The Farm as Habitat: Environmental Topics

Toward Sustainable Agriculture graphic

Hawaii's Unique Natural Resources

Located 2500 miles away from the nearest continental landmass, the islands of Hawaii are some of the most remote on earth. As a result, 97% of our native species are found here and nowhere else. Visit the websites below to learn a bit about how truly unique our island homes are.

Streams

Hawaiian Streams (Hawaii Dept. of Aquatic Resources)

Wildlife

Hawaiian Endangered Species (USF&W Pacific Islands)

US Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species Program Homepage

Coral Reefs

Hawaii Coral Reef Initiative

NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program: Status of the Coral Reef in the Hawaiian Archipelago


Soil

The soil resource is one of the farm’s most valuable assets. The websites below will help you identify your farm’s soils and to understand how to manage them for long term crop productivity with excellent water quality.

Identify your soil

USDA NRCS Hawaii Soil Survey: The “Hawaii Soils” site features on-line maps and descriptions of the soils found in the Hawaiian Islands.

Soil Central: CTAHR webpage with info on soils of Hawaii, soil fertility and chemistry information, soil testing, and other useful links.

Fertility and Soil Quality

Soil Quality Information Sheets: Introductory materials about the following soil topics: soil quality introduction, erosion, sediment deposition on cropland, compaction, salinization, soil biodiversity, available water capacity, pesticides, hydrophobicity, indicators for soil quality evaluation, pastureland soil quality, etc.

NRCS Soil Quality Institute Soil Biology Primer is an introduction to the living component of soil and how it contributes to agricultural productivity, and air and water quality. The Primer includes units describing the soil food web and its relationship to soil health, and units about bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods, and earthworms.

ATTRA Soils and Compost: A list of downloadable publications on how to assess, improve and maintain soil health for both croplands and pastures. Several publications address fertilization and composting specifically for organic production.

Plant Nutrient Management in Hawaii's Soils. This CTAHR on-line publication contains practical research information on soils, fertilizers, and crop nutrient needs, written for the lay reader for Hawaii’s crops and soil conditions. Also available in hardcopy ($14).

Building Soils for Better Crops from Sustainable Agriculture Publications ($19.95, ordering information). Practical introductory book on managing soils for crop production to reduce disease, increase fertility and keep high levels of production. Topics covered include: increasing soil organic matter, using appropriate tillage, incorporating animal manures, making and using composts, integrating cover crops into rotations, reducing erosion, and methods to avoid and decrease soil compaction. Available on-line as downloadable .pdf file.

Soil Testing

CTAHR: Testing Your Soil: Why and How to Take a Soil-Test Sample: Adobe Acrobat PDF fact sheet about soil sampling methods (4 pages).

Agricultural Diagnostic Service Center: CTAHR’s ADSC lab conducts plant disease analyses, feed and forage analyses, insect identification analyses, chemical analyses of soils, chemical analyses of plant tissue, and chemical analyses of water and nutrient solutions.

Soil Erosion

Erosion from farmland impairs water quality and farmers can be fined. Plan to prevent erosion you’re your property. These websites can help you manage your land resource to keep your valuable topsoil on-site. Land clearing is regulated by local grading ordinances. Before clearing land, be sure you learn about your restrictions.

Ali Fares, Use of Filter Strips for Improved Surface Water Quality. Sunnhemp and common oats planted as vegetative filters can effectively reduce sediment and nutrient loads coming from idle and fallow fields in Hawai‘i.

USDA NRCS Hawaii Electronic Field Office Technical Guide (eFOTG): Technical guides are the primary scientific references for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Examine Section IV of the eFOTG Conservation Measures to understand how NRCS staff assists farmers with controlling erosion on the land they farm. Contact your local USDA NRCS Field Office for technical assistance and cost-share funding for erosion control.

Conservation Tillage, ATTRA fact sheet.


