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The two striking features of Hawaiian agriculture are the extreme variety of products; and, in contrast with this, the fact that since the islands began to play a part in the world's agriculture, the main dependence at any one time has usually been on a single crop. Sandalwood, wheat and potatoes for the California miners of 1849, coffee and sugar have each in turn been almost the sole export of importance, and yet no equally small area in the United States could produce so great a variety of crops. All tropical and nearly all temperate crops can be successfully grown. This is due to geographical position and a highly diversified conformation of volcanic origin. In some of the elevated districts the climate approaches that of the cooler parts of the temperate zone, while in other districts it is truly tropical. In general character, the climate is warm-temperate rather than subtropical. The greatest hindrance to the growth of cold-temperate crops is the unchanging character of the conditions of any one place. There is no such marked change of seasons as cold-temperate plants prefer.
The rainfall is derived from the moist tradewinds that blow three-fourths of the time from the northeast. High central mountains intercept these air currents, so that the windward districts have, for the most part, an abundant rainfall throughout the year (up to 30 in. per mo.), while the leeward shores are often somewhat dry, or almost rainless.
Geologically, the islands are of recent origin, and nearly all the useful plants have been introduced from older lands. This has led to striking results. All the plants that have been introduced by seed have arrived without the greater part of their natural enemies. The isolation of the country has in the past tended to preserve this happy condition, so that the vegetation was noticeably free from pests. Unfortunately, in more recent times the connection with other countries has been so
intimate that a number of pests have been introduced. This has led to government inspection directed toward the exclusion of plant products likely to introduce any further evils. The fewness of the ports renders it possible to do really effective work of this character. It is doubtful whether any territorial funds are better spent than those devoted to this purpose, so long as the inspection remains thorough, impartial and unrelenting. The history of the pests that have been introduced is such as to lead to the belief that they find an unusual stimulus in the genial climate, so that they become exceedingly virulent.
There is a growing feeling that the agriculture of the territory should become more diversified, and already the forces are at work that will eventually make it so. The keynote of the work of the federal Experiment Station is diversification. The territorial Department of Agriculture has entered on a system of forestry that will do much to maintain, or even increase, the conservation of the water that must be forthcoming to render the leeward districts productive. Many of the sugarplanters realize the necessity, or advisability, of an increase in the variety of staple products, such as will give less predominance to sugar.
Of very great importance to Hawaiian agriculture is the preservation and extension of good forests. In the past, too little attention has been paid to this matter, but the increasing demand for irrigation water has at last opened the eyes of all to the necessity of water conservation through some system of forest management. A territorial forestry branch has been established as a division of the territorial Department of Agriculture. So far, its work has been largely confined to setting aside, by proclamation of the governor, territorial lands to be reserved as forests. In addition, certain other lands, with or without government advice and assistance, are being similarly set aside. In this
certain kinds, and collects local seeds of forest trees and sells the same at cost price.
In the past, forest plantations have been made by government agencies, notably on the island of Oahu, of eucalyptus, wattle and ironwood, all introduced from Australia. These trees have grown well and are remarkably free from pests. The wattle bark has proved to be of good quality, and the wood makes fairly good fence-posts, while the smaller growth is used by coopers.
The so-called algaroba (a species of Prosupu of the family Leguminosa), is a tree of great importance in the drier parts of the territory (Fig. 136). It grows where few other trees will survive, and furnishes, especially during the dry summer months, thousands of tons of sweet, nutritious pods that are readily eaten by all sorts of stock. The pods are shed gradually, so that stock pasturing underneath is fed economically. As fodder for dairy cattle, the pods can be had in Honolulu at about $8.50 per ton, as against three to five times that amount for imported fodder of like feeding value. If dry, the pods may be stored for several months. Experiments are being made in grinding them, so that the seeds also may become digestible, by which means, it is hoped, the food value would be much enhanced. The indigestibility of the seeds causes the plant to be spread in the
Castilloa. Most of the seed came from Ceylon and Singapore. The plantations are all young, and, though promising, have not as yet turned out any rubber.
