Despite breadfruit’s array of potential ecological, social and economic benefits, realization of those benefits relates in large part to how the crop is grown. Hawai‘i’s long history with breadfruit is founded on a body of unique local knowledge, where most cultivation has traditionally taken place in diversified agroforestry settings.
Overall, a spectrum of production practices currently exists in Hawai‘i, with some producers pursuing industrial agriculture models (with no companion plantings, high application of pesticides to control weeds, and high levels of fertilizer and irrigation), others taking a more holistic stewardship approach that is largely informed by traditional cultivation methods (diversified agroforestry integrating many other plants into the system with little to no outside inputs), and still others taking various middle ground approaches (for instance, plantation-style orchards incorporating organic methods or some degree of co-cropping – typically in the form of perennial cover crops). Because the modern breadfruit industry in Hawai‘i is just emerging, there is a large degree of uncertainty among growers about best production practices and, consequently, a window of opportunity to influence management approaches and outcomes. We have identified over 2,500 trees established in commercial farms in Hawai‘i within the last 5 years alone, potentially equating to upwards of 1 million pounds of fruit per year becoming available within the next few years. Despite the rapidly growing industry, there has been very little on-the-ground research exploring best practices, environmental and economic impacts, phenology, and yields associated with breadfruit grown in different microclimates in Hawai‘i. Even the most simple questions regarding breadfruit production, such as average annual nutrient requirements or ideal foliar nutrient profiles, are non-existent.
We propose a long-term project in collaboration with local breadfruit producers to fill these knowledge gaps and create a network of information sharing that will allow for best practices that are economically viable, environmentally sound and socially responsible to quickly become adopted throughout the fledgling industry. Particularly because breadfruit varieties have traditionally been selected by traditional farmers to operate within agroforestry and not monoculture systems, we expect the more diversified practices to show increased yields and better fruit quality, as well as lower production costs and higher environmental services. A key goal of the proposed project is to connect producers and producer groups, particularly those utilizing different methods, to foster knowledge sharing and facilitate the implementation of sustainable practices. By creating opportunities to disseminate research-based information and enhance communication among farmers, Hawai‘i’s breadfruit industry can avoid the pitfalls of conventional agriculture and embrace sustainable approaches to help increase Hawai‘i’s food security, enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base, maximize efficient use of resources, sustain the economic viability of breadfruit farmers, and enhance quality of life for Hawai‘i communities as a whole.
- To document soil and tree health, and fruit quality.
Start date: August, 2017
Completion date: January, 2020
A baseline assessment of soil health and fertility, tree nutrition, and fruit quality will be conducted for 20 breadfruit producers on four islands (Kauai, O‘ahu, Maui, and Hawai‘i) in year 1, with ongoing monitoring of these parameters conducted in year 3. This will contribute to developing an ideal nutrient profile for breadfruit trees (Objective 4) and to understanding best practices in breadfruit management (Objective 5).
- To document managerial practices currently used for breadfruit production in Hawai‘i.
Start date: August, 2017
Completion date: September, 2018
For each of the sites studied above, a baseline assessment of management practices will be conducted in year 1, with shorter follow up assessments conducted in year 3 to collect updated information as needed (i.e. only if on-farm practices change significantly). Basic practices such as fertilizer and irrigation regimes, cover or co-cropping, etc. will be covered. This will contribute to understanding how farmers assess tree health (Objective 4) and understanding best practices in breadfruit management (Objective 5).
- To catalogue variation in phenology across the diverse climates of Hawai‘i through “citizen science” monitoring and reporting.
Start date: August, 2017
Completion date: March, 2020
Breadfruit phenology has been observed to be highly variable, with small changes in climate resulting in large shifts in the timing of fruiting and flowering. Extensive work has been conducted examining phenology of multiple varieties within a single environment (Jones et al., 2010), however no studies have examined how the phenology of individual varieties shifts across climates. We aim to use Hawai‘i’s diverse climate and soils as a natural experiment to document variations in breadfruit phenology for the two most prevalent breadfruit varieties in the state – the Hawaiian ‘ulu and ma‘afala.
- To utilize data on yield, fruit quality, and foliar nutrients in conjunction with farmer observation methods for tree health, to develop a simple tree assessment toolkit.
Start date: January 2019
End date: June 2020
Most established crops have known nutrient profiles and simple, standardized assessments to assess the crop health. These do not exist for breadfruit. Using results from Objectives 1 and 2, we will develop simple assessment tools to create simple assessments for breadfruit tree health. One assessment will be developing an ideal nutrient profile of a new canopy leaf, so that farmers can cheaply assess nutrient deficiencies or imbalances by sending a lead sample to our local agricultural diagnostics center. A second, visual assessment, which will be correlated to the nutrient-based assessment, will be developed that farmers can use for free.
- Identify best practices and disseminate production recommendations through education and outreach that simultaneously fosters and facilitates knowledge sharing among producers, producer groups and other industry stakeholders.
Start date: July, 2019
Completion date: June, 2020
Information gathered through previous objectives will be synthesized into comprehensive guide for breadfruit producers, consisting of suggested “best practices” regarding breadfruit production. Information will be disseminated through several outreach and educational efforts, extension publications, and through direct dissemination to key organizations.
