UF Faculty Receive Top USDA Awards For Research And Education

By:
Chuck Woods (352) 392-1773 x 281

Source(s):
Raghavan Charudattan, jfda@gnv.ifas.ufl.edu, (561) 778-7200
Russell Nagata nagata@gnv.ifas.ufl.edu (561) 993-1557
Richard Raid rnr@gnv.ifas.ufl.edu (561) 993-1564

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Four faculty members in the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences received Honor Awards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture during ceremonies in Washington, D.C., Monday (6/4).

The USDA’s highest recognition for outstanding contributions to agriculture and the consumer were presented to Raghavan Charudattan, Jonathan Day, Russell Nagata and Richard Raid by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman during ceremonies at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center.

Charudattan, professor of plant pathology in Gainesville, was honored for his international leadership and contributions in the biological control of weeds.

He has been a leading voice in promoting the use of bioherbicides as an alternative method of weed management. He has played an influential role nationally and internationally in transforming a subject of mere scientific curiosity into one of practical reality. Bioherbicides are now accepted as an effective alternative to chemical herbicides by regulatory and granting agencies in North America, Europe, Australia, Brazil, Japan and South Africa. At UF, Charudattan has built one of the largest and best supported bioherbicide programs in the world.

Day, professor of entomology at UF’s Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach, was recognized for his research and education on controlling mosquitoes and other blood-feeding arthropod disease vectors.

Mosquito- borne diseases such as St. Louis encephalitis, eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus are extremely costly, disruptive and dangerous. Since 1983, these disease systems have been studied by Day with the goal of predicting mosquito- borne epidemics early enough in the year to help residents understand the factors involved in disease transmission and protect themselves against infection.

Using the St. Louis encephalitis virus as a model, Day developed a reliable system for predicting outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases. He also works closely with state and national mosquito control districts and other public and private groups to disseminate the information. His current work with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will result in the application of epidemic forecasting methods learned in Florida to predict vector-borne disease cycles throughout the world.

The importance of Day’s work is underscored by the national and international media’s consistent reliance on him as credible source of accurate information. With more than 400 media interviews to his credit during the past five years, Day is recognized as a leading national expert on mosquitoes and the diseases they transmit.

Raid, professor of plant pathology at UF’s Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade, and Nagata, associate professor of horticultural sciences at the Belle Glade center, received USDA Honor Awards for their leadership and innovation in developing environmental and biological control education programs for schools and growers in South Florida and the Everglades Agricultural Area.

They initiated the Students SOAR (Sharing Our Agricultural Roots) project in 1997 to help youngsters in urban areas gain an appreciation for plants, agriculture and the environment. Now reaching more than 10,000 students in Palm Beach County, SOAR uses outdoor gardens at schools to provide practical lessons on agricultural and environmental issues.

To illustrate how agricultural and environmental concerns can be mutually beneficial, Raid and Nagata have taken a biological rodent control program they initiated in 1995 and used it as a valuable teaching tool.

Rats and other rodents cause more than $30 million in losses each year to Florida sugarcane. In the past, growers relied solely on chemical rodenticides to limit their losses. Since barn owls are one of nature’s most efficient rodent predators, with a single nesting pair capable of eliminating more than 1,500 rodents from sugarcane each year, the researchers promote the enhancement of barn owl populations through the use of nesting boxes.

By actively involving students in the construction of nesting boxes, Raid and Nagata deliver lessons in life skills and the environment. The barn owl project connects students with agriculture and helps growers solve rodent problems in an environmentally friendly manner.

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Posted: June 4, 2001


Category: UF/IFAS



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