UH Researchers: Sugarcane is Not Dead, Just Different
University of Hawai‘i researchers are helping local sugarcane growers and processors to choose and cultivate native varieties that best suit their purposes.
Ongoing work by College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Assistant Researcher Noa Lincoln and Associate Specialist Ted Radovich examines traditional and modern organic growing systems, including intercropping with ‘ulu (breadfruit), juice quality and nutrient cycling.
“I don’t think sugar is dead in Hawai‘i. In many ways I think it’s a good thing that that the plantations might have closed down. They’ve had a good run and a huge impact in Hawai‘i but I think – their closure makes way for a whole new realm of agriculture,” said Lincoln.
Lincoln is working on a book and website that catalogs all known varieties of native sugarcane and discusses its cultural significance.
Radovich says, “It’s become a high-value horticultural crop as opposed to a low-value agronomic or plantation crop.”
The research is being conducted to assist growers in adding value to their small-scale operations as well as an engagement tool for community members, schools and others who want to learn about agriculture.
Some interesting sugarcane facts:
- Hawai‘i sugarcane producers are making cane skewers and swizzle sticks and local distillers are making rum agricola, a fresh cane-juice rum.
- Native Hawaiians introduced sugarcane to the Islands about a millennium before Europeans arrived.
- Hawaiians cultivated sugarcane extensively in both wetland and dryland agricultural systems and dozens of native varieties of kō were developed and grown.