Sustainable Pest Control for the Tropics

Final Report for EW00-026

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2000: $78,090.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2003
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $81,200.00
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Richard Bowen
Department of Nat Res and Envir Mngt
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Project Information


Island ecosystems are very vulnerable to environmental impacts from toxic pest control chemicals. This project provides training for agricultural professionals in Hawaii and the American Pacific to become more familiar with less toxic alternatives for pest control.

A Working Group (with representatives from HI-CES, HI-NRCS, UH researchers, community colleges, farmers, farmer organizations, and researchers and extension personnel in the American Pacific) was established to guide the project and to develop training modules on various pest control methods appropriate for tropical island ecosystems. The training module and extension materials were prepared and delivered in an intensive two-day training program in Hawaii. Video teleconferencing was used to broadcast segments from the training module to participating colleagues throughout the American Pacific. Extension agents, NRCS staff, and agricultural professionals teamed together to install ten demonstration sites. Demonstrations were conducted to field test sustainable pest techniques and to provide a participatory learning experience for the ag professionals. Field days were held by the ag professionals to showcase sustainable pest control methods to the public. Information from the training program and case studies from the demonstration sites are available at a website for downloading by professionals and by the public.

Project Objectives:
  • To develop the capacity of University of Hawaii CES and Hawai`i NRCS personnel, and other agricultural professionals to understand and promote successful sustainable pest control methods for the tropics that reduce the use and dependency on toxic agricultural chemicals.

    To develop training for agency personnel and agricultural professionals in this topic area based on a participatory-learning model.

    To stimulate hands-on education events for farmers and other members of the agricultural community to be organized and led by those trained in sustainable pest control.

    To expand the scope of the sustainable pest control training module to reach personnel and agricultural professionals in the Pacific via an interactive video teleconference.


The year round warm temperatures and abundant rainfall of the tropics provide ideal conditions for tropical “pests” such as nematodes, insects, and plant pathogens. Island ecosystems are very vulnerable to the environmental damages from the misuse of toxic agricultural chemicals. Growers must find non-chemical alternatives. This project provided NRCS and CES staff in Hawaii and the American Pacific with additional information and resources about how to grow high quality crops while reducing their use of toxic chemicals.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Alton Arakaki
  • Richard Ebesu
  • Dr. Cerruti RR Hooks
  • Dr. Flordeliza Javier
  • Robert Joy
  • Dr. John McHugh
  • Dr. Eileen O'Hora-Weir
  • Bob Shaffer
  • Larry Shinshiro
  • Dr. Brent Sipes
  • Jody Smith
  • Dr. Janice Uchida
  • Dr. Mark Wright

Education & Outreach Initiatives



A Working Group was formed with representation from CES, NRCS, UH researchers, educators from community colleges, individual farmers, farmer organizations, and researchers from the American Pacific. A Trainer Work Group developed modules to introduce successful pest control techniques that reduce or eliminate the use of chemical pesticides. An agricultural economist analyzed economic returns comparing conventional vs. sustainable pest control methods for important cropping systems. The extension materials (powerpoint presentations and case studies), demonstration site case studies, and economic analyses formed the basis of a two-day training for agricultural professionals, with a field visit to an organic ginger farm. To make the information accessible to agricultural professionals in the U.S.-affiliated territories in the Western Pacific, five sustainable pest control presentations were held via an interactive video teleconference. Site-specific demonstrations (10) were conducted on various islands to display appropriate sustainable pest control methods for different cropping systems. Field days open to the public were held for each demonstration site. Products include the training event, extension materials available on our website (downloadable powerpoint presentations and case studies), and video teleconferences.

Outreach and Publications

  • Field days for demonstration sites

    Sustainable Pest Control for the Tropics webpage

    Downloadable PowerPoint presentations on sustainable methods to control insects, plant pathogens, nematodes, and introduction to organic production techniques

    Downloadable Demonstration Site Case Studies (.pdf files)

    Copies of VTC broadcasts to American Pacific

Outcomes and impacts:
Working Group

We were very successful at recruiting a wide array of agricultural professionals to serve on our Working Group, as well as enthusiastic and dedicated Trainers for the 2 day workshop and the American Pacific video teleconferences.

