Growing Table Grape Varieties for Subtropical Hawaii Using Organic Practices

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2021: $25,000.00
Projected End Date: 04/01/2023
Host Institution Award ID: G324-21-W8613
Grant Recipient: Kawanui Farm
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Gerry Herbert
Kawanui Farm

Information Products


  • Fruits: grapes


  • Crop Production: varieties and cultivars
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture

    Proposal summary:

    Although there have been many past attempts to grow table grapes in Hawaii, locally grown grapes are not commonly available for sale, nor are plants or the grower information necessary for growing grapes in the subtropics. There is great potential to find varieties that can be successfully grown by market growers and home producers adding a new nutritional food for Hawaii’s people, creating new growing information and a repository for grape scions, and developing an import substitution that will help diversify Hawaii’s agricultural base.

    Question:  Can this project find the right grape varieties that will successfully grow and thrive in the subtropics consistently producing delicious table grapes using organic practices? 

    Using a unique research model, that includes extensive investigation into the work of T.V. Munson, Joseph L. Fennel, Lon Rombough, and Francisco Wallington-Linares, the project will choose 35 varieties available on the USDA GRIN Grape Repository at UC Davis that were successfully bred in semi-tropical and subtropical regions, have wild grape genetics in their parent lines and have proven potential in Southern Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.  Using that information, and building upon the work of Ken Love and “Grapes for Tropical Hawaii,” this project will vet these varieties at Kawanui Farm in Kona, Hawaii.

    The project will create a stakeholder group, blog updates, two virtual or in-person on-farm field days, a booklet “Growing Table Grapes in Subtropical Hawaii Using Organic Methods,” videos of presentations, and a repository for successful varieties making them available to stakeholders yearly. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    RESEARCH Objectives:

    Project site:  Kawanui Farm is located at the 1,450 foot elevation on the western side of the Hualalai Volcano in the Kona District of Hawaii Island. The soil composition is rich basalt volcanic ash and the average rainfall is 42 inches but we have measured a low of 23 inches in 2003 and high of 123 inches in 2004.  2020 is looking like rainfall totals will be more than 100 inches. The farm faces southwest and the land is gently sloping. The vineyards use the modified Geneva Curtain style of grape trellis that has been sustainably built using old growth redwood from recycled water tanks. To my knowledge we are the first modern age people to live on this land, so the soils have always been used organically. 

    Objective One:  Observe and record information for each of the thirty five grape varieties that have been added to the four vineyards.  (Observation Criteria in" Other Documents")

    Objective Two:  Research, observe, and document how best to prune and train each grape variety at the right time, with the right technique, the right amount of pruning, and create a dormancy period.

    Objective Three:  Experiment with, observe, and document sustainable organic growing methods that will achieve optimum growth, plant health, and eventually excellent taste. No outside inputs will be used, instead on-farm nutrients will be recycled creating compost and mulching systems.

    Objective Four:  Observe and record the effects of climate change on the grape varieties chosen for the vineyards. 

    Objective Five:  Taste and record the flavor profile of every grape variety.  Grapes produced in these systems must have excellent taste.


    Educational Objectives: 

    Objective One: Identify group of potential stakeholders statewide interested in learning to grow grapes.

    Objective Two: Communicate ongoing research and educational information to stakeholder group that was identified in Objective One, in a short readable blog every four months for two years.  ( 6 blogs over 2 years)

    Objective Three: Host an on-farm or virtual Demonstration/Workshop for stakeholders in August 2021.

    Objective Four:  Host a second on-farm or virtual Demonstration/Workshop for stakeholders August 2022.

    Objective Five: Write, publish, and mail 50 page booklet “Growing Table Grapes in Subtropical Hawaii Using Organic Practices." Downloadable copy available on Kawanui Farm website.  

    Objective Six: Create a grape repository of successful varieties for Hawaii's growers. 


    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.