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The beginnings of an orchard of breadfruit trees as part of the Ulutopia Project

Well protected by mature vegetation and graced by fresh air on Kauaʻi Community College’s 200 acres of land, an orchard of 64 breadfruit trees, planted in December 2014, thrives.

It is the site of the Ulutopia Project, a partnership between Kauaʻi CC and the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG), designed to conduct research to promote the conservation and use of breadfruit for food and reforestation. Kauaʻi CC serves as lead organizer of the project.

Creating a teaching plot

“The Ulutopia Project at Kauaʻi CC is designed to answer ‘how do I establish a small orchard of trees and what is the best way to manage the trees,’” said Diane Ragone, director of National Tropical Botanical Garden’s Breadfruit Institute. “It will compare different treatments such as fertilizers, including organic products, use of cover crops and inter-planting with other crops and plants. Producing more locally grown staple foods such as breadfruit, taro and sweet potatoes is good for the consumer and good for Kauaʻi’s economy.”

The objectives of the project are to create a teaching plot where students can learn agricultural-based field methodology, study the effects of cultural practices on the growth and yield of breadfruit, determine the effect of fertilizers and cover crops on breadfruit pests, diseases and soil microorganisms, and help the community by providing breadfruit plants as a source of food. The first harvest will be in three to five years.

This is the first scientifically designed field experiment studying the potential of breadfruit as a major field crop. “Nowhere else has such a study been conducted and it will help farmers make informed decisions about establishing and managing breadfruit orchards,” said Ragone.

Kauaʻi CC Chancellor Helen Cox said, “This collaboration between Kauaʻi CC and NTBG is the perfect example of how residents of the Garden Island work together to reach the goal of being a sustainable living community. It is exciting to contribute to learning about this important crop while providing our students vital hands-on experience.”

The collaboration also includes University of British Columbia and UH Mānoa’s Department of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences who will contribute experimental expertise and project design.

—By Camilla Matsumoto

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