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Mohala Farms benefits from Environmental Quality Incentives Program

News from U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service
300 Ala Moana Blvd., #4-118, Honolulu, HI 96850


Mohala Farms benefits from Environmental Quality Incentives Program

HONOLULU, February 9 –Back in 2011, Mark Hamamoto of Mohala Farms consulted with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the West Oahu Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) for technical assistance. The first step in conservation planning was to identify the resource concerns on the farm. At the time, NRCS soil conservationist Ben Vinhateiro documented soil erosion, depletion of organic matter, soil compaction, excessive runoff, inefficient water on irrigated land, excessive nutrients in the groundwater, and excessive sediment in the surface water. Together, NRCS and the SWCD encouraged Mohala Farms to consider mulching, cover crops, crop rotation, and a seasonal high tunnel.

“We value the trust relationship in voluntary conservation planning with our customers and partners,” said Craig Derickson Acting Director of  NRCS in the Pacific Islands Area.

Mohala Farms implemented mulching, a practice to apply plant residues or other suitable materials produced off site, to the land surface. This conservation practice would help to conserve soil moisture, reduce erosion, establish vegetative cover, improve soil health, and reduce airborne particulates. There was a combination of green waste mulching around trees and between plants, in addition to the biodegradable plastic that was used to control weeds and retain moisture.

Sunn hemp and buckwheat cover crops were also part of the conservation plan to reduce erosion, increase soil health, reduce water quality degradation, suppress weeds, and minimize soil compaction. The cover crop was planted to maximize the biomass production and addressed the soil moisture depletion that was identified earlier. The plant species also helped to encourage pollinators and provide habitat for natural enemies of crop pests.

In addition to the cover cropping, the conservation plan called for crop rotation to increase soil health, reduce erosion, improve soil moisture, and provide habitat for pollinators. The rotation allowed for added nutrient balance and improved organic matter in the soil. Where improving water use efficiency on deep soils is a concern, rotating deep-rooted crops with shallow rooted crops can help utilize all available water in the soil profile.

Last but not least, Mohala Farms was able to install a seasonal high tunnel to help with better growing conditions throughout the year and pest control during the rainy season. With the help of Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), they installed a 48’ length x 24’ wide structure covered with polyethylene over nine metal posts to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash.

As a beginning/limited resource farmer on Oahu, Farm Bill’s EQIP really came in handy for Mark and Mohala Farms. Their six acres in Waialua are producing bananas, collards, kale, beans, lettuce, turnips, swiss chard, and sweet potato. With the anniversary of the Farm Bill signing in February 2014, we cannot miss the opportunity to step back and see how EQIP is making a difference for our farmers. Mohala Farms is one of many Farm Bill customers who are great land stewards, ultimately benefiting their neighbors as well--as this farm reduces soil erosion and runoff, Kaukonahua Stream is one body of water that Mark can say he actively protects.

We thank the NRCS employees and partners that developed and implemented this EQIP contract. For more examples of how Farm Bill programs might help you, visit our website at www.pia.nrcs.usda.gov. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

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Jolene Lau
Public Affairs Specialist
Natural Resources Conservation Service
United States Department of Agriculture
300 Ala Moana Blvd., #4-118
Honolulu, HI  96850
(808) 541-2600 ext. 135
www.pia.nrcs.usda.gov

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.