By Beverly James
APOPKA, Fla. – As the lead horticulturalist for Echo Conversions Group, Inc., Kyle Petersen knows his way around plants. But he was still surprised to learn so much more about insects, weeds and fertilizer use when he participated in a class offered by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
He was one of 20 participants in the program held at the UF/IFAS Mid Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka recently. Now, wherever he travels, Petersen has a binder chock full of information gleaned from UF/IFAS researchers located right in central Florida.
“The three-day course, IPM Scouting, exposed me to the vast amount of resources that UF/IFAS has for the industry: The Mid Florida Research and Education Center right in my neighborhood, the plant clinic held every Tuesday, and workshops and classes held throughout the year,” Petersen said. “The binder goes with me wherever I go. I still email researchers with specific questions, and they are more than willing to help.”
Liz Felter, a UF/IFAS regional specialized Extension agent in the Central District, leads the IPM Scouting class. “The three-day workshop is great because participants are able to meet other growers and nursery workers in the area and network,” she said. “The class is comprehensive in that we try to give participants a big picture look at lifