In 1920 a five-year epidemic of nailhead spot of tomato results in a drastic loss of fruit yields and quality in Florida. Five years later in 1925, the University of Florida established the Tomato Disease Laboratory in Palmetto on a 20-acre tract that was made available by Manatee County due to the efforts of Mr. J. P. Harllee, Sr., who with other tomato growers donated supplemental money and equipment. Introduction of the ‘Marglobe’ tomato cultivar that was developed for resistance to nailhead spot in cooperation with the USDA and the University of Florida Department of Plant Pathology. Later that same year, strawberry research was initiated in Plant City through State Plant Board. And thus began the research to be conducted at Gulf Coast Research and Education Center.
The University of Florida/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center celebrates 90 years of dedicated research to Central Florida growers and beyond. Our history began with strawberries and tomatoes. However, our present and future includes a wide range of commodities including ornamental horticulture, pomegranates, blueberries, summer crops such as cantaloupe and squash, and a variety of alternative crops that are up-and-coming in the state of Florida. Starting with only 20 acres in 1925, the center has relocated to both Bradenton and Dover in the 60’s and then to our current location in Balm, Florida just in southern Hillsborough County. 20-acres grew to 475-acres in 2005, more than enough land to create a research and education center that is impressive and full of opportunities.
2015 will also mark another GCREC event, our 10th Florida Ag Expo. Created as a way to showcase our center and research conducted by our faculty, the Florida Ag Expo was created to become a one-stop resource for all that concerns Florida fruit and vegetable producers. Suggested by members of the GCREC Advisory Committee, this event has been an ever-growing success over the years. The day long expo includes education sessions, grower round tables, field tours and demonstrations, as well as a large vendor show with up to 80 ag-related booths. This year the Expo will include an official ribbon cutting ceremony for our new addition. Yes, we’re growing in leaps and bounds so we are adding a new addition with 16 more offices and opened a third graduate student house over the summer. A good problem to have, no doubt.
As we celebrate our 90th anniversary and 10th anniversary in our new located in Balm, we will continue to strive to support area growers with our research and knowledge. We look ahead to new adventures and opportunities to come the next 90 years.