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Everglades REC director to chair UF/IFAS Agronomy Department

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Rob Gilbert, director of the University of Florida’s Everglades Research and Education Center, will be the agronomy department’s next chairman, UF/IFAS’ top official announced this week.

Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, said Gilbert will begin his new position Jan. 15, allowing him time to wrap up his responsibilities at the center in Belle Glade.

“I’m very pleased with Dr. Gilbert’s selection and I know the agronomy department’s faculty, staff and students will be in good hands,” Payne said.

Gilbert called it “bittersweet” to leave the Everglades REC after 13 years, but he’s excited about the chance to take on a new challenge.

Gilbert, a sugarcane expert, said he believes the agronomy department’s biggest strength is in its talented faculty, already strong but bolstered by recent hires.

“Our biggest challenge right now is program funding,” he said, “and finding an approach that addresses national priorities, while also solving local problems.”

Between the main UF campus and RECs around the state, the agronomy department has 31 faculty members. There are 46 graduate students now seeking higher degrees in agronomy, and about 25 undergraduates are pursuing plant science degrees related to agronomy.

Gilbert has expertise in sugarcane cultivar development, energy cane cultivar development, green cane harvesting and transgenic sugarcane. He has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Carleton College, a master’s in agronomy from UF and a doctorate in soil science from Texas A&M University.

He’s been at UF/IFAS since 2000 and prior to that was an agronomic research fellow with The Rockefeller Foundation. He also worked previously for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Peace Corps.

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