Submitted to: HortScience
Publication Type: Abstract only
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/10/2011
Publication Date: 9/30/2011
Citation: Zee, F.T., Keith, L.M., Hummer, K.E., Reed, B.M., Bassil, N.V., Strauss, A.J., Arakawa, C.N., Foote, T.G., Nakamoto, S., Hamasaki, R., Yamasaki, M., Kawabata, A., Ikawa, A.K., Silva, J., Love, K., Durst, B., Chang, Y. 2011. The pebbles that started the tea and ohelo berry projects in Hawaii [abstract]. HortScience. 46(9):S88. Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: Hawaii farmers face many challenges in production including high cost of operation, limitation of affordable land, infra-structure, energy and human resources. After World War II, success in agricultural research into new crops contributed to the economic development and stability in Hawaii. Some of the crops included pineapple (Ananas comosus), sugar (Saccharum officnarum), macadamia (Macadamia integrifolia), anthurium (Anthurium spp.) and orchids (Dendrobium hybrids). In the past three decades, the high cost of production and marketing in the islands caused a gradual migration of industries to overseas destinations. In 1997, declining sugar industry with closures of plantations in Hamakua and Pahala set off a frantic search for new crops for the available lands. No single crop was identified to replace sugar in scale or value. The reality was that high costs of production will always be challenging Hawaii agricultural industries. During the same period, one crop remained viable, it was the Kona coffee industry. The reason being that Kona coffee is a unique portable product of high quality for a specialized market. Although many countries can produce coffee only Hawaii produces Kona coffee. Tea was introduced to Hawaii in 1887, the high cost of production and marketing severely constrained the development of tea as a commodity crop. In 1997, a novel small scale tea processing method was introduced using the microwave oven; the method encouraged testing and processing of tea by entrepreneurs in their own kitchens. Quality and uniqueness of finished teas are functions of processing, varieties and growing environment and each batch of tea is unique. The artisan approach in tea processing was the little pebble that started the tea interest in Hawaii. The other pebble was ‘Ohelo or ‘Ohelo ai, Vaccinium reticulatum is an endemic Hawaiian relative of the blueberry. People frequently scour the landscape where it is grown, disrupting fragile habitats to harvest its berries for use in jam, jelly and pie filling. The impact to delicate environments might be reduced if ‘ohelo could be cultivated and marketed to meet demands. From 2008-2011, a project was undertaken in Hawaii and Oregon to streamline the propagation, conservation and sustainable utilization of the resource through improving cultivation and making plants available as tissue culture and seeds without additional pressure on wild stands. The project also emphasised extension and outreach to user communities including nursery, culinary and confectionary industries. The team released three ‘ohelo cultivars for ornamental and berry production; we identified environmental effects favourable to growing ‘ohelo, and the host-pathogen relationship, etiology and disease management as a crop. The team published, through extension information on propagation and cultivation; we emphasized long-term conservation, molecular identification and quality component analysis for this potential new crop from Hawaii.