Seventy years of service to growers in the world’s renowned grapefruit production region will be celebrated Nov. 16 as officials with the University of Florida IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce recognize its anniversary and commitment to food production and natural resources protection.
“We could not be more proud of the work that continues to be accomplished at the UF/IFAS Indian River REC,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “The many researchers and staff from this center who have dedicated their lives to improving agriculture are proof that UF is committed to making the world a better place.”
“This celebration of IRREC’s 70th year of presence on the Treasure Coast is a testimony to its sustainability, dedication and significance to agriculture and natural resources in the region and the state,” said IRREC Director Ronald D. Cave.
The facility was established in 1947 with one scientist, a 35-acre citrus grove and a laboratory inside a 1930s-era wooden house. Today, the campus includes three state-of-the-art buildings: a biological control laboratory, a post-harvest facility and a hatchery building at a 26.5-acre aquaculture demonstration site. Four new research faculty members joined the team of scientists within the last two years—a root scientist will begin his appointment in January 2018.
Cave said university officials are grateful local industries sponsored the event. The sponsors are: Greene’s of Indian River, Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co. at the Gold Level, Diamond R Fertilizer and HDH Agri Products, LLC, at the Silver Level; and JBT, at the Bronze Level.
About 30 international visiting scientists and student interns are working under the direction of faculty members.
Currently, 10 faculty members conduct research involving citrus horticulture and entomology, biological control of invasive species, plant pathology, aquaculture, soils and water science and post-harvest technology at IRREC.
Cave said one research focus at the center is to restore the state’s legendary citrus production industry, which has declined in the last decade due to citrus greening. But, according to Alan Hodges, director of the UF program in Economic Impact Analysis, the commodity still contributes $8.6 billion to Florida’s economy.
Some of the center’s most noteworthy achievements are: the release of two biological control agents against invasive plants–air potato and tropical soda apple; publication of a book with new knowledge and recommendations for improving soils for food production; development of new technologies for baitfish and ornamentals aquaculture industries; and, improved post-harvest techniques and worker training for all of the state’s fresh fruit packinghouses, Cave said
On Nov. 16, the morning program begins at 10:30 a.m. with opening remarks by Payne and Cave. Speaking will be three UF deans who represent teaching, Extension and research. Also, Patricia Prade, a native of Brazil and a Ph.D. candidate, will speak on behalf of graduate students. Representing the Treasure Coast Agricultural Research Foundation will be the organization’s president, Travis Murphy, a local citrus consultant and industry advocate. The nonprofit organization funds research programs at IRREC.
Rick Minton, whose family pioneered local agriculture, will represent the IRREC Advisory Committee, a delegation that oversees the center’s operations. Concluding the formal program will be Mike Adams, longtime IRREC supporter and head of Adams Ranch, one of the nation’s most important cattle operations.
The public is invited to attend the anniversary event from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m., and can enjoy exhibits and tours of the facility. Visitors will have an opportunity to meet the center’s research faculty members, international visiting scientists and graduate students.
“Looking forward, IRREC has an excellent team of faculty and staff working daily to solve the citrus industry’s production problems, developing new technologies in fish production, fighting invasive species and protecting Florida’s natural resources,” said Cave.