Newly Appointed UF/IFAS Extension Agent with Experience in Disease Tolerant Citrus Serves Indian River District

A horticultural research scientist with experience in the development of disease-free citrus rootstock and disease tolerant citrus varieties in Iran’s northern agricultural region will now serve the Indian River District’s growers.

Amir Rezazadeh recently began his new position as multicounty fruit and field crops agent for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension in St. Lucie and Indian River counties. In his new role, he will develop strategies to help growers manage citrus trees infected with citrus greening, a disease that has reduced production by more than 50 percent. Rezazadeh will also introduce high-value alternative crops for production in the two counties.

“Although Florida’s citrus industry is suffering from the citrus greening disease, I believe the strong team of UF scientists will continue to develop solutions to combat this disease,” said Rezazadeh. “My goal is to provide producers with research-based information to produce citrus on affected trees and to grow alternative high-quality fruit and field crops.”

Before Rezazadeh’s appointment with the UF/IFAS Extension, he worked as a post-doctorate with Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center. There, Rezazadeh worked alongside fruit growers to improve yield and post-harvest sustainability for blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and grapes. “The position gave me an opportunity to communicate and interact with farmers to gain extension experience,” said Rezazadeh.

Rezazadeh holds a Ph.D. in horticulture from Mississippi State University; his doctorate work focused on the influence of environmental factors and cultural practices in the development of greenhouse crops. He completed a master’s in horticulture from the University of Mazandaran, Iran; and, a bachelor’s in horticulture from the Gorgan University of Agricultural and Natural Sciences in Iran.

Throughout his academic and professional career, Rezazadeh has held a consistent focus on agricultural sustainability. He has worked with a variety of fruits and other crops, and his goals have always been the same: To improve plant quality and shelf life with nutrients, to reduce production costs with efficient water and energy practices; and, to maximize growers’ profits.

After he completed a master’s degree in his native Iran, Rezazadeh worked as a grove manager for Golcheshmeh Agricultural Co., situated in the nation’s fertile agricultural bowl on the Caspian Sea. For five years Rezazadeh oversaw more than 100 acres of grapefruit and orange trees and managed 10 employees. Iran ranks seventh in the world for orange production, Rezazadeh said.

In addition to his graduate work, Rezazadeh served an internship with Fajre Sari Horticultural Co., where he learned how to produce disease-free root stock inside a greenhouse with a hydroponic system. He also gained skills to develop disease tolerant citrus varieties and rootstocks.

Rezazadeh has identified two crops, passion fruit and artichokes, as alternatives for the Indian River growing region. His studies with the crops are already underway.

“Passion fruit and artichoke are two plants that I consider as good options here in south central Florida,” said Rezazadeh. “I believe that both crops can be successfully cultivated in our area and bring growers good profits.” Artichokes are a high-value crop as both a vegetable product and for pharmaceutical companies that use leaf extract for medication that treats liver disease. Passion fruit trees produce high yields and are grown in South Florida, said Rezazadeh.

Introducing alternative crops and assisting local citrus growers will be Rezazadeh’s chief tasks. He stated that he would like to interact with citrus growers immediately and hopes to begin visiting local groves and packing houses in the next few weeks.

“Amir Rezazadeh will work directly with commercial fruit producers in Indian River and St. Lucie counties,” said Christine Kelly-Begazo, county director for UF/IFAS Extension Indian River County. “Amir’s office is located at the UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County in Fort Pierce, but he will be traveling up to Indian River County quite frequently.”

Kelly-Begazo encourages growers to invite Rezazadeh to their groves and facilities. To schedule a visit with Rezazadeh, please contact Christine Kelly-Begazo in Indian River Co. ckellybe@ufl.edu, 772-266-4316, or Ed Skvarch in St. Lucie Co. eask@ufl.edu, 772-462-1660.

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