That preliminary understanding of breadfruit nutrient requirements and best-practices can be understood by analyzing current growers’ practices, soils, trees, and fruit
- . Baseline analysis will be conducted in year one, with a follow up analyses in years 2-3 to examine trajectory. Sampling of the farms will be conducted in August, which is generally the peak fruiting season and also a generally low rainfall month for most locations in the state. Analysis of samples will be conducted in subsequent months, with the final analyses completed no later than January following the collection. Soils will be assessed using composite samples to 30cm depth. Soils will be described by texture, color, and NRCS classification; parameters to be quantified are pH, total carbon, total and inorganic nitrogen, exchangeable and total cations, and phosphorus pools (plant available, occluded, non-occluded, organic). Tree nutrition will be assessed using composite samples of newly emerged canopy leaves; foliar measurement of coloration, chlorophyll, water content, and elemental concentrations of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and sodium. A visual analysis of tree health will also be conducted through detailed color analysis, growth pattern, and leaf density. Fruit quality will be assessed in green, ripe, and mature fruits using composite samples, and will be assessed for moisture content, pH, sugar content (glucose, fructose, and sucrose), vitamin C, dietary fiber, total fat, total protein, amino acid profile, vitamin A, vitamin D, total starch, and elemental concentration of potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium. All analyses will be conducted using standard practices as described by the NRCS Soil Survey Laboratory Methods Manual, and the Soil and Plant Analysis Council Handbook of Reference Methods for Plant Analysis. Soil and plant analyses will be conducted by Dr. Noa Lincoln at UH Mānoa, and fruit quality will be conducted by Dr. Alvin Jha at UH Mānoa with amino acid profile conducted by FQ Labs (http://fqlab.com). Graduate students will contribute to the laboratory analyses of Dr. Lincoln and Dr. Jha.
We are currently analyzing soils, leaf samples, and fruit samples.
No results yet
We are utilizing 4 major educational approaches: (1) workshops, (2) on farm consultations and individual reports to farmers, (3) extension and peer reviewed publications, and (4) online platforms/social media for farmer-to-farmer and researcher-to-farmer sharing.
Educational & Outreach Activities
As part of our initial surveys, we conducted on farm consultations with all participating farmers (43). We have conducted two on-farm demonstrations open to participants, one on pruning and one on variety identification, each attended by ~25 participants. We have conducted one tour through the USDA germplasm collection to share about variety differences and access, attended by ~30 participants. We have given ten presentations, one at the Hawaii State Farmers Union United on breadfruit grafting and propagation attended by ~50 participants, two at Hawaii Farmer Union chapters for Waimanalo and Maui on general breadfruit growing practices each attended by ~30 participants, one at the USDA focused on variety identification attended by ~30 participants, five for participation in our statewide phenology study each attended by 5-18 participants, and one at the first annual Lā ‘Ulu Breadfruit Festival on breadfruit varieties and cultivation attended by ~150 people. We have conducted one field day at our Waimanalo breadfruit variety trial attended by ~35 people.
We are currently analyzing results from our farm surveys and trials, conducting a nutrient deficiency trial, and monitoring our statewide variety trials. Each of these is expected to result in both extension and peer reviewed articles. Individual farm reports will be generated for all farmer participants (43).
- VARIETY IDENTIFICATION
- PRUNING MANAGEMENT
Still in its early stages, it is difficult to say how this project will affect future sustainability. It is very clear that our breadfruit growers are very hungry for knowledge, and that there are significant unknowns when it comes to breadfruit production. We anticipate changing farmers fertilization practices to be much closer to optimal, increasing application and yields (and therefore economic viability) for some farmers, while decreasing application (and therefore potential environmental impacts) for others. We also expect to have significant impacts on pruning practices, which again should result in direct economic benefits for growers through reduction of labor and increase in yields. Finally, we are confident that this project, overall, will greatly increase the growth of the breadfruit industry in Hawai‘i, which will increase the environmental, cultural, and social (e.g. food security and local foods) sustainability of the Islands.
While not directly funded by this project, the relationships built with breadfruit growers through this project has helped to catalyze the Hawaii Ulu Producers Cooperative, which now represents some 30 breadfruit growers that collectively process, market, and distribute fruit. Through my involvement with the growers the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture, in collaboration with myself and the Cooperative, funded the buildout of a processing facility to support both research and commercial development of the breadfruit industry.
A direct result from this industry has been a strong organization of the breadfruit products, specifically as it relates to variety. Prior to our work growers tended to think of all breadfruit varieties as generally equivalent, and paid little attention to identification or differences. We have brought significant awareness to the stark differences in the varieties, so that several growers and processor now distinguish their products by variety, which is having a positive impact on the consumer side as they can be more confident in what the product is they are buying.
There is so much more that needs to be done for breadfruit. Its potential is huge and unrealized, and the growers and pursuing the crop and the markets in the face of huge unknowns. This industry should certainly continue to be supported and researched through technical support.