AG 294 (Agricultural Waste Management: Composting and Vermicomposting) is designed as a co-curricular organization to take lead on a pilot waste management program at the UH Hilo campus.

By Alexis Stubbs, Sophomore, Tropical Horticulture.

Students with shovels and pitch forks turning large compost pile.
Students in Ag294, Agricultural Waste Management: Composting and Vermicomposting, tend a compost pile. Photos courtesy Norman Arancon, click to enlarge.

For a solution to be truly sustainable, it must have a positive return to environment and society. This semester, Norman Arancon, associate professor of horticulture, has introduced a course that is structured and provided opportunity to do just that. Prof. Arancon has designed his course, AG 294 (Agricultural Waste Management: Composting and Vermicomposting) as a co-curricular organization, to take lead on a pilot waste management program on our University of Hawai‘i at Hilo campus.

“Bruce has unrivaled knowledge of this college, its mission and its potential.” — Chancellor Don Straney.

Bruce Mathews
Bruce Mathews

Bruce Mathews has been appointed permanent dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management. He previously served as acting dean from January to July 2012, then interim dean.

A 1986 graduate of UH Hilo, Mathews joined the university in 1993 as a temporary assistant professor of soils and agronomy and became a tenure-track assistant professor two years later. His areas of research include plant nutrient cycling and soil fertility as affected by environmental conditions and crop management, assessment of the impact of agricultural and forestry production practices on soil, coastal wetlands, and surface waters, and the development of environmentally sound and economically viable nutrient management practices for pastures, forests and field crops in the tropics (learn more about his research).

Mathews received an master of arts in agronomy from Louisiana State University and a doctor of philosophy in agronomy and soils from the University of Florida.

“As a graduate, faculty member and most recently interim dean, Bruce has unrivaled knowledge of this college, its mission and its potential,” says Straney. “I can think of no one else who better understands our responsibility to the community and the entire state of Hawaiʻi than Bruce Mathews.”


Professor Lu presented academic reports at three universities and visited goat and sheep breeding farms and industrial technology demonstration bases.

Christopher Lu standing with colleague in sheep facility.
Christopher Lu (left) visits facility in China.
Professor Lu standing, speaking to large class of students on tiered seating.
Professor Lu addresses class during his trip to China.

Christopher Lu, professor of animal science at the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, presented academic reports to the faculty and graduate students at three universities in China in May-June 2014. The trip was at the invitation of Sichuan Agricultural University, Hebei Agricultural University, and Anhui Agricultural University.

Lu also visited goat and sheep breeding farms and industrial technology demonstration bases, part of comprehensive test stations sponsored by ministries in China.

The first session will explore the concepts and practices of agroforestry that are most appropriate for farms and ranches here on Hawai‘i Island.

Zach Mermel
Zach Mermel

INSTRUCTOR:  Zach Mermel of OLA Design Group

COURSE LENGTH: 6-hour sessions, over a series of five Saturdays (30 hours total)

LOCATION: College of Agriculture Building, Room 102, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, the adjacent UH Hilo greenhouse, and various agroforestry sites in East Hawai‘i

Session 1: Overview of Agroforestry Practices for Hawaii’s Farmers (March 14th).
In this introductory session, we’ll explore the concepts and practices of agroforestry that are most appropriate for farms and ranches here on Hawai‘i Island.

Over 60 varieties of dry land kalo have been cultivated by farmers on the Big Island.

By Rory Akau.

TaroWhile kalo (taro; Colocasia esculenta) is a common staple crop found throughout the South Pacific, Hawaiians were the only Pacific Islanders to produce pa‘i‘ai, or poi, from the kalo corm. Rather than spoil, poi ferments and was sometimes stashed alongside trails for hungry travelers.

To make poi traditionally, steamed or boiled taro corms are pounded between papa ku‘ i‘ai (wood board) and ku‘ i‘ai pohaku (poi pounder) with a small amount of water until the mixture forms a thick paste. This pulverizing action removes most of the air from the starch to extend shelf life.

There are over 4,000 species of aphids and they often travel by wind or as a stow away on other plants and animals.

By Malaika Ross.

A cluster of dark aphids on a green leaf.
Aphids. Photo by Tricia Hogbin.

While working with my Sustainable Agriculture team on our garden plot, we encountered small black insects, which clustered on the leaves of the garden’s citrus plant. With a little investigative work we learned our citrus tree was experiencing an aphid (Aphidoidea) infestation. Since no one in the group had encountered aphids outside of our weekly gardening sessions, we were hoping aphids would be benign, but we quickly learned aphids cause substantial damage to plants.

The baseline data this project will generate will be useful for decision makers and farmers as the state moves agriculture forward.

Aerial map of North Kohala with an overlay of graphics showing various farm crops color coded by commodity.
North Kohala Crop Land Summary from the Hawai‘i County Food Self-Sufficiency Baseline Study 2012. HDOA and UH Hilo are now surveying all agricultural lands throughout the state. Click to enlarge.
Jeff Melrose
Jeff Melrose

The Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture (HDOA) is collaborating with the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo on a statewide agricultural survey to provide a digital depiction of the 2015 agricultural footprint of the state. The project will include mapping current agricultural activity statewide, as well as water systems and irrigation options available to farmers and ranchers.

“The product is intended as a baseline depiction of our current agricultural use and will help to measure progress in the expansion of all agriculture, and particularly local food production, across the state,” says Jeff Melrose, a land planner and longtime agricultural land manager who is serving at HDOA as project manager of the survey.

UH Hilo is the only campus of the 10-campus UH System that serves 65 percent locally produced food.

By Kara Nelson, Senior, English, Communication.

Reid Kusano and Bridget Awong
(l-r) Reid Kusano, who does catering and retail for UH Hilo Dining Services, and Bridget Awong, general manager. Kusano is holding a tray of local greens, and Awong local sweet potato. Courtesy photo.

If farm-fresh vegetables with locally grass-fed beef or fresh-caught fish is your idea of the perfect meal, then the Dining Services at University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is where you’ll want to eat. Each day, 65 percent of the food served is from local sources, increasing five percent since 2012. Once a month, the daily menu is 100 percent locally grown food.

This is the result of “Local First,” a program started in 2006 by Bridget Awong, general manager of Sodexo Dining Services at UH Hilo. Awong is a down-to-earth local foodie and chef who is passionate about helping local farmers while providing quality food and services to the UH Hilo community.

At the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management at UH Hilo, we are concerned with food production and sustainability, and we value and promote all effective agricultural systems.

By Michael Shintaku, Professor of Plant Pathology.

Michael Shintaku
Michael Shintaku

We have some very serious plant disease problems in Hawai‘i, and plant disease issues keep farmers and conservationists awake at night, as disease-causing pathogens too often take everything away.

A good example of technology used for plant disease management is right in our own back yard. Papaya ringspot virus (PRSV) arrived in Puna in 1992 and rapidly spread through Puna and Kea‘au, killing every papaya tree it infected. The industry and almost every backyard papaya tree would be long gone if not for the transgenic solution provided by Dr. Dennis Gonsalves’s research team, who developed transgenic papaya plants (now widely planted) with PRSV resistance.