What’s Happening at Hawai’i’s Mealani Research Station?

Open since the 1960′s, the Mealani Research Station is part of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR). It’s located on the east side of Waimea on Hwy. 19 and investigates and demonstrates products for farmers and ranchers. We hooked up with Marla Fergerstrom, interim manager, for an update on agricultural research.

Genetic Selective Breeding Achieves Milestone

Grass-Fed Beef Hawaii

Mealani Interim Farm Manager Marla Fergerstrom, a UH Hilo agriculture grad, has served at the research station for 23 years.

Mealani practices selective breeding to produce the best quality, 100 percent grass-finished beef. Fergerstrom reports a crossbred Angus steer recently was harvested at 20 months of age and was graded as a U.S.D.A. Prime carcass—a first for Mealani. U.S. Prime is the highest grade of beef and is of limited supply, with the nation’s foodservice industry widely using U.S. Choice. The main difference between the two is prime has more intramuscular fat, or marbling. Other meat grades include U.S. Select, the lowest grade sold at retail, followed by Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner.

Grass-Fed SteerMealani harvests about 20 grass-fed beef carcasses annually for market, though it maintains a herd of 220 animals. Each year, it selects market animals and keeps about 15 heifers for breeding (cow herd replacements). The rest of the animals are sold to local ranches for finishing or breeding.

For details on how Mealani produces quality, grass-fed beef through research and intensive pasture rotation, visit the Mealani page on the Taste website

Serving as a Classroom
The research station recently hosted six animal science students from U.H. Manoa for a week-long field trip as part of their curriculum. Mealani goes into “breeding mode” during the summer, bringing cows into heat for artificial insemination to ensure a quality, grass-fed herd. Students conveniently stayed in the on-site cottage, attended lectures and got valuable hands-on experience.

UH Corn TrialCorn Varietal Trial
Under the direction of Dr. James Brewbaker of UH Manoa, Mealani is doing a study to ID corn varieties that are resistant to Northern Corn Blight. The disease, which weakens plants, is found in high-moisture or high-dew environments.

Blueberries and Tea Trials
In the works since 2005, blueberry research continues with efforts focused on disease resistance and techniques to eliminate rust. The acre of tea, first cultivated in 1999, is processed for evaluation at Mealani’s on-site tea facility. Different varieties of tea continue to be made with technicians cooking the raw leaves in the microwave. Dependent on volume, leaves are hand- or machine-rolled and dried in a box drier.

Be sure to stop by Mealani’s booth at this year’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range on September 30 for more project info.

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