THE UH HONEYBEE PROJECT

Pollinator Friendly Farms

The fragile environmental health of the Hawaiian islands coupled with their immense geographical isolation poses the challenge of how to provide fresh food for the local population while at the same time mitigating the impact of agriculture on their environments and reducing potential health risks associated with pest management.

The UH Honeybee Project is working directly with growers to test the efficacy of alternative crop production methods that help reduce pesticide input into the fields. Through a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we are currently working with local farmers that plant vine crops such as zucchini, kabocha pumpkin and winter melon. These crops are strongly dependent on bee pollination but are also highly susceptible to insect damage and often receive numerous pesticide applications. We are currently testing the use of reflective mulch, a thin foil layer that is placed over the soil. This "mulch" reflects UV light directly to the underside of leaves and significantly reduces the density of aphids and whiteflies. Preliminary trials have shown great promise as a way of reducing pest densities in these crops and significantly increasing the yield per plant. The local growers using the mulch have been able to reduce their synthetic chemical use, thus minimizing risk to the crop pollinators while at the same time increasing their production success.

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