East Hawaii News

Hawai’i-Specific Seed Variety Selection Tool Launched

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A new online tool has been launched by The Kohala Center. The Seed Variety Selection Tool will aid gardeners and small-scale farmers in Hawai’i in choosing crop varieties that are the most likely to succeed in the geographic area they are being grown.

The Kohala Center developed the tool through its Hawai’i Public Seed Initiative in order to provide detailed information regarding plant hardiness zones in Hawai’i’s various diverse microclimates.

Those interested in using the tool can visit the Hawai’i Public Seed Initiative website. Gardeners and small-scale farmers from across the state who have at minimum two years of successful experience growing certain varieties are invited to submit their data on crop performance at the Hawai’i Public Seed Initiative input website.

According to The Kohala Center, there are many growers who invest years into trial and error identifying plant varieties that grow successfully. Those growers lack a simple way to share their results with larger groups of people.


The new tool assists both new and experienced growers in identifying which plant hardiness zones they are working in and what varieties are more likely to be successful.

“What’s unique about the Hawaiian Islands is how abruptly our microclimates change,” said Lyn Howe, coordinator of The Kohala Center’s Hawai‘i Public Seed Initiative. “A difference of just a mile or two, or a slight increase in elevation, can mean very different soil and growing conditions. This tool is meant to help anyone in Hawai‘i determine their specific climate zone and learn from the success of other growers who garden or farm in similar conditions.”

The Kohala Center says that consulting North American plant hardiness zone maps is of minimal use in Hawai’i and often provides unusable guidance. The United States Department of Agriculture bases its 20 hardiness zones on temperature data, putting most of Hawai’i into Zone 11. The new Seed Variety Selection Tool provides zoning areas more specific to Hawai’i.


Ilana Stout, a graduate student in tropical conservation biology and environmental science at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, began the Seed Variety Selection Tool as a final project in a Geographic Information Systems class to meet the need for a shared system. Stout identified 18 different climate zones for the Big Island. These zones incorporate both elevation (as a proxy for temperature) and moisture-zone developed by Dr. Jonathan Price, assistant professor of geography at UH-Hilo, which are based on rainfall and vegetation.


After receiving a grant from the Initiative and funded by the Ceres Trust, Stout completed the project. In the summer of 2014, she expanded the map to include all of the islands and inserted a search function so users could enter their addresses and learn about their climate zone.


Dr. Ryan Perroy of the UH-Hilo Department of Geography and Sylvana Cares at the Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization Labs at UH-Hilo provided assistance and resources to develop the Seed Variety Selection Tool.

Since the Seed Variety Selection Tool has just recently launched, The Kohala Center advises that the data is limited and not available for all locations. Users are also asked to submit feedback and ideas to [email protected].

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