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Students with rice.
Horticultural students with greenhouse-grown rice varieties Jefferson, Carolina Gold, Koshihikari and White Basmati. (Photo credit: Sharad Marahatta)

Horticultural students at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo are conducting important trials on the potential economic viability of growing exotic rice cultivars in East Hawaiʻi. The broad objective of the project, which runs through June 2020, is to evaluate the performance of selected exotic rice varieties cultivated in Hawaiʻi. But an equally important part of the project is in using the trials as a way to educate undergraduate students on rice husbandry practice through experiential learning.

Students enrolled in agriculture and horticulture courses are mentored in growing rice and trained in the procedures of conducting experimental trials. The students learn about rice seed sowing, seedling transplanting, how to develop experimental pot and plot settings, labeling, fertilizer application, data recording, harvesting and data analysis. At the end of growing out the rice, soil samples will be taken, and the soil nematodes will be extracted, identified and correlated with the rice yield. The students will then assess the potential economic viability of rice production in East Hawaiʻi.

The principal investigator of the project, “Evaluation of rice (Oryza sativa) varieties for an experiential education in Hilo, Hawaiʻi,” is Sharad Marahatta, an assistant professor of horticulture, and Norman Arancon, associate professor of horticulture, is the co-investigator. Both teach and conduct research at the UH Hilo College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management and say the findings of this project could benefit the farmers and the entire agriculture community of Hawaiʻi.

“This grant has encouraged us to continue rice research, involve undergraduate students in research and evaluate rice agronomic practices in Hawaiʻi,” says Marahatta.

Rice project details

Rice varieties.
From left: Carolina Gold, Koshihikari, White Basmati and Jefferson

The project involves the rice varieties Carolina Gold, Koshihikari, White Basmati and Jefferson, which will be seeded separately in community pots in greenhouses. At one month, rice seedlings will be transplanted into pots and/or field plots. Each transplanted rice variety will be replicated at least four times and the transplanted pots and plots will be arranged in randomized complete blocks.

The trials are being conducted at the 110-acre UH Hilo Farm Laboratory located in Panaʻewa, 5 miles south of Hilo. The farm is an experiential place of learning where students put classroom theory into practice with projects in hydroponics, floriculture, forestry, vegetable cultivation, sustainable agriculture, livestock production, equine science, beekeeping, tropical fruit and aquaculture.

The project is funded by the County of Hawaiʻi via the Big Island Resource Conservation and Development Council.

Read more at UH Hilo Stories.

—By Susan Enright

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