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IRREC’s Dr. Ferrarezi Honored With National Award

Rhuanito “Johnny” Ferrarezi and his research colleagues won a national award at the recent American Society of Horticultural Sciences annual meeting for work completed on a biofeedback system to measure photosynthetic light efficiency inside precision grow houses.

Ferrarezi is an assistant professor of citrus horticulture at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce. He and his associates were honored by leaders of the American Society of Horticultural Sciences, or ASHS, with the Cross-Commodity Publication Award for the “most outstanding paper on horticultural cross-commodity research published in 2016.”

The award was presented to the collaborating scientists during the organization’s recent annual meeting held in Waikoloa, Hawaii.

“This award during Dr. Ferrarezi’s first year with UF is evidence of how quickly he is developing a highly reputable research and extension program that is providing benefit to our stakeholders,” said Ronald D. Cave, director for UF/IFAS’s Indian River Research and Education Center.

The research publication title is “A Chlorophyll Fluorescence-based Biofeedback System to Control Photosynthetic Lighting in Controlled Environment Agriculture.” The study involved measuring how lettuce, sweet potatoes and pothos plants would use lights more efficiently to maximize photosynthesis with a biofeedback system, said Ferrarezi.

“The biofeedback system is based on the measurement of plant chlorophyll fluorescence as a proxy for efficiency and automated regulation of supplemental lighting by dimming and brightening LED lights,” said Ferrarezi.

“We established different electron transport rates and the system was able to adjust lighting automatically based on fluorescence. The ultimate goal was to reduce supplemental light costs needed to grow indoor plants efficiently,” Ferrarezi said.

Those who collaborated with Ferrarezi on the award-winning study were Marc W. van Iersel, Geoffrey Weaver, Michael T. Martin, and, Mark Haidekker, with the University of Georgia; and. Erico Mattos, with PhytoSynthetix LLC, a private research firm in Athens, Georgia.

Ferrarezi is known for his innovations such as a low cost irrigations device and his research with citrus under enclosed, 14-feet-high protective screen houses, called Citrus under Protective Screens, CUPS. His work is being conducted in the center of Florida’s premier grapefruit production region where a disease called citrus greening has reduced the commodity’s production by more than 50 percent.



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