Sustainable Agriculture at Upper Kunia Farm

For more than 45 years, Monsanto Hawaii has continued to demonstrate its commitment to making agriculture more productive while promoting sustainability. Since first leasing the Upper Kunia farm in 2009, Monsanto Hawaii has been actively pursuing the goal of increased yields while using fewer resources, including land, water and fossil fuels. Monsanto Hawaii continues to improve on-farm practices and methods to better manage pests and environmental stresses and has resulted in noteworthy reductions in water, diesel fuel and pesticide use.

Water Conservation

Water is one of the world’s most critical resources for sustaining life. In many areas of the world, fresh water is becoming increasingly scarce due to its high demand and the impacts of climate change. Since it is a necessity in agriculture, Monsanto has made a commitment to use water as efficiently as possible. Monsanto uses drip irrigation, which delivers water directly to the plant root zone and reduces the amount of fertilizer and water needed to produce the crop. This method saves water and uses less nitrogen. The Upper Kunia farm also reuses drip irrigation parts, such as oval hose connectors and recycles all plastic drip tape. Through automation of irrigation systems and research and experimentation on water schedule optimization, the amount of irrigation water used on the fields has been reduced by approximately 20%.

Fossil Fuels, Carbon Emissions and Crop Pest Control

In addition to water conservation on the farm, Upper Kunia has also reduced its diesel fuel and pesticide use. Diesel fuel use has been reduced significantly in farm operations by purchasing the most fuel-efficient equipment available, including tractors, planters and trucks. Using reduced tillage methods, like strip till or no till, also reduces the number of “passes” made through the field to raise the crop, effectively reducing the amount of fuel used. With a
wide variety of methods to protect crops, Monsanto Hawaii has been able to reduce their use of pesticides by adopting a comprehensive integrated pest management plan that  includes tools such as the promotion of beneficial insects, frequent field inspections to identify pests before they overwhelm the crops as well as the use of sticky traps for catch flying insects. On average, Monsanto Hawaii uses less than one pound of Restricted Use Pesticide (RUP) active ingredient per acre, per year. That can equate to less than a 16 oz. bottle of water across a football field, over 12 months. Monsanto also voluntarily provides a list of their RUP usage, statewide, available here. Pesticides are used as a last resort. Monsanto Hawaii utilizes some of the most advanced precision application equipment available to ensure they are using only what is needed.

Reuse, Recycle and Compost

Recycling, reusing and composting are three easy ways to reduce unnecessary waste. Monsanto Hawaii’s Upper Kunia farm reuses drip irrigation parts, such as oval hose connectors and recycles all plastic drip tape. These waste diversion methods result in significant reductions in materials going to the landfill, including about 18,000 pounds of drip hose connectors and over 230,000 pounds of plastic drip tape since late 2014.

Composting is another great way to dispose of certain types of waste without sending it to landfills. After a corn harvest, Monsanto Hawaii takes advantage of the nutrients in the corn residue by leaving the leaves and stalks behind on the field to enrich the soil.

Biodiversity

Monsanto currently utilizes various methods to promote soil health and increase biodiversity.

Cover crops on the farm create pollinator gardens that attract beneficial insects. These flowering plants include Sunflower (Helianthus annuus), Blue flax (Linum perenne), California bluebells (Phacelia campanularia) and California poppy (Eschscholzia californica). Through Monsanto’s monarch butterfly program, crown flower (Calotropis gigantea) plants have been added in an effort to increase the butterfly’s milkweed habitat and provide a safe haven for the butterflies.

Upper Kunia also has a native plant nursery onsite, and native trees and shrubs are planted to reforest areas surrounding the fields as a way to reduce runoff, provide windbreaks and create a habitat for native wildlife.

To maintain healthy soil and increase soil organic matter, cover crops are planted between corn harvests to help suppress weeds, keep the soil healthy, and reduce insects and diseases that could affect future crops. Also, strips of grassy land between fields of crops called berms have been planted on Upper Kunia fields to help control soil erosion and water runoff. These strips also provide habitats for beneficial insects and pollinators like honey bees, ladybugs, minute pirate bugs and monarch butterflies to flourish.

Collaboration

Monsanto Hawaii collaborates with many organizations to advance their goal of promoting sustainable agriculture. Monsanto Hawaii worked with the National Resource Conservation Service to develop an award-winning conservation plan for the Kunia Farm.

Thanks to an extensive collaborative effort between Monsanto Hawaii, Island Palms Communities and the Hawaiian Agricultural Foundation, the Hawaii Agricultural Foundation Ag Park at Kunia on Oahu is helping local farmers succeed.  The park encompasses three separate areas of land totaling approximately 220 acres, and is designed to benefit small local farms. Established in July 2011, it is the first agricultural park in Hawaii to be established through a private-public partnership of this kind.

“Monsanto has gone above and beyond in clearing and preparing the land for our farmers. They even helped repair a broken irrigation system for one of the plots, and are always available in the field. It has been a great partnership.”

- Lisa Zeman, Hawaii Agricultural Foundation, Ag Park Manager

To learn more about Monsanto Hawaii’s commitment to promoting biodiversity, please visit www.monsantohawaii.srb.