A CTAHR Centennial
UH’s first college continues to meet community needs
An early poultry class instructed participants in caponizing techniques. Animal science remains an important part of the CTAHR curriculum
James Brewbaker leads a field day at the college’s Waimānalo Research Station. The noted plant breeder came from Cornell University with a commitment to share research knowledge with home and commercial growers
As a student, Wendy Kunimitsu (BS ’00) helped isolate genes involved in root development to make pineapple plants resistant to nematode pests
ʻIolani Palace, the White House, the Statue of Liberty and more than 2 million other structures in 18 countries have University of Hawaiʻi alumnus Nan-Yao Su in common. All of them are protected by the popular termite treatment invented by the University of Florida professor, who was honored in April as the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources’ Outstanding Alumnus of 2007. Su exemplifies CTAHR’s century-long mission and vision. As a doctoral student working with Emeritus Professor Minoru Tamashiro, Su developed the Sentricon system, a termite control technology based on innovative research that uses less toxic pesticide.
UH was established as the College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts in 1907, six years after creation of the Hawaiʻi Agricultural Experiment Station, part of a congressionally mandated nationwide research network focusing on "useful and practical (agricultural science) information" The entities merged in 1929. The station’s out-in-the-community approach, first housed in then rural Makiki, still resonates with CTAHR’s federal land grant mandate.
"We can look back at 100 years of directly impacting the lives of Hawaiʻi students and communities," says Dean Andrew Hashimoto. CTAHR has had to evolve in response to social and economic changes in the islands, but its three major goals—diversifying Hawaiʻi’s economy, strengthening its communities and preserving its environment—are still accomplished through instructional classes (ranging today from agri-business to fashion design), experiment stations and county extension services.Lab to land
Beginning his 40-year career as an agent with the college’s Cooperative Extension Service, former Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture Director Yuki Kitagawa saw small farms benefit directly from the college’s early and enduring emphasis on diversified agriculture. Working out of the Wahiawā office during the 1950s and 1960s, Kitagawa provided research-based information on cultivation techniques, pesticide and fertilizer use and other improvements to help Central and Leeward Oʻahu farmers earn an independent livelihood producing vegetables, livestock, dairy products and other island staples.
"We did many things, working with farmers on their crops and working with 4-H youth in after-school programs on livestock and crop production," he says. Extension agents helped farmers gain a political voice through organization of the Farm Bureau and ran varietal crop trials to improve productivity and reduce financial risks for farmers. "We helped them expand their markets."
Early research breakthroughs were to be expected, as little was known about tropical agriculture by the nation’s then emerging mainland-based land grant colleges. Although few of the 150 plants investigated during the first 30 years of agricultural research reached commercial production, the persistence, patience and curiosity distinguishing CTAHR research established Mānoa as an international leader.
Sweet and super sweet corns grown around the world were developed by teams headed by James Brewbaker. "Dr. B," CTAHR’s spry 80-year-old professor, helped establish Hawaiʻi’s prominence in the world seed science market and the emergence of seed crops as the state’s second largest agricultural product, with a production value of $70 million in 2005. In 1987 Brewbaker received Sweden’s International Inventors Award for his work on Leucaena tropical legume trees, or haole koa, developed from seeds gathered around the world. Easily grown, soil-improving hybrids are used as animal feed, chip wood and energy sources in 150 countries, many of them poor Third World nations.
Other CTAHR-developed cultivars important to Hawaiʻi include anthuriums and orchids (by Haruyuki Kamemoto and Adelheid Kuehnle), proteas (P. E. Parvin and Kenneth Leonhardt), macadamia nuts (Richard Hamilton and Philip Ito), papayas (Hamilton and H. Y. Nakasone) and forage (Edward Hosaka).
CTAHR research also saved important local crop industries—papaya, anthurium, taro leaf and banana—from blights and viruses, and the college partners with U.S. and state agriculture departments in the Areawide Fruit Fly Suppression Program to mitigate the effects of pests, diseases and invasive species on Hawaiʻi’s environment.Classroom to community
CTAHR has trained thousands of students from Hawaiʻi, the U.S. mainland and countries in the Pacific and Asia. Apparel and Product Design and Marketing Program graduates have helped develop the growing clothing industry featuring Polynesian, Asian and contemporary fashion influences. Other CTAHR graduates have been influential leaders, such as ethnobotany pioneer Beatrice Krauss; Po Yung Lai, director of tropical agriculture and international cooperation in Taiwan’s National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, and Robert Birch, whose research doubled the sugar production from cane grown for bioenergy at Australia’s University of Queensland.