Water

Land use changes have caused extensive damage to water quality nationwide. Agriculture has been a source of sedimentation that damages our coral reefs, nutrient pollution which causes excessive algae blooms, pesticide and herbicide pollution in our groundwater. We can learn from these past mistakes. In addition, funding is often available to assist landowners and leasees to protect our water resources.

Water Quality

State of Hawaii Regional Water Quality Program contains information about water quality issues relating to animal waste management, nutrient and pesticide management, water conservation and agricultural water management, drinking water and human health, watershed management, pollution assessment and prevention, and environmental restoration.

Water Quality on the Island of Oahu (USGS report) 1999-2001.

Stream Protection

ATTRA: Protecting Riparian Areas: Farmland Management Strategies. This publication is designed to help farmers, watershed managers, and environmentalists understand what healthy riparian areas look like, how they operate, and why they are important for the environment and society.

Hawaii Pollution Prevention Information (HAPPI) Farm Series. Free downloadable fact sheets prepared by CTAHR about minimizing pollution from farming.

Drought Resistant Soils, ATTRA fact sheet.

Protecting Water Quality on Organic Farms, ATTRA fact sheet.

Stream Corridor Restoration: Principles, Processes and Practices by the Federal Interagency Stream Corridor Restoration Working Group. Large and very comprehensive downloadable manual on stream restoration.

Groundwater Protection

Pesticides and Groundwater in Hawaii (CTAHR Pesticide Risk Reduction Education webpage)


Wetlands

Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) is a cost sharing program to help landowners and leasees restore, enhance or create wetlands on agricultural lands. WRP in Hawaii gives current information on how the program is being applied in Hawaii. Contact your local USDA NRCS Field Office for technical assistance and more information on cost-share funding.


Livestock Management

Manure management can be a major headache for livestock producers! Water quality citations and fines from improper storage and spreading can be completely avoided with good management. Partner with other landowners to use manure and compost to improve soil quality (see soils section above). Refer to the animal production webpage for more information about rotational grazing, manure management, and composting.

ATTRA: Protecting Riparian Areas: Farmland Management Strategies.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) helps fund projects that install conservation measures (manure pads, etc.) on agricultural lands to address animal waste. Contact your local USDA NRCS Field Office for technical assistance and more information on cost-share funding.


Endangered Species and Wildlife Protection

Hawaii has the dubious distinction of having the highest number of threatened and endangered species in the nation. Our islands are small and the influence of man’s land uses so great that currently 312 plants and animals are considered to be threatened or endangered. Often farmers can manage land to enhance habitat for these plants and animals.

The Farm as Habitat, Towards Sustainable Agriculture

Native Wildlife Habitat and Farming: Yes, They are Compatible (article in Hanai'Ai by Dr. Gregory Koob, USDA NRCS)

Nene Habitat Enhancement Management (NRCS Biology Technical Note – No. 16)

Practices to Enhance Native Wildlife Habitat on Wetland Taro Farms (NRCS Biology Technical Note No. 21)

Bats of the U.S. Pacific Islands (NRCS Biology Technical Note No. 20)

Hawaiian Hawk Habitat Enhancement Management (NRCS Biology Technical Note No. 17)

Download for USDA NRCS Biology Tech Notes
ftp://ftp-fc.sc.egov.usda.gov/HI/pub/technotes/biology/

US Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Islands Ecological Services has additional information on local species, with photographs and descriptions. The Conservation Partnership program provides funding for improving habitat for these species.

The Hawaii Landowner Incentive Program provides funding and technical assistance to enhance, protect, or restore habitats that benefit federally listed, proposed, or candidate species, or other at-risk species on private lands. Private landowners, individually or as a group, are encouraged to submit project proposals for their properties.

Search the US Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species Program Homepage to get the most current listing of endangered plants and animals for Hawaii.

Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) is a federal cost-share program (operated through the USDA NRCS) to assist landowners and leasees up to 75% of the cost of the conservation practices. Contact your local USDA NRCS Field Office for technical assistance and cost-share funding.


