Miloli’i Hawaii – Noni’s ability to thrive where most plants struggle is at the root of our passion for making noni drinks. In this post we learn that being well adapted to the local environment isn’t just good for the noni trees, it’s great for Hawaii’s community and environment, too.
A great benefit to being well suited to Hawaiian growing conditions is having natural built-in defenses and immunity to a variety of common island bugs and pathogens. In other words, over long periods of time noni has evolved defenses to many insects, soil bacteria, and viruses that would otherwise like to snack on noni trees.
When plant crops are brought to Hawaii that are not naturally adapted or suited to the region, the same hungry bugs and bacteria, that know to leave noni alone, will feast on the new arrivals. Farmers growing these crops will often protect their plants with pesticides and herbicides to keep encroaching species away from vulnerable crops.
The trouble is that the environment quickly adapts to the farmers arsenal—forcing the grower to use larger amounts of even stronger farming chemicals to deal with pests. As the arms race between farmer and nature escalates, the people and environment in that area suffer the, sometimes-toxic, chemical effects of the run off and overspray produced by the farm.
Unlike many crops introduced to Hawaii, noni is exceptionally well adapted to living in some of the regions most challenging growing conditions. Noni trees can often be found flourishing in dry open fields of newly formed lava rock where nutrition is poor and only a few plants, such as the ‘Ōhi’a Lehua, survive under the hot Kona sun.
Noni’s adaptability allows it to flourish in a wide variety of Hawaiian microclimates. For instance, noni grows well near the ocean on rocky coastlines exposed to saltwater. As a coastal plant, noni has been found to grow better with a little salt in its diet, which is why some growers like to supplement their trees with a bucket of seawater periodically.
Plants that are not familiar to a region will often need special amendments made to their growing environment for them to survive. In many cases, clearing native vegetation, turning soil, adding non-organic fertilizers, and diverting large amounts of water to the crop is required.
The downside to changing the land for crops, such as corn, for example, is that other parts of the ecosystem are displaced or harmed in the process. We can see this in places where non-organic fertilizers, such as unfixed nitrogen, are fed to crops. Eventually the unused fertilizer ends up in local water systems where it can disrupt local ecology and eventual lead to ocean dead zones.
At Hawaiian Ola making drinks from plants that thrive in Hawaii, in its natural state, is an important part of our mission: to support Hawaii’s environment and economy by empowering local farmers producing organic responsibly grown crops.
Growing well-adapted plants requires less change to the environment and can be done easily using low-impact organic methods, which is better for our community and the environment. By working with Hawaiian-grown crops like noni our aim is to give drinkers options that support a smarter way of farming though every drink they purchase.