Florida Ag Expo to highlight emerging crops, ways to battle new pests

Gary Vallad speaking at the 2015 Florida Agricultural Expo at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida.  Photo taken 11-04-15

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Growers, UF/IFAS Extension faculty and scientists will tackle production and pest problems – including the Q-biotype whitefly — when they gather for the 11th annual Florida Ag Expo on Nov. 2 at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center.

Created as a way to showcase the Gulf Coast REC, the Ag Expo is a one-stop resource for Florida fruit and vegetable producers. The day-long event includes education sessions, grower roundtables, field tours and demonstrations, as well as a large vendor show with about 80 ag-related booths. The Gulf Coast REC, part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, sits on 475 acres in Balm, Florida, southeast of Tampa.

“The expo has become an important show for growers to stay up to date on the latest research results to assist them in vegetable and small-fruit production,” said Jack Rechcigl, director of the Gulf Coast REC.

Talks and field tours this year cover disease and pest management, weed control, tomato variety trials and various alternative crops such as hops, blackberries and pomegranates, he said.

This year, the Ag Expo also will feature a hands-on disease and pest identification workshop for vegetables and small fruits.

During one special session, UF/IFAS researchers and an expert from the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture will answer questions from agricultural and ornamental interests about what they need to know to prepare for the Q-biotype whitefly. This whitefly species may threaten Florida crops such as tomatoes, squash, beans, watermelons and many other vegetables and ornamentals if immediate measures are not taken to prevent its spread, said Lance Osborne, a UF/IFAS entomology professor at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka, Florida.

Scientists statewide, including those with UF/IFAS, are working together to control the whitefly which, for the first time, has been found outside greenhouses and nurseries in Florida.

At another session, scientists will convey data on pesticides and biological controls for pests.

While the history of the Gulf Coast REC began with tomatoes and strawberries, its present and future includes many commodities, including ornamental horticulture, blueberries and a variety of alternative crops that are up-and-coming in the state of Florida, Rechcigl said. The center also operates a regional diagnostic clinic to help growers identify and manage pest and disease problems on their crops.

Starting with 20 acres in 1925, the center moved to both Bradenton and Dover in the 1960s. UF/IFAS consolidated the Dover strawberry laboratory with the Bradenton Gulf Coast REC to its current location in Balm. In April 2005, UF/IFAS dedicated the current $16 million site.

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Caption: Gary Vallad, an associate professor of plant pathology at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, speaks at the 2015 Florida Agricultural Expo at the Gulf Coast REC in Balm, Florida. This year’s expo will be held Nov. 2 at the Gulf Coast REC.

Credit: Tyler L. Jones, UF/IFAS photography.

By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Source: Jack Rechcigl, 813-633-4111, rechcigl@ufl.edu