The Working Group has a good balance of CES Extension Agents, NRCS staff, representatives from nonprofit agricultural organizations (Hawaii Organic Farmers Assn, Mokichi Okada Assn), a private consulting entomologist, and researchers from the American Pacific (American Samoa, College of Micronesia). Our Trainers are UH researchers, NRCS professionals and a trustee from Hawaii Organic Farmers Assn. This wide array of agricultural professional gave us an extraordinary human resource base for delivering our program.


We held our two-day intensive training on January 7th and 8th, 2003, in Hilo, Hawaii. Hilo is the headquarters of Hawaii Organic Farmers Association (HOFA), one of our most important project partners.

The following topics were covered in the training program

Sustainable Insect Control
Distance Diagnostics & Recommendation
Living Mulches: Valuable Allies in the War against Insect
Sustainable Plant Disease Control for the Tropics
Sustainable Nematode Control for the Tropics
NRCS Tools for the Tropics - WIN-PST: Pesticide Screening tool
Organic Pest Control for the Tropics

Participants also enjoyed the field trip to view organic ginger production, hosted by Hugh Johnson of Puna Organics and with a special presentation by Bob Shaffer, HOFA Trustee and private consultant (SoilCulture).

The program was designed to be very practical. Each presenter began with a brief introductory talk about their area of expertise, to establish a base level of knowledge (to attempt to address the extreme variability in the educational backgrounds of the participants). The researchers focused on methods which have a proven track record in Hawaii and the Pacific (“favorite methods”). They then overviewed some of the new products and techniques being tried (compost teas, EM, etc.) giving additional information about their own particular experiences (positive/negative/none) with the products/methods. Finally, a case study was presented for an interactive session. The program concluded with a field trip to Puna Organics (hosted by HOFA and Hugh Johnson).

There were 55 participants at the two day workshop: 14 CES agents, 16 NRCS professionals, 5 UH university staff, 3 teachers from community colleges, 3 ag consultants, 4 nonprofit groups, 6 farmers, and 4 students. Ten trainers and resource people attended also.

Extension materials provided included PowerPoint presentations (for future use by Extension Agents and NRCS personnel), case studies, and handouts relating to each subject area (from ATTRA).

Participant Feedback: We had a wide range of responses to the training program. In general reactions were positive. Some patterns became apparent. HI-CES staff tend to be more research oriented and many hold advanced degrees. Some of them felt that the program was too basic, nothing new. HI-NRCS staff were critical of certain presentations were "too technical" and had too much research information. Field staff tended to demand proven, practical information. Research staff were more comfortable with theoretical solutions. These discrepancies were difficult to resolve.

In addition, there is relatively little information which has been developed for tropical ecosystems relating to sustainable pest control. Many of the participants questions could not yet be answered.

There was general agreement that the topic is important but very complex, that Hawaii agricultural clients want up to date information about sustainable agriculture, and that there is great benefit to having the two agencies meet. Most participants felt that they had a much better understanding of organic agriculture as a result of the training program. One participant expressed that they had an “appreciation of the difficulties and uncertainty of sustainable control” and “it seems that the new ways must incorporate good old sense practices.”

Video Teleconferencing with the American Pacific

Rather than hold one two-hour video teleconference with our agricultural colleagues in the American Pacific (as was originally proposed in the grant), we decided to significantly expand our VTC programming. We discovered that there had been rather limited interaction between agricultural professionals in the American Pacific. The University of Hawaii is considered to be a leader and major educational resource for the region.

At the suggestion of the ADAP Project (Agricultural Development in the American Pacific), the University of Hawaii hosted a series of Sustainable Pest Control VTC programs at monthly intervals. Each program featured one of our UH Researcher Trainers and highlighted a topic from our 2-day program.

