The harvest of sugar cane continued through 2016, but no new planting took place. And with irrigation halted, the only growth after that is some resprouted cane and dry, nonnative grass.
Mahi Pono, a farming company, bought the land in 2018 and plans diversified agriculture for the 41,000 acres of former cane fields. Some crops are planned for export, such as citrus, coffee, and macadamia nuts. But since Hawaii imports about 90% of its food, the company’s goal is to keep most of the food it produces in the local market.
It takes time to get the varied crops up to full production, so the recent imagery continues to show the brown swath of dry grasses. For example, a plan for 40 acres of citrus trees would be the largest citrus orchard in Hawaii. But even that will not look impressive in the Landsat imagery just yet. That 40 acres would only be about 180 30-meter pixels—out of the nearly half a million pixels that make up this scene.
Furthermore, those citrus trees won’t be productive right away. The company needs to upgrade the irrigation system, recondition the soil, and wait for the trees to mature. They are also learning about what can grow in certain soils and climates. Even this relatively small area of plains between the dormant volcanos has different microclimates and soil attributions. It takes time to recondition the land after growing one crop for so long, when decades of herbicide and fertilizer use depleted the soil’s organic material.
As of 2021, the company had planted more than 600,000 citrus trees and more than 300,000 coffee trees on the former cane land. Other trees have also been planted as wind breaks.