Screenhouses add value to agriculture in Hawaii

CTAHR won the first Story Lead Contest for eXtension Farm Journal. Interim Associate Dean of Extension Jeff Goodwin submitted the winning story last month, about the outstanding success of a Cooperative Extension project on screenhouse technology that leads to much higher yields and reduced insecticide use.

The national Cooperative Extension journal selects one story per month to highlight. The story was also featured on their daily TV show, AgDay and on the Overhe(a)rd podcast.

The project is well worth celebrating. Since 2014, CES has been designing and evaluating different prototypes of screenhouses to find those best adapted for managing insect pests, especially pests that develop resistance to common crop-protection insecticides. Screenhouses serve as a non-chemical, physical barrier that puts the pest at a disadvantage. Some 24 structures were placed on a wide range of farming systems in Hawaii for this research.

With the screenhouses, growers can reduce their insecticide use by 50% for the management of small pests, such as fruit flies, caterpillars, aphids, whiteflies, and thrips. Marketable yields shot up five-fold (sometimes up to seven-fold!) for non-pollinated cucumber, kale, and zucchini.

Adding insectary plants that attract beneficial insects inside the screenhouse through the team’s “Ecosystem Enhanced Screenhouse” method boosts crop yields even higher.

Extension also collaborated with the USDA and NRCS to showcase the advantages of integrating screen with high-tunnel systems for environmental conservation. As a result, NRCS has contracted for the installation of 187 commercial high tunnels in Hawaii through federal cost-share programs, magnifying the footprint of food production across the state.

“This success story about the evolution of the screenhouse in Hawaii agriculture is an example of how Hawaii Cooperative Extension is demonstrating our relevance to Hawaii stakeholders, legislators, and residents,” says Jeff. “Extension agents and specialists are submitting a variety of these Impact Statements to help communicate the relevance of UH Mānoa, CTAHR, and Hawaii Cooperative Extension Educational programs.”

Source: College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

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