Leslie Lang writes:
Charlotte Romo, who recently started working with us at the farm, is new to the islands and tells us she keeps having to fill out forms that ask for her job title.
"I'm still not sure what my title is," she says. "I put 'Plant Scientist," though I'm probably more of a Greenhouse Research Technician. But I prefer 'Greenhouse Goddess.'"
She says she's thrilled to be working with Hamakua Springs. "I love the farm and I'm so impressed at what they have created in such a short time. These people move really fast!"
She jokes that her job is to walk around and make shade for the plants, but it's a bit more than that. Right now her research technician/plant scientist/goddess work revolves around data collection, in order to evaluate plant growth and yield and determine how to fine tune things so the operation will be as efficient as possible. Sometimes she works with a lysimeter.
"A what?," you inquire.
I had to ask, too.
Charlotte Romo writes: A lysimeter is a fancy, scientific term for a bucket, which we use to collect and measure the drainage coming out of the growing bags.
We also have a collection bottle to monitor the input of the nutrient solution we put on the plants to make sure that the nutrients are getting from the mixing tanks to the plants just the way we want them. We need to maintain at least 20% drainage of what we put on the plants to make sure we flush any excess nutrient salts through the root zone. If we get too little drainage we know we need to increase irrigation, and vice versa.
By monitoring what goes in and what comes out of our plants, we make sure the plants are using the nutrients we give them and that we are using our fertilizer efficiently.
By controlling the nutrients we use intensely, we also prevent our fertilizer from becoming a burden on the natural environment around the farm. We keep in mind that this land of heavy agricultural use is surrounded by fragile coral reef ecosystems that are extremely sensitive to excess nutrient runoff that can result from agricultural practices.