Since childhood, many of us are taught the “Three R’s”: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. As a leader in sustainable agriculture, Monsanto Hawaii applies those three principles to its farming practices on a daily basis by making a committed effort to reduce water usage, reuse soil runoff and recycle natural resources as often as possible.
In an effort to eliminate overwatering, all 8,400 acres of Monsanto Hawaii’s farms across the state are equipped with subsurface drip tube irrigation. By allowing the water to be applied directly to the crop root, the drip tube irrigation serves as one of the most efficient irrigation methods used in farming today.
Monsanto also uses a water automation software system, which helps save about 40 million gallons of water annually by timing irrigation remotely via a smartphone app. Our farms are able to maximize the irrigation accuracy by structuring the amount of water that is used using this technology. As a result, Monsanto has been able to reduce total water usage by 15% while still maintaining efficient production levels.
Monsanto Hawaii uses many sustainable techniques for managing rain water runoff in order to conserve soil and currently operates under a conservation plan developed in conjunction with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS).
Components of the plan include vegetative terraces to slow and divert rain water; grassed waterways to channel rain water runoff and slow its flow rate; and finally, sediment basins which collect excess rain water runoff and allow soil particles to settle to the bottom, allowing clear water to continue on its natural path. The sediment basins also allow for the relocation of soil back on to the farm.
In addition, Monsanto’s Maui Piilani farm uses 100% R-1 recycled wastewater for all irrigation purposes. All landscaping, toilets and crops are irrigated with recycled water that has been oxidized, filtered and disinfected. The farm avoids using potable water or surface water wherever possible.
Recycling nutrients back into the soil is a vital component of sustainable farming. Monsanto Hawaii has set in place a cover crop program for all of Monsanto’s farms located on Oahu, Molokai and Maui to ensure that all fields are not used for crop production for portions of each year and cover crops are used to replace key nutrients in the soil like nitrogen and to prevent leaching of other nutrients deeper into the soil and into the ground water reserves. The addition of plant material into the soil increases the organic matter in the soil which enhances the soil’s water holding capacity and the overall quality of the soil. This can improve the quality of crops that can be reduced and reduce the amount of irrigation that is needed to grow the crop.
There are many elements to being a steward of the land. Soil health and water conservation are just a few practices that Monsanto farmers use every day to care for the land and Hawaii’s natural resources. By implementing the “Three R’s”, Monsanto Hawaii’s commitment to sustainable agriculture will improve the health of the land for generations to come.