Home economics graduate Helene Zeug was first introduced to UH and the possibility of going to college as a young 4-H representative from Maui. She returned to Mānoa to work as a 4-H extension service agent in 1963. Based in former Army barracks where the Shidler College of Business now stands, she served youth and their communities from Koko Head to Moanalua Gardens during the rapid urban growth of the post-statehood era. Building leadership skills and good citizens was the primary focus, says Zeug, who served as state associate 4-H leader. Prominent former 4-Hers include Hawaiʻi astronaut Ellison Onizuka, entertainer Melveen Leed, Hawaiʻi’s former First Lady Jean Ariyoshi, and former Gov. John Waihee and KSSK radio personality Larry Price. At its peak in the early 1970s, 4-H attracted 12,000 members statewide. The Hawaiʻi chapter pioneered work with low-income youth, today a major initiative of the national program, and established clubs for young people with disabilities and young military dependents.
Other human resources outreach efforts date to the plantation era, when extension agents taught immigrant and other families nutrition, family budgeting, hygiene, food preparation and other life skills. During World War II, they helped create "victory gardens" to augment Hawaiʻi’s precarious food supply and answered phone calls from non-English-speaking residents asking how to conserve food, respond to evacuations and comply with martial law orders.
Changing community needs after the war spurred CTAHR expansion in natural resource management, nutrition and youth development. Future leaders gained skills through community education and agricultural leadership programs. Local low income families received assistance through nutrition education, financial literacy, wellness and diabetes education programs while the Agricultural Development in the American Pacific Project promoted healthy communities among five U.S. affiliated Pacific island nations in concert with their land grant colleges.
"The college’s 'HR' side was shaped by who we served and how we served them as families got smaller and the number of single parent families increased. Basic life skills may be even more important today with issues like childhood obesity and high family debt," says Sylvia Yuen, director of CTAHR’s Center on the Family. Established in 1991, the center supports the work of government and non-profit social and human service agencies through research-based expertise and demographic data that bolster grant applications and target services.Next 100 years
Sustainability will be the defining focus as CTAHR heads into its second century, says Hashimoto. Exploration of new crops and markets, such as blueberries, tea and cacao, will continue. The state’s geographic isolation and economic vulnerability drive college efforts to reduce dependency on outside sources for food, fiber and energy. Efforts to grow potential source crops for bioenergy and biofuels while considering possible environmental and community impacts include CTAHR’s three-year, $1.5-million partnership with the federal government on alternative energy.
The magnitude of modern issues cannot be addressed by one or two researchers, says Hashimoto. So the college will promote the trend toward interdisciplinary team efforts, bringing together, for example, nutritionists, environmentalists and outreach personnel.
Embarking on its second century, CTAHR is grappling with the loss of $6.5 million in special federal funding in 2007 and the difficulty of recruiting new faculty to an area with a high cost of living and limited affordable housing as it addresses issues faced by Hawaiʻi farmers—land and water use, labor costs, invasive species and opposition to new science-based technologies. Ultimately, CTAHR will draw on its enduring legacy—far-ranging influence that has enabled human communities from Hawaiʻi’s backyard to the far corners of the world to nourish and nurture generations to come—to form its promise for the next century.CTAHR by the numbers
6 Number of departments (Family and Consumer Services; Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Science; Molecular Bioscience and Bioengineering; Natural Resources and Environmental Management; Plant and Environmental Protection Services; Tropical Plant and Soil Science)
15 Number of agricultural experiment stations on four islands.
30 Percent growth in student enrollment since 2001 (double the overall growth rate for the UH System)
42 Number of extension agents in 9 offices on 4 islands
171 Number of grants received in 2005-06, bringing in $19.9 million in extramural funds (Current year-to-date figure already exceeds $20 million)
800 Number of undergraduate and graduate students enrolled, fall 2007
1970s Decade when student enrollment in human resources courses exceeded that of agricultural classes
5,634 Number of degrees granted since 1980