Sugar-cane. (By C. F. Eckart.)
Following the ratification of the reciprocity treaty between the Kingdom of Hawaii and the United States of America, a marked advance of the staple industry of these islands was manifested; labor was plentiful and comparatively cheap, prevailing prices were high, and conditions in general favored a rapid increase in the production and exportation of sugar.
In late years, however, the cost of labor has risen and the prices of sugar have decreased, and periods of industrial depression have at times affected the industry to a very large extent. The planters have had their prosperous years, and have also suffered from lack of labor, droughts, low prices for their product, and other conditions, during which times they have manufactured their sugar at such expense that there has been no profit. The unfavorable conditions, however, have been met with the progressive spirit of American farmers and business men, and improved methods of cultivation and manufacture have been adopted.
Twenty years ago the average yield of commercial sugar was about ten pounds per hundred pounds of cane, and the average yield of cane per acre was about twenty-five tons. At the present time the average yield of commercial sugar is about twelve pounds per hundred pounds of cane, and the average yield of cane per acre is about forty tons.
There are now being operated fifty-two sugar plantations, with outputs varying from 500 to 39,000 short tons of sugar per annum. The great majority of these plantations are operated under separate management, while a few sell their cane to neighboring mills and plantations. These fiftytwo plantations are all represented in Honolulu by agents, and, while most of them are joint stock companies, a few are owned by individuals. Fortythree of the plantations which are incorporated have 6,366 stockholders.
The sugar is shipped to San Francisco, and around Cape Horn by steamer and sailing vessel. From California it goes overland to the east. Under the United States shipping laws it is necessary that all sugar sent from the islands be shipped in American bottoms. The planters have been unable to obtain suitable American tonnage sufficient to carry all their sugar to the east around Cape Horn, and about one-fourth of the crop usually goes to San Francisco, and from thence overland at a rate very much greater than by all water.
The time taken in getting sugar to the market is from two to five months, owing to the great distance it has to be transported. In some instances, the sugar is shipped directly from the port of a plantation, but in most cases it goes to Honolulu, or Hilo, island of Hawaii, or Kahului, island of Maui, and from there is shipped to the United States. The shipment from the various island ports to Honolulu is accomplished through the Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company, which controls about nineteen vessels representing an American tonnage of 6,018.
The annual output of the islands since 1896 has been as follows:
The yield of sugar for the Hawaiian islands for the crop of 1905 was 427,366 short tons, which quantity was harvested from an area of 95,444 acres. The following statements of yields show the relative production on irrigated and unirrigated plantations and for the islands as a whole:
Yields Op Sugar For 1905
Hawaiian Islands . . . 95,443 427,366
While the average yield of 4.5 tons of sugar per acre appears high when compared with that of other sugar-growing countries, it is in a measure misleading, for the fact that the Hawaiian canecrop takes, as a rule, from eighteen to twenty-two months to mature (thirty months are required on certain fields on the uplands of Hawaii) necessitates a considerable reduction in this stated yield before it can be brought into comparison with annual crops of other countries.
Reliable statistics have been recorded since 1895 showing the yields of sugar and acreage of all plantations in the group, and the increased production per acre between 1895 and 1905 may be seen from the following figures:
Under cane—acres 47,399.5 95,443.5
Total yield of sugar—tons . . 157,419.5 427,366.0 Yield of sugar per acre—lbs. . 6,472.0 8,955.0
This increased yield per acre during a period of eleven years may be attributed to several causes, which may be briefly stated.
A certain gain per acre has, without doubt, followed the planting of new lands. The total area of cane harvested in 1895 was 47,399.5 acres. Of these sugar lands, 23,945 acres, or practically 50.6 per cent, were dependent on rainfall for their water-supply, and 23,454.5 acres, or 49.4 per cent, were irrigated. In 1905 the area of cane harvested