PINEAPPLE CULTIVATION

It takes knowledge, time, and plenty of patience to grow and harvest a pineapple crop. Most of the process cannot be automated, and must be done by hand.

Starting with the right conditions is an important first step. Most of the pineapple in Hawai`i is grown on the broad island plains between and around mountain ranges, usually at elevations below 3,000 feet. Good pineapple-growing regions have a combination of relatively cool night temperatures, a high percentage of sunny days, and day temperatures ranging from 70–85 degrees Fahrenheit.

The right planting preparation is also essential to a fruitful pineapple crop. In Hawai`i, pineapple is grown year-round. To prepare the field for planting, the soil is fumigated and covered with a black plastic mulch, which confines the fumigant, helps hold in moisture, controls weeds and pests, and heats the soil to stimulate root growth. Once the field is prepared, the planting process can begin.

The preferred way to propagate a pineapple in Hawai‘i is to use the green, leafy top of the pineapple, called the crown, as planting material. Each crown is planted by hand. Plantation workers use a spade-shaped tool to pierce the plastic mulch, dig a shallow hole, then place the crown in the hole, right side up. A skilled planter can plant more than 10,000 pineapple crowns a day—nearly half an acre.

Plants need nutrition, light, and water to grow. To irrigate the fields, a tube is placed between the newly planted rows of pineapple crowns. When water is needed, it drips from the tubes directly onto the plants’ roots. We fertilize with a liquid mixture of nitrogen and iron, spraying it directly onto the plant.

Pineapples are also harvested by hand. The first crop, called a "plant crop," takes 18–20 months to be ready for harvest. The next crop, called the "first ratoon," takes another 15 months. For the harvest, workers walk through the pineapple rows, dressed in thick gloves and clothing to protect them from the spiky bromeliad leaves. They twist the fruit from its base and place it on a boom conveyor. The fruit moves along the conveyor to an infield harvester, where the fruit is graded, packed in cartons, and moved to its final destination. Most Wahiawa pineapples are sold fresh. After the last crop is harvested, the field is “knocked down,” and a new growing cycle begins.



Pineapple Crunch Chocolate