Evaluation of a Perennial Vegetable, Asparagus, as a New Commercial Crop for Hawaiian Farmers

Project Overview

SW96-003
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1996: $49,595.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1999
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $9,973.00
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Susan Schenck
Hawaiian Agriculture Research Center

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Vegetables: asparagus

Practices

  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Production Systems: general crop production

    Abstract:

    [Note to online version: The report for this project includes tables that could not be included here. The regional SARE office will mail a hard copy of the entire report at your request. Just contact Western SARE at (435) 797-2257 or wsare@ext.usu.edu.]

    The following report covers activities for the duration of the SARE project, Evaluation of a Perennial Vegetable, Asparagus, as a New Commercial Crop for Hawaiian Farmers. The project was installed and maintained by the cooperating farmer, Mr. Milton Agader with coordination and assistance of Hawaii Agriculture Research Center Pathologist, Dr. Susan Schenck.

    Asparagus seeds for the project were planted in flats to germinate and then transplanted to the field. The field plots were covered with polyethylene mulch and drip irrigated. Fertilizer was applied through the irrigation system. The ferns were allowed to grow for one year before the first harvest took place on December 15 – 22, 1998. It was a short harvest period with a relatively small yield. The ferns were then allowed to regrow and subsequent harvests occurred at about six month intervals. Four harvests have now been completed and the yield results are attached. The two summer harvests were large, while the winter harvest was smaller. However, the higher prices in winter partially offset the lower yields. It is clear that asparagus is a sustainable crop for Hawaii and that the growing methods are compatable with farming systems of the local growers.

    Since this project was limited in size, it is difficult to assess the actual production costs and eventual profitability. The cooperating farmer has increased his asparagus acreage from the original 1/2 acre to over 4 acres and is preparing to install another 40 acres. He is convinced that the crop will be profitable as soon as he can find competent workers as needed. As a result of the information disseminated to local growers, there are now a number of growers interested in planting asparagus and forming a cooperative marketing agreement. There are also at least three asparagus farms on other Hawaiian islands. It is clear that an expanding local market is available and buyers are learning that they prefer the fresh local asparagus. There are many hotels and restaurants in Honolulu and the supermarkets have also expressed an interest in the local product. The growers are now in need of marketing assistance. They are not yet able to supply large supermarket chains on a continual basis, but this is an eventual goal. For now they are hoping to develop a local market with the restaurants which are known to demand top quality.

    Project objectives:

    1. Establish appropriate irrigation and fertilizer practices.

    2. Determine plant density for viable commercial production in Hawaii.

    3. Provide least toxic management of insect and mite pests, diseases, parasitic nematodes, and weeds.

    4. Determine the cost of production, number of harvests per year, yield per acre, and profitability.

    5. Disseminate the information gathered from the project to growers through field days, publications, and seminars.

    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.