UF/IFAS Master Gardeners Visit MREC
Last week, MREC hosted a tour for up-and-coming UF/IFAS Master Gardeners and talked about projects with researchers and Extension agents focused on agricultural economics, water conservation and plant breeding.
The group went to greenhouses at MREC to learn about different plant varieties and how researchers are studying plants to get desired traits, such as color, size, flowering, etc. These traits can be impacted by things like differing watering and fertilizer rates.
Our agricultural economics talk focused on how the preferences of consumers should be considered when a grower or producer chooses not only a plant to sell but also how to package this plant and where to sell it.
Dr. Hayk Khachatryan talked about using eye tracking technology has been a helpful tool to identify what consumers focus on, literally, when buying a plant product. Labels on plant pots and what shelf a plant is on at a store or garden center all impact purchase decisions.
Water conservation is on the forefront of many minds, especially here in Florida. UF/IFAS Extension agent Jim Fletcher, PhD, talked about his use of small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) to help landowners better understand where they need water and how to map out these areas quickly and efficiently. Dr. Fletcher explained how a sUAS works mechanically but also the responsibilities of users in terms of municipality laws, permits and restrictions of use.
The Florida Master Gardener Program is ran by knowledgeable gardening volunteers and aids the UF/IFAS Extension program and also Florida citizens with their commitment of getting people outdoors and in gardens. For more information, check out their website.
After many thought-provoking questions and engaging discussions about plant breeding, economics and water conservation, the whole group got a glimpse of how technology and research are working in unison for the benefit of the agriculture industry. And even how the title of Master Gardener helps peak interest in this sector and getting more people excited about plants, in home or in the garden.