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A banner year for UF/IFAS in 2014

The University of Florida's historic College of Agriculture building.

See caption below.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The University of Florida hired a new, land-grant-oriented president, brought on board preeminent faculty, celebrated Extension’s centennial, opened new facilities and made strides in fighting citrus greening.

Those actions top a brief list of accomplishments for UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences in 2014. Here are 10 achievements by UF/IFAS faculty, staff Extension agents and students:

1. A new land-grant  president.

UF hired Cornell University Provost Kent Fuchs as its new president. Fuchs comes to UF after 6 ½ years as the chief academic officer at the land-grant, Ivy League school. Jack Payne, UF vice president of agriculture and natural resources, hailed Fuchs as an ideal advocate for UF’s land-grant mission.

2. Cooperative Extension’s centennial.

Speaking of Extension, UF/IFAS celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act, which created the federal Cooperative Extension Service. All 67 Florida counties paid tribute to the centennial, and faculty, staff, administrators, students and others dedicated a day in Gainesville in April to Extension, which brings unbiased research in agriculture and natural resources to stakeholders.

3. Fighting citrus greening.

Several strides forward were made in fighting citrus greening, a disease devastating Florida’s $9 billion citrus industry. One UF research team is cautiously optimistic after finding a possible treatment in the lab for citrus greening. Benzbromarone, which is normally used to treat gout in humans, halted the bacteria in 80 percent of the infected trees’ shoots. Their lab work is the first step in a years-long process to bring a treatment to market. Another researcher discovered that the citrus greening bacteria affects a tree’s root system first, a finding that may help growers better care for trees while scientists work to find a cure. Finally, one research team turned to the old-fashioned method of steaming to help treat citrus greening. They found that steaming a fully grown tree is fast (only 30 seconds), made the most noticeable difference and weather variability had no noticeable effect.

4. New Faculty.

Several new faculty members were hired as part of UF’s efforts to advance the university’s designation by the Florida Legislature as a preeminent university, including:

  • James Anderson, a former World Bank fisheries and aquaculture global program leader, who will lead the UF food systems research effort.
  • Arie Havelaar, a globally-known expert in the public health impact and control of microbial food-borne illness.
  • University of Kansas professor Karen Garrett, an expert in plant disease who applies statistical approaches to the analysis of biological and ecological data.

5. Global Leadership  and Change  certificate  – College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

CALS is forging ahead to solve the issues associated with feeding and caring for a global population projected to exceed 9 billion by the year 2050.  The Challenge 2050 Project excites students by integrating them with industry partners and policy makers to create solutions regarding food, health, energy, agriculture, and natural resources.  The program helps to increase human well-being and build leaders across the five major life systems in our world – food, environmental, economic, social, and health.  Challenge 2050 Project students set the standard for leadership through classes, think tanks, quality research, public forums, and large scale events like ONE WORLD, in which student innovators will have the opportunity in March to share their ideas with industry leaders and change-makers on the University of Florida campus and around the world via live stream.  This new certificate program strategically positions UF at the forefront of addressing and solving our most challenging and complex global issues.

6. New cultivars.

UF/IFAS released several new cultivars and germplasms, including limpograsses to help ranchers offer their cattle more variety in their diet, tomato lines that scientists think will be popular, sixteen new citrus rootstocks and caladiums that should please ornamental plant enthusiasts.

7. Social Media Gains

Our social media presence surged, reaching more than 12,280,432 hits this year on Facebook and twitter, up from 3.4 million hits last year. An increase of 2,616 new followers across accounts allowed us to educate, inform, and interact with more than 27,804 twitter profiles (double from last year) and Facebook pages connected to UF/IFAS Solutions.

8. Protecting Florida’s water resources.

UF/IFAS partnered with the St. Johns River Water Management District to study the declining health of the state’s springs system, with a $3 million, three-year grant from the state. UF/IFAS unveiled a new web-based tool that measures water consumption at farms, which can help water managers conserve this precious resource. Finally, a survey conducted by the Center for Public Issues Education, or PIE Center, shows that Floridians are more concerned with water quality than quantity, with the majority ranking access to “clean drinking water” the most important among 16 topics.

9. UF/IFAS  Center for Leadership

UF/IFAS announced the creation of the Center for Leadership, headed by Sr. Associate Vice President Joe Joyce. In addition to  current IFAS programs, such as the Wedgworth Leadership Institute and the Natural Resources Leadership Institute, which are programs involving external clientele, Joyce is helping direct the LEAD IFAS and other academic leadership programs, which involve UF/IFAS faculty and staff.

10. New facilities.

Several new facilities opened. The 7,800-square foot Austin Carey Learning Center opened in April, northeast of Gainesville to facilitate education and outreach events at the Austin Carey Forest. The Range Cattle Research and Education Center dedicated its Grazinglands Education Building in Ona. The facility gives the research and education center  more room to hold classes year-round. In March, officials opened a state-of-the-art greenhouse at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka, dedicated solely to citrus nursery research as the state continues its fight against citrus greening.


Photo Caption: The University of Florida’s historic College of Agriculture building. Photo by Kimberly Moore Wilmoth – UF/IFAS