Deploying SOAP's Hot Shot Team to Identified Hot Spot Locations to Advance Susatinable and Organic Agriculture Practices in Hawaii

Final report for MW16-005

Project Type: Enhanced State Grants
Funds awarded in 2016: $24,750.00
Projected End Date: 05/31/2018
Grant Recipient: University of Hawaii
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Jari Sugano
University of Hawaii, TPSS
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Project Information


Awareness and adoption of sustainable agriculture practices is increasing within the State of Hawaii. The 2014 Organic Production Survey conducted by the USDA NASS provides additional evidence of grower adoption of sustainable agricultural production practices such as organic mulch/compost, green/animal manures, no-till or minimum till, maintained buffer strips, water management practices, biological pest management, maintaining beneficial insect or vertebrate habitat, selecting planting locations to avoid pests, releasing beneficial organisms, choosing pest resistant varieties, and planning plantings to avoid cross-contamination. Hawaii organic fruit and vegetable production is increasing in acreage and valued over $12.1 million dollars compared to $7.6 million in 2008. Hawaii's organic crop values are now higher than 14 other states in the continental USA. (Honolulu Star Advertiser, October 26, 2015).

The Sustainable and Organic Agriculture Program (SOAP) at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (UH CTAHR) remains committed to conducting annual professional development educational opportunities for agricultural professionals (AG PRO) in cooperation with WSARE. We anticipate expanding our annual AG PRO educational events by organizing a 'hot shot' team consisting of UH CTAHR members who are highly respected for their work in advancing sustainable agriculture. We anticipate taking the university out to rural 'hot spot' areas across Hawaii. Priority areas for 2015 include, but are not limited to climate change; improving soil health; cover crops; local fertilizer alternatives; irrigation  management;  reduced risk pest management alternatives;  variety selection, etc. Priority topics will be modified based on stakeholder involvement and site identification.

Project Objectives:

Hawaii. Development and radiation of 'hot spot' teams in identified rural areas such as Hawaii, Molokai, Maui, Kauai, and Oahu in combination with educational programs on responsible farming, high-quality, reduced risk edible commodities, environmental stewardship, agricultural competitiveness, and food self-sufficiency will strengthen partnerships with local teams of extension agents and NRCS staff and allow SOAP to reach more stakeholders in 2016. Design and delivery of the in-depth training on priority sustainable agricultural topics will be based on the needs of those who service and farm in these agricultural communities.

We will identify SOAP topic leaders and support speakers' travel expenses. Support of inter-island travel for neighbor island agents who wish to attend 'hot spot' workshops outside of their areas will be provided as funding permits. We will  partner with the host agent,  local producers and established  statewide program such as the Go Farm Program at UH CTAHR to generate easy to read/understand educational workshop materials, handouts, and execute field demonstrations based on stakeholders" identified needs and information delivery preferences.

Through offering this yearlong educational training across the state, SOAP anticipates reducing reliance on imported crop inputs and improving soil health; advocating for reduced risk agricultural practices that are mindful of our natural resources and worker health; improving dissemination of the latest research based information  directly to agricultural  professionals  and producers; advancing agricultural  professionals' skills and competencies;  and improving our capacity in taking the university out to rural areas to service existing, new, and beginning producers  in Hawaii.


Educational approach:

The WSARE Enhanced State Program Grant funding was used to maximize the limited resources available for agricultural professional development and farmer training in rural areas of Hawaii. Development and radiation of ‘hot shot’ teams in identified rural counties such as Hawaii, Maui, Kauai, and Oahu in combination with educational programs on responsible farming, high-quality, reduced risk edible commodities, environmental stewardship, agricultural competitiveness, and food self-sufficiency strengthened our partnerships with local teams of extension agents and USDA NRCS staff across the state.

This funding allowed the Sustainable and Organic Agriculture Program (SOAP) to reach more stakeholders in 2017-2018. Design and delivery of the training programs on priority sustainable agricultural topics were based on the needs of those who service and farm in these targeted agricultural communities.

We identified SOAP topic leaders with expertise in the identified topic areas and supported speakers’ travel expenses. Support of inter-island travel for neighbor island agents who wished to attend ‘hot shot’ workshops outside of their respective areas were provided as funding allowed. We partnered with host agents, local producers and established statewide partnerships with programs such as the GoFarm Hawaii, a new and beginning farmer program at UH CTAHR, to generate easy to read and understand educational workshop materials, and executed field demonstrations based on stakeholders' identified needs and information delivery preferences.

We offered field days, online newsletters and classroom lectures as they were the top three educational delivery methods identified by SOAP / WSARE workshop participants. 

