, but rather on the wind, the waves or via birds, which often carry seeds in their intestines. They evolved in the area where they live and weren’t the result of human cultivation.

In ancient times, the early Polynesians carried important plants in their canoes for introduction to their new home. These “canoe plants” include ‘awa (kava kava), kalo (taro), ki (ti), ko (sugar cane), mai‘a (banana), noni, kukui, niu (coconut) and ‘ulu (breadfruit). They are also referred to as “introduced” or “alien,” but none of the canoe plants have become as invasive as later introductions such as the Albizia and Miconia trees.

Why Grow the Natives?  Read more