The expansion of this aspect of the project proved to be very productive. The monthly time slots organized and announced well in advance allowed our Pacific partners ample time to recruit VTC participants from their locations. It afforded us additional opportunities to communicate and interact with one another. Our Trainers worked hard to adapt their presentations to the questions and needs of our Pacific audiences.

The following VTC broadcasts were held:

2/26/2003 (1:30 PM – 2:30 PM Hawaii Time) Dr. Brent Sipes - Sustainable Nematode Control
Participants: Hawaii, Pohnpei, American Samoa

3/19/2003 (12:30 PM – 2:30 PM Hawaii Time) Dr. Mark Wright - IPM Topics for the Tropics & Distance Diagnostics
Participants: Hawaii, Saipan, American Samoa

4/16/2003 (12:30 PM – 2:30 PM Hawaii Time) Bob Shaffer, HOFA Trustee - Organic Pest Control Techniques for the Tropics
Participants: Hawaii, Saipan, American Samoa

5/21/2003 (12:30 PM – 2:30 PM Hawaii Time) Dr. Cerruti Hooks - Living mulches: Valuable allies in the war against insect pests
Participants: Hawaii, American Samoa

7/30/2003 (12:30 PM – 2:30 PM Hawaii Time) Dr. Janice Y. Uchida - Sustainable Plant Disease Control
Participants: Hawaii, American Samoa

Videotapes of each presentation made are available.

American Samoa: Communications with American Samoa were excellent for all of the programs and they consistently had 6 to 10 participants at their site. They were most satisfied with the VTC programming. The level of information was at times very basic for them, however they asked for the time segments to be expanded from 1 hour to 2, which allowed additional time for questions on specific problems. This worked well.
Pohnpei: The equipment in Pohnpei was being repaired for several months, which made them inaccessible. Frequently during our VTC transmissions contact with the Pohnpei site was broken, making it impossible for them to follow the presentation. We were disappointed with the failure of VTC technology. The participants were grateful for being considered for the programming, but really didn't get much from it.
Northern Marianas: We successfully connected twice to Saipan, with 1-3 participants in attendance. The broadcast quality was good and the participants were favorable about the program.
Guam: The super typhoon in Guam caused considerable damage to their equipment. By the time the station was functional, they were not interested in participating in our programming.

Demonstration Sites

To provide a hand-on learning component for this project, participants were given the opportunity to sponsor a demonstration site to showcase a sustainable pest control method of their choice. Where possible, demos were conducted on private farms rather than on experiment stations. Interagency partnerships (between NRCS/CES staff, HOFA, private consultants, community colleges, etc.) were strongly encouraged. Joint field days, open to the public, were required as well. A written case study for each project will be posted at the website. At our final meeting, participants will make presentations to their colleagues about their demonstration projects.

This training component of our grant program has consistently proven to be extremely successful, generating additional interest and expertise for participants. Several extension agents actually requested to hold more than one demonstration project.

  • Kaua`i: Richard Ebesu, CES Agent, "Control onion pests using RepelGro silver mulch and environmentally safe pesticides Ecozin and Bacillus thuringiensis" (completed)

    Kaua`i: Richard Ebesu, CES Agent, "Use of Agribon floating row cover material to make banana bunch sleeves to prevent banana rust thrips infestations" (completed)

    Maui: Robin Shimabuku, CES Agent, "Disease Management Strategies for the Control of Pink Root on Sweet Onions in Hawaii" with Dr. Hector Valenzuela, Vegetable Extension Specialist (completed)

    Moloka’i: Alton Arakaki , CES Agent, Growing Vegetables in Living Shield Cover Crop (completed)

    Moloka`i: Kali Arce, CES Agent and Glen Fukumoto/Robert Joy, NRCS Plant Materials Center, Territorial, Harris Moran, Hollar Seed Cos., "Evaluating Melon Production" (completed)

