Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 1.10.26 PMProtected by mature vegetation and graced by fresh air on Kaua‘i Community College’s 200 acres, an orchard of 64 breadfruit trees planted last December thrives.

The Ulutopia Project — a partnership between KCC and the National Tropical Botanical Garden — is designed for research to promote conservation and use of breadfruit, or ulu, for food and reforestation.

KCC serves as lead organizer of the project. The collaboration also includes University of British Columbia and University of Hawai‘i Manoa’s Department of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences, which are on board to contribute experimental expertise and project design, according to Dr. Sharad Marahatta, agriculture faculty and manager of the project.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 1.08.45 PMThis is the first scientifically designed field experiment studying the potential of breadfruit as a major field crop.

“Nowhere else has such a study been conducted and it will help farmers make informed decisions about establishing and managing breadfruit orchards,” said Dr. Diane Ragone, director of NTBG’s Breadfruit Institute.

Marahatta said the objectives of the project are to create a teaching plot where students can learn agricultural-based field methodology; study the effects of cultural practices on the growth and yield of breadfruit; determine the effect of fertilizers and cover crops on breadfruit pests, diseases, and soil microorganisms; and help the community by providing breadfruit plants as a source of food. The first harvest will be in three-to-five years.

Ragone said the Ulutopia Project is designed to answer questions such as how to establish a small orchard of trees and what is the best way to manage the trees.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 1.09.13 PM“It will compare different treatments such as fertilizers, including organic products, use of cover crops and inter-planting with other crops and plants,” Ragone said. “Producing more locally grown staple foods such as breadfruit, taro, and sweet potatoes is good for the consumer and good for Kaua‘i’s economy.”

KCC Chancellor Helen Cox said the collaboration between KCC and NTBG is the perfect example of how residents work together to reach the goal of a sustainable community.

“It is exciting to contribute to learning about this important crop while providing our students vital hands-on experience,” Cox said.