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Educational Workshops and Field Days

Through a combination of in depth, yet practical, research based talks, applied, field demonstrations and farm tours which showcase the adoption of sustainable agriculture practices, SOAP created an educational and safe environment that encouraged agricultural professionals and producers to evaluate, modify and/or adopt practices that will advance sustainability of agriculture in Hawaii.


We utilized the WSARE’s Enhanced State Program funds to conduct 12 professional development activities in rural areas which also supported grower education and training. Electronic publications continue to be one of our best investments for information & technology delivery due to geographic issues. Information and handouts from WSARE/ SOAP’s agricultural professional workshops are posted on-line for those to review or for those who missed the event.

While priority topics were modified based on stakeholder involvement and site identification, we identified and secured commitments from the ‘hot shot’ team who also serve as topic leaders for the SOAP program.

  • Dr. Ted Radovich (Associate Specialist) : WSARE Co-coordinator, sustainable and organic agriculture (organic certification, phytonutrient profiles, alternative cropping systems, soil health, vermi-compost, etc.)
  • Jari Sugano (Extension Agent): WSARE Co-coordinator, reduced risk pest management (vegetable selections, soil microbes, screen / plastic house units etc.) and food safety
  • Dr. Amjad Ahmad (Junior Researcher): sustainable and organic agriculture (biochar, local fertilizer alternatives, new crop for Hawaii, etc.)
  • Dr. Koon Hui Wang (Assistant Professor): Sustainable pest management and soil health (cover crops, insectary plants, vermicompost extracts, nematodes, hot water treatment, etc.)
  • Jensen Uyeda (Assistant Extension Agent): Irrigation management, climate change, hydroculture and food safety
  • Glenn Teves (Assistant Extension Agent): Local seed production; seed saving; Community-based Economic Development; Hawaiian Home Lands Development; Native Hawaiian issues Commodity Production, etc.
  • Sharon Motomura-Wages (Assistant Extension Agent) Plant diseases diagnostics; sweet potato and edible ginger genetics; bacteria wilt testing and screening, etc.
  • Kylie Tavares (Junior Extension Agent) Sustainable and Organic Agriculture, soil health and crop nutrition; natural resource conservation; brassica pest management, etc.
  • Joshua Silva (Assistant Extension Agent) Sustainable and Organic Agriculture, soil health and crop nutrition; food safety; edible crop pest management, etc.


Development and radiation of CTAHR's ‘hot shot’ teams were deployed in identified rural counties such as Hawaii, Maui, Kauai, and Oahu. 

Outcomes and impacts:

Through post event surveys we documented: 

  • Change in knowledge
  • Acquisition of new knowledge and skill by agricultural professionals and producers
  • Change in attitude or understanding about sustainable and organic agriculture
  • Change in behavior and action
  • Adoption of recommended practices

Educational & Outreach Activities

100 Consultations
20 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
4 On-farm demonstrations
2 Published press articles, newsletters
12 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

50 Extension
20 Researchers
10 Nonprofit
500 Farmers/ranchers
100 Others

Learning Outcomes

350 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
50 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

2 Grants received that built upon this project
3 New working collaborations
2 Agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
300 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Additional Outcomes:

Acquisition of new knowledge and skills:

 Example: Plant Propagation:

Plant propagation was listed a priority topic area by the Go Farm Hawaii Program on Oahu. The objective of the Plant Propagation Outdoor Expo was to increase awareness and adoption of edible crop production by advancing growers’ abilities and competencies in the area of plant propagation. Using the hands-on teaching demonstration approach and heavy visuals, Hawaii WSARE PDP aimed to assist growers and the general public in advancing the cultivation of food in our island state to address Governor Ige’s goal of doubling the food supply by 2020.

Researchers and Extension faculty (Melzer, DeFrank, Nakamura Tengan, Zee, Radovich, Wang, Ogata, Uchida, Nazario-Leary, Grezebik, Nagano, Matsumura, Wong, Silva, Nakatsuka, Kanehiro, Uyeda and Sugano) supported the event by showcasing their various projects and programs. Programs included, Clean plant (scion wood) program, air layering- larger trees, UH CTAHR Farm to Food, Sustainable and Organic Agriculture, Sustainable Pest Management Lab, ADSC Seed Lab Program, Master Gardener Program-Plant Doctor, etc. Extension agents from Oahu, Maui and Hawaii County were in support with their statewide programs as well.