    Moloka`i: Kali Arce, CES Agent and Glen Fukumoto/Robert Joy, NRCS Plant Materials Center, "Fruit Fly Infestation with the Use of Typar". Dr. Bernie Kratky, Horticulture Extension Specialist (Beaumont Research Station), Dr. Ron Mau, Entomology Extension Specialist, Dr. Hector Valenzuela, Vegetable Extension Specialist, Yola Forbes, Hoolehua Hawaiian Homesteader (completed)

    O`ahu: John McHugh, CropCare Hawaii, and Chris Smith, NRCS, "Cover Cropping with Barley and Oats in Bare Ground Fallow Cropping Systems" (completed)

    Pohnpei: Dr. Flordeliza Javier, College of Micronesia, "Evaluation of Sustainable Techniques for Cucumber" (completed)

    Big Island/Hawai`i: Bob Shaffer, Hawaii Organic Farmers Association, "Prevention of Soil borne pests in Organic Edible Ginger" (completed)

    "Vinegar trials for weed control in organic coffee" (Bob Shaffer, Hawaii Organic Farmers Association, Big Island/Hawai`i) was not completed. Vinegar has not been legally approved for use in Hawaii as an herbicide, therefore extension agents would not be able to recommend its use. While the concept is good, we were not able to resolve this issue.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Close Ties with NRCS: We have cultivated an excellent working relationship with our Hawaii NRCS colleagues for this project. Both CES and NRCS recognize the real value of getting field staff together periodically to share their experiences.

Wide Diversity of Participants: We continue to enjoy wide support for and participation in the grant project, with representation from local farmers, CES, NRCS, colleagues from community colleges, UH researchers, nonprofit agricultural organizations, and agricultural consultants.

Increased Interest/Information about Tropical Organic Production: Hawaii Organic Farmers Association’s leadership role in this project has paid off with participants in the training program reporting an increased understanding of organic production systems.

We are pleased to note that this summer (2004) HOFA is holding a series of 2-day "Organic Pest Management" workshops on Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii Island.

Involvement of Traditional Farming Organizations: The Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation’s sponsorship of a demonstration site has helped “sustainable agriculture” become a more mainstream concept. As traditional farming organizations become more closely involved with sustainable agriculture, barriers to adoption tend to erode.

Impacts in the Pacific Region: The University of Hawaii is viewed as a leadership institution for agriculture in the Pacific Basin. Our affiliation with the Agricultural Development in the American Pacific (ADAP) project has strengthened networks with Pacific Island colleagues. The repeated use of VTC in this project has stimulated greater communication and interaction among ag professionals in the Pacific region.

Participatory Learning Model: The use of demonstration projects in conjunction with the training program has greatly bolstered interest in and understanding of sustainable agriculture techniques by participants. We have observed an increase in the number of ag professionals hosting demonstration projects, as well as new interagency partnerships and relationships being forged. Participants have acquired a deeper understanding of ecological principles as a result of the “hands-on” demonstrations. In addition, the requirement of hosting a public field day has extended the outreach component of the project.

Accessing Information: The use of our website has greatly enhanced the ability of ag professionals to access and download up-to-date information relating to sustainable pest control.

Increased interest in Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Hawaii: Interest in research and education continues to grow amongst UH researchers and extension staff. Several UH participants from the pest control grant are submitting sustainable agriculture related grant proposals for funding. UH staff is also participating in the summer "Organic Pest Management" workshops being offered by Hawaii Organic Farmers Association. There is strong interest within our College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR)to greatly expand our Sustainable Agriculture program and a task force is examining the possibilities.


Future Recommendations

Lack of Information for Tropical Regions: As a result of the project, we have recognized that there is in general an absence of information relating to sustainable pest control (and sustainable agriculture in general) for tropical regions. Additional funding for research in this area is recommended.

Vast Subject Area: The topic of the grant, "sustainable pest control" encompasses too much information. It was not realistic to cover so many topic areas within one training program. For future professional development programs we suggest that the topic area be further broken down (insects, weeds, disease, nematodes, etc.) and focused on in more depth.

Demonstration Projects: This continues to be an excellent method for CES and NRCS staffs to interact, to teach and to learn together.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.