Hilo -- Hawaii State Soil

Photograph of a Hawaii landscape showing fiels of sugar cane dissected by wooded draws.

Potograph of a profile of a typifying pedon of Hilo soil series.

Hilo Soil Profile

Surface layer: dark brown silty clay loam
Subsoil: dark reddish brown, dark grayish brown, and dark brown silty clay loam
Hilo soils have historically been used for sugarcane crops. With the decline of the sugar industry, there has been a shift toward truck crops, such as ginger and taro; orchard crops, such as macadamia and papaya; and forestry. These soils cover about 14,500 acres and are considered prime agricultural land. The Hawaiian definition of the word “Hilo” is “first night of the full moon.” Also, the word is the Polynesian term for “Navigator.”

The Hilo series consists of very deep, moderately well drained soils that formed in many layers of volcanic ash with lesser amounts of dust from the deserts of central Asia. These dust layers are noticeable because their gray color contrasts with the dark brown and dark reddish brown subsoil formed in volcanic ash. There are several buried layers within the Hilo soil profile. Hilo soils occur on the uplands of the Mauna Kea volcano along the Hamakua Coast.

Small scale map of Hawaii showing distribution of Hilo soil series.

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