Assessing and Sharing Breadfruit Management Practices

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2017: $220,811.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2020
Grant Recipient: University of Hawai'i at Manoa
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Noa Lincoln
University of Hawaii at Manoa


  • Fruits: Breadfruit


  • Crop Production: agroforestry, application rate management, cropping systems, fertilizers, no-till, nutrient cycling, nutrient management, tissue analysis
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, dryland farming, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis


    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.

    Project objectives:

    • 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.

    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.