External program partners contributed to make this a multi-agency event. Murakami Farms & East County, Hawaii Farm Bureau provided education about papaya hybridization and Hawaii Farm Bureau services. Dr. Maureen Fitch and the staff of the Hawaii Agricultural Research Center (HARC) provided a hands-on exercise on vegetative propagation of papaya cuttings. Hawaii Department of Agriculture, USDA Farm Service Agency, Oahu RC&D, West Oahu Soil and Water Conservation District, Hawaii Farm Bureau, Hawaiian Earth Products, Smart Yields, EM Hawaii, BEI Hawaii, Halawa Xeriscape Garden, Pearl City Bonsai Group, and FCS, and various programs from UH CTAHR such as Agribusiness Incubator Program (AIP), Go Farm Hawaii, 4H Hawaii, and the Office of Communication Services hosted educational booths for participants to learn about the many public, and private agricultural programs currently available. Participants had a chance to sign up for state, federal and nonprofit programs and ask questions face to face.

We reached approximately 470 participants over the two-day event, which included farmers, agricultural professionals, master gardeners, new farmer programs, Urban Garden Center volunteers, community volunteers such as the Boy Scouts, and the general public. The event was coordinated by a planning committee made up of Hawaii WSARE, UGC volunteers and Oahu County, Cooperative Extension faculty and staff.

The Urban Garden Center’s Air Layering and Grafting Hui did an outstanding job offering 1 hour, hands-on workshops to participants in an outdoor setting. One hundred thirty-nine (139) grafting participants and 133 air layering participants received a brief overview of the respective plant propagation technique and were able to apply these fundamentals in an outdoor classroom setting.  The Second Saturday’s Plant Sale Group indicated that plant sales increased with this combined event and new faces came through the facility. Those new to the Urban Garden Center (UGC) had an opportunity to see the various gardens and programs offered at UGC.

Post event surveys indicated that 100% of participants indicated the event met their expectations. Ninety percent of participants rated the event as outstanding with the remaining 10% rating it as good. One hundred percent of participants agreed that the event content was relevant and meaningful; information was presented in a clear and easy to understand manner; event was well planned and organized; and that they would recommend this workshop to a friend or colleague. All participants surveyed indicated that they learned something new that could contribute to local food production in Hawaii.

Comments included:  

So much expertise! the staff was the best; list of good/bad candidates for air layering that we could take home; a little more chair would have been great, but overall very educational and fun. Thank you; chairs and a microphone would have been nice; presenter should have a microphone; Richard, Steve and Lance-Great presenters. Learned a lot Thank you.; super; good workshop; I have never grafted and provided the basic information to attempt my first graft; liked the to try it; seats would be recommended; hard to see grafting class; very helpful; thank you; that was a very good workshop for farmers; hats off to you and your team for putting on a practical and useful workshop for farmers in the community; congratulations for a job really well done; many GoFarm students attended and thought it was great!; from what I observed and from many comments I heard, it was a success with no major glitches and many clients came away satisfied by the program; it was also very nice to see the participation of our Extension Agents from the other counties. 

Photos from the educational event can be found here:


Example: Soil Health and Nutrition

Limited agricultural lands in the islands has resulted in the depletion and buildup of nutrients in many of Hawaii’s Oahu’s soil-type farming systems. Excessive buildup of nutrients can result in micro nutrient deficiencies, unavailability of essential nutrients, and other soil fertility related problems. Land is scarce and expensive in Hawaii. To combat the inability to move to new fields annually, local producers must find new ways to sustain and regenerate their soils to maximize crop benefits. Hawaii WSARE has been a supporter and promoter of the use of cover crops, green manures and compost to enhance and/or improve soil properties in these farming systems.

However, farming systems in areas like Kona, Hawaii have unique soil systems where cover cropping is a challenge due to the soil’s physical properties which is made up of rocks and shallow organic matter.  Soils in Kona are called Histosols (Deenik and McClellan, 2007). These soils are comprised largely of organic matter which is growing on top of a recent lava flow. Soil drainage is fast and problematic so a modified soil management system was needed for these areas to enhance soil properties and increase soil fertility potential.

Cooperative Extension Agents in Kona, with Hawaii WSARE organized a hands-on composting workshop and Mini Ag-Pro event at Organic Matters Hawaii (OMH), a commercial composting facility in Kona. Participants, including 24 orchard crop farmers and 13 CTAHR faculty and staff, learned how to properly use mulch and make quality compost from their farm’s green and brown waste. Presentations from CTAHR, OMH, and USDA NRCS included not only an overview on composting basics, feedstock calculations, biochar, and mortality composting (composting animals or animal parts), but also information on the Department of Health’s compost regulations, USDA NRCS’ soil conservation, and cost-share programs. In addition, participants had the opportunity to tour the facility, observe the turning of compost on a commercial scale, and then get their hands dirty by making their own compost piles.