Invasive Species * Invasive and Noxious Weeds

With the best intentions, agriculture, forestry and most recently the horticulture and landscaping industries have introduced plants and animals to the Pacific Islands which over time proved to seriously out compete native species. Fortunately, farmers can now check to see if a plant that they grow will cause long-term damage to our island’s ecosystem.

Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture Pest Advisories

Hawaii’s Most Invasive Horticultural Plants (Hawaii DLNR)

The Hawaii Ecosystems at Risk web site describes the threat that alien invasive plant and animal species constitute to Hawaii's native biota. The site contains descriptions of individual species, maps of their ranges, and outlines current programs to combat them. Check your planting lists with this site

Hawaii Alien Plant studies website has information about pest plants of Hawaiian native ecosystems, most of which were introduced for agriculture or ornamental uses.

Weed Risk Assessments for Hawaii and Pacific Islands, a tool for screening out invasive pest plants (prepared by Curt Daehler and Julie Denslow ) is available on-line. It features a searchable database to check if a plant species may pose a threat.

Weeds of Hawai'i's Pastures and Natural Areas (order form): An identification and management guide ($20, ordering information). Invasive, alien plants are “uninvited guests” in most of Hawaii’s ecosystems. Native forests are invaded, and their precious native plant species are choked out. Extensive areas of pasture land have been colonized by plants that cannot be grazed. Weeds can be a fire hazard, and they can be painful impediments to access to natural areas. This book describes over 150 plants that are considered weeds in Hawai’i in most circumstances.


Biotechnology (GMOs)

At this point in time, opinions differ on whether biotechnology represents an environmental benefit or a threat. The websites below represent multiple points of view.

CTAHR Biotechnology and Agriculture Education Program

GMO Free Hawaii


Funding Sources for Conservation

USDA NRCS Financial Assistance Programs: General overview of conservation, farm/ranch, forestry, grassland and environmental programs offereded by the USDA NRCS.

Conservation Security Program (CSP) (operated through the USDA NRCS) is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to promote the conservation and improvement of soil, water, air, energy, plant and animal life, and other conservation purposes.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) (operated through the USDA NRCS) helps fund projects that install conservation measures on agricultural lands to address animal waste, sedimentation, noxious weeds, insufficient water supply for crops or livestock, excess surface runoff, pesticide or nutrient contamination of ground or surface waters, or at-risk species habitat.

Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) is a federal cost-share program (operated through the USDA NRCS) to assist landowners and leasees up to 75% of the cost of the conservation practices. Contact your local USDA NRCS Field Office for technical assistance and cost-share funding.

Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) is a cost sharing program to help landowners and leasees restore, enhance or create wetlands on agricultural lands. WRP in Hawaii gives current information on how the program is being applied in Hawaii. Contact your local USDA NRCS Field Office for technical assistance and more information on cost-share funding.


Natural Resource Inventories

Hawaii Electronic Field Office Technical Guide (eFOTG): Technical guides are the primary scientific references for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). They contain technical information about the conservation of soil, water, air, and related plant and animal resources. Hawaii USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services is the main website for Hawaii NRCS. To locate eFOTG for other sections of the country and American Pacific: eFOTG Country Locator.

National NRCS Technical Resources: National website with resources and links for the following topic areas: agronomy, wind and water erosion, air quality, conservation practices, cultural resources, ecological sciences, economics resources, eFOTG, engineering tools and resources, forestry and agroforestry, invasive species, maps, imagery and data resources, natural resource data and analysis, nutrient management, pest management, plants, range and pasture, soils, streams, water resources, wildlife biology.

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These webpages were originally generated under a grant program from Western SARE entitled "New Farmers: Choosing the Road Less Traveled" EW03-002 (2004-2006). Toward Sustainable Agriculture (downloadable .pdf)