BEST PRACTICES: PLANTING PRACTICES PANEL NOTES
EMPHASIS ON NEW PLANTINGS
Sally Rice: As a “contract coffee farmer,” she works with planting raw land.
She uses bulldozers to prepare soil well, she chips organic material, rather than burying it, to avoid pits in a few years when the organic material decays.
She fertilizes before she plants and uses 6 x 12 spacing for easier mowing and maintenance. She expects it will take several years to get the land up to the mark after bulldozing. She uses irrigation for new plantings, 1-gallon/hour emitters most of her work is on farms without electricity and so she uses battery-powered timers for makai plantings. She adds another emitter/tree in year 3, uses irrigation to deliver fertilizer also uses some foliar and some granular fertilize particularly for trace elements, particularly zinc deficiencies. Color came back rapidly after foliar fertilization.
Fertilizes with 8-8-8
Plants March through August
Great importance of initial plant quality.
Checks each plant individually BEFORE planting for J-root. If J-root far enough down, can snip the tips. Hookena Nursery and Vicki Swift are good sources of quality plants. Uses mix of cinder, mac nut compost and Waimea top soil for planting.
Vicki Swift: A family farmer for about 15 years. Her farm is way South Kona, very dry. She uses:
- double row planting, 5′ x 5′ offset in rows with 10′ between rows
- 75 geese as primary weed control
- creates pens about l/3 acre in size, lets the geese crop the weeds to the ground which they do in about 4 days, rotates geese to another field. Has enough fields so cropped ground grows back before geese returned to the same pen
- uses 6-2-10 organic fertilizer from Farm and Garden in addition to plentiful goose dropping
- uses Maxicrop foliar fertilizer for fast results
- foliar fertilizing between 7 and 10 am
- sprays from the back of a tractor
- >uses trees for shade, and is specially enthusiastic about monkeypod and kukui nut trees as fast growing, easy to prune to 12 foot height (changed from Gliricidia).
- uses a lot of compost and mulch
Shawn Steiman: A researcher who completed his M.S. Starting a four-year field research project to study effects on coffee yield and quality of different amounts of shade from trees and different shade trees. Offered the highlights of his review of the research literature. The research was done elsewhere, NOT in the Kona/Hawaii area. Answering the question, “Does shade make a difference in yield and quality,” this prior research shows:
- 17% increase in fruit weight as shade increases
- 20% increase in bean size
- decrease in bean defects and increase in bean appearance
- decrease in bitterness, decrease in aroma
- increase in acidity, increase in body
- increase in chlorogenic acids, sucrose and caffeine
Does not have information on initial baseline levels interacting with shade; or on effects of shade provided from cloud cover such as we have in Kona; or on whether there is a straight linear relationship between amount of shade and the increases and decreases noted. Participants noted from experience that directly UNDER trees, little production. Benefits observed from trees about 10 feet away from the trunk of shade trees.
Michael Kramer: Mr. Kramer teaches courses on Permaculture and recommended those interested enroll in his courses, read books he has found worthwhile. His perspective is that of an environmentalist, one interested in promoting values associated with permaculture, not a grower or farmer. His main points included:
- There is a triple bottom line; social, ecological, economic
- the focus is on sustainability
- natural forests are self-sustaining with regard to soil health, productivity, regeneration. They do not require costly fertilizers or extensive work
- the goal is a coffee farm (or other farm) that is close to a natural forest in order to conserve soil health, soil biodiversity, reduce dependence on fertilizers with the costs and work involved
- emphasizes interplantings of nitrogen-fixing trees and other plants close to the roots of coffee trees
DISCUSSION FOLLOWING THE PANEL
Q= question from participants; C= comments from participants; A= answer from panelist
C: Your data on effects of shade will come from readings of green beans, measuring complex carbohydrates. However, a hand-held refractometer, used already in viniculture, would give BRIX readings right in the field for cherry coffee.
C: You stated that one can not study permaculture effects directly there are no natural coffee lands available in Kona. That simply is not true. I can show you not too far from here over a square mile of natural coffee lands. It would be possible to do a nutrient analysis in undisturbed coffee soil here in Hawaii. (Editorial Note: an abandoned coffee orchard does not constitute a designed permaculture system, although the older farming methods were closer to permaculture than modern ones)
Q: Kona has a great deal of cloud cover. If you plant test plots to study the effects of shade, you actually will be measuring the effects of cloud cover plus tree shade. Are you going to measure cloud cover shade independently so you can net out effects of additional shade through the trees?
A: No. No one has quantified cloud cover measurement.
C: I have systematically measured the yields per tree as a function of elevation, which is associated in Kona with cloud cover and temperature. All tree yields are from three year old trees, planted and irrigated the same way, all about 600 trees per acre. The temperature at 2500 feet is usually 10 degrees F cooler than at the road. The three farms are all in the same mauka/makai strip.
At road (about 1500′ elevation= 20 lbs/tree, at 1800’= 18 lbs/tree, at 2500′ = 12 lbs/tree
Q: What is the “natural variation” yield between shade and non-shade, or among degrees of shade in Kona?
A: No data in Hawaii
C: I am planting for dappled shade. Also, there are some examples in Puna and elsewhere of permaculture for coffee.
Q: Any data on toxicity produced by processing?
A: No data.
C: We cannot get a building permit for a wet mill due to concern for effluent toxicity. The state has no standards for handling this. We need data on this and help re establishing standards in order to get building permits.
Q: What is the relation between yields and plant variety here in Kona? Are there seed banks available where we can buy seeds/plants from coffee trees selected from compact plants with short distances between the verticals and with short distances between the nodes on the horizontals, so we can get better yields than from trees with larger distances between the verticals and between nodes on the horizontals?
A: There is no information; no one is looking at this.
C: Nurseries do select better trees or they should. But anyhow, selecting better trees for seeds doesn’t matter much because what really determines yield is where and how the tree is grown and how it is cared for.
C: Kona typica is the tree we should grow. This is the signature tree for Kona coffee. It is what makes Kona coffee Kona coffee and farmers should help maintain the unique quality of Kona coffee, which traditionally is typica.
Q: What size trees do you plant?
A: It is important to plant seedlings that are LESS than one year old, preferably 11 months old trees. There should be NO outside roots visible from the bag or pot. Outside roots indicate badly packed tight and circling roots when you need spread out feeder roots and no J-roots. Inspect every root before you plant. The taproot should be no larger than 18 to 20 inches. Do not waste resources and space planting larger plants where the feeder roots are packed and there is a twisted taproot. I use 1-gallon bags; although an 18” citrus bag is OK IF you have enough soil to plant so large a tree at the proper depth. Do not use dibble tubes/forestry tubes because there is not enough space for the lateral root structure.
C: One can now buy grafted seedlings on nematode-free roots at $5 and $10 a tree from certain nurseries—Virginia Easton-Smith can refer you to these nurseries.