This event was funded by OMH, SOAP, WSARE and CTAHR. It provided farmers and Cooperative Extension and USDA NRCS the opportunity to connect, network, educate, and learn. Workshop evaluations were collected and responses were separated between producers and agricultural professionals. Nearly sixty-five percent of producers rated the event as outstanding to excellent. Remaining producers rated the event as good to fair. One hundred percent of participants indicated that the event increased their knowledge of composting from a little improvement to a lot. Based on mean scores of 1=strongly disagree to 5= strongly agree, participants agreed (4.0) relevant and meaningful to them; presentations were clear and easy to understand, the event was well planned & organized; the educational setting was comfortable and conducive to learning; left with a better understanding of composting mulch, and USDA NRCS programs for farmers, and that they would recommend this workshop to a friend of colleagues. Ninety-four percent indicated they would likely or very likely compost at their farm.

Agricultural professionals rated the event as outstanding to excellent (100%). Sixteen percent of participants indicated their knowledge was poor at the start of the event, while the remainder indicated their knowledge was good. One hundred percent of ag professional participants indicated that the event increased their knowledge of composting from a little improvement to a lot. Participants agreed (4.0) relevant and meaningful to them; presentations were clear and easy to understand, the event was well planned & organized; the educational setting was comfortable and conducive to learning; they left with a better understanding of composting mulch, and USDA NRCS programs for farmers, and that they would recommend this workshop to a friend of colleagues, based on mean scores of 1=strongly disagree to 5= strongly agree. Participants indicated they learned between 1-9 new things that they could apply to their work. One hundred percent of agricultural professionals in attendance indicated they were likely to very likely to teach others about composting.

When asked, “what was the best part of the composting event,” participants responded: Not only did I learn more about composting, but I also learned things I had no prior knowledge; of such as biochar and mortality composting; the hands on work; C:N ratio number is very useful; presenters and most participants are passionate about and committed to what they do; Andrea's presentation; all of it!; in the morning and just a few hours, hands on; knowledgeable speakers; lovely setting; speakers covered a variety of subject. They were interesting and educational. Nobody spoke too long to make things boring; being in the field with lectures followed by actually building mulch mounds; you had many extension agents with expertise in different areas; great venue, well organized, great to see so many extension agents at one event - awesome!; hands-on activity; the location at a composting facility, the strong presence of recognized topics experts and research staff; Deano's and Ted's presentation. Deano's friendly demeanor and hospitality; just about everything; Short presentations by CTAHR faculty! Good representation of CTAHR agents; Hands-on activities and being on a working composting facility; Very relevant to what our farmers are doing. Lots of composting going on with farmers; The hands-on activity of making own compost mixes.

We anticipate growers who evaluate and adopt the use of compost into their respective farming systems will see greater effects on their soil’s physical, chemical, biological properties, over time.

Photos from the educational event can be found here:


Change in understanding 

Example: IPM Workshop in Maui

An integrated pest management (IPM) approach is an ecologically based system that focuses on minimizing crop losses through the use of multi–disciplinary collaboration of crop production practices and principles.  Integrated pest management strives to achieve greater harmony between agricultural production practices and the stewardship and protection of the environment. Increasing agricultural producer awareness and understanding about new technology and information in IPM will empower producers with the competencies and knowledge to turn research advances into economic benefits while protecting the environment and advancing human and food safety.

On May 23, 2018, the Sustainable and Organic Agriculture Program (SOAP) organized an IPM Workshop in collaboration with Maui County, Extension Agent Kylie Tavares. Approximately twenty producers and agricultural professionals took part in half day educational program at Maui Cooperative Extension Office. Speakers included Extension specialists, Extension agents and students from the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. Topics included: IPM overview; screenhouse, hoop houses and row covers; insectary plants and cover crops; slug and snail management, fruit fly and diamond back moth insecticidal resistance management, plant pathology in the tropics; and emerging pest.  

Post event surveys indicated that 100% of participants rated the event as good to excellent, based on its usefulness of information. Fifty percent of respondents indicated that they learned 3-4 new things at the workshop, 36% indicated they learned 5-9 new things and the remaining 14% felt they learned over 10 new things that could be applied to their respective operations. Participants preferred methods of educational delivery were: classroom lectures, field days, extension publications, online newsletters followed by hard copy newsletters.

Participants of the IPM workshop indicated that the event helped them learn about: “sustainability, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), nematode control, insect pest- diamond back moth (DBM), cover crop efficacy, screen house, slug and snail barrier, copper film effectiveness, control experiments with slugs and snails-very interesting and relevant with rat lung worm issue, insectary plants, farming-agriculture challenging, cover cropping, melon fly and organic production, IPM, beneficial insects, avocado pest, slug and snail prevention, GF-120 ineffectiveness, and disease and pest ID.”

All participants who completed the post survey agreed that the event increased their knowledge and understanding of IPM and tropical agricultural pest.

Photos from various educational events can be found here:


Changes in behavior and action

A common performance indicator used to access program effectiveness in agriculture is the adoption or application of research based technologies. We are mindful in transferring research based technologies that take into account factors such as application, accessibility, profitability, education/training, and socio-economic factors (age, educational background, land tenure, acreage, literacy level, farm size, etc) to heighten application of research based information and advance organizational improvement of the SOAP program. 

Example: Integrated Pest Management-Screen Systems

Pests and diseases remain significant bottlenecks in maintaining the economic viability of the diversified agricultural sector. Local food sustainability is vital as Hawaii remains one of the most geographically isolated locations in the world. Increased food self-sufficiency and security is a priority for a state which relies on 85-90% of imports as its primary food source. However, due to island conditions, pesticide and fertilizer applications must be monitored on a regular basis to minimize runoff, leaching of nutrients, ground water contamination and new pest resistance issues.

Producers have been experiencing crop losses managing pests in organic production systems as our agricultural lands do not undergo wintering periods to naturally suppress and/or eradicate pest population levels. Weekly application of OMRI-approved products has not proven to be highly effective in managing the diversity of pests on an ongoing basis largely due to pathogen resistance, higher levels of pest resistance to crop protection chemicals, specialty crop status, etc. which intensifies the pest management struggles for the local producer.

During this reporting period, educational events such as IPM workshops and field days have been organized to demonstrate to producers, university administrators and policy makers the benefits of sustainable and organic pest management systems.  

The SOAP program has partnered with USDA NRCS to offer financial assistance for commercial grade, high tunnels through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) Program. Replicated and observational field trials conducted at CTAHR have shown that screen systems provide excellent control of agricultural pest such as birds, fruit flies, Chinese rose beetles, and Lepidoptera (worm type) pests. Field trials have demonstrated the benefits of using resistant varieties in screen systems to manage small insect vectors that transmit plant viruses. 

In 2016, USDA NRCS removed the 6-mil plastic high tunnel covering requirement and allowed the use of screen material to be used in tropical areas. Workshops have been conducted across the state about integrated pest management which includes screen based systems in combination with USDA NRCS high tunnel programs. The increased availability of this screen technology in the islands has been a benefit for organic producers who have had a difficult time managing resistant pest such as diamond back moth and fruit flies.

According to USDA NRCS, forty-two (42) high tunnel units were granted funding under the USDA cost share program in Hawaii since 2013 (USDA NRCS, 2017 personal communication). The SOAP program has also noticed an increase in the number of producers that are evaluating, adopting, modifying and installing their own do it yourself (DIY) screen units as part of their respective IPM programs. Screened units serve as a non-chemical, physical barrier to many agricultural pests in Hawaii.

Photos from various educational events can be found here:





Example: Disease Management- Adoption of a Bacterial Wilt (BW) Free Planting Method

Bacteria wilt (soil and water borne pathogen, Ralstonia solanacearum race 4) is an economically important disease of edible ginger in Hawaii (Nelson, 2003). Once the bacteria have infected fields, it is tremendously difficult to produce edible ginger in soil based systems commercially. With funding from WSARE Enhanced State Program Grant funding, a two-part ‘Multiplying Bacteria Wilt Free Ginger in Pots’ workshop series was conducted in Hilo, Hawaii. Participants learned how to harvest ginger from pots, test ginger tissue for bacterial wilt using AgDiaImmunostrips®, how to properly cut, cure, and store seed pieces in preparation for planting. At planting, participants learned how to cover bacteria wilt free seed pieces, apply amendments & slow release fertilizers, and employ cultural practices to avoid future disease contamination. This new method of ginger production can produce 10 pounds of commercially viable edible ginger in 9 months in a 7-gallon container (White, et al., 2013).

Farmers have adopted this new method of production and can maintain market share after the onset of bacteria wilt disease. 

Photos from various educational events can be found here:

Face of SARE

Face of SARE:

Promotion of SARE is conducted via educational workshops, field days and our various online mass communication channels such as social media, our website and Hanai'ai, our quarterly newsletter of the Sustainable and Organic Agriculture Program. We publish four issues of our quarterly newsletter, Hānai‘Ai, The Food Provider, annually. 

Hānai‘Ai: SOAP Statewide Newsletter:

1,500 Farmers received information about SARE grant programs and information resources
2,000 Ag professionals received information about SARE grant programs and information resources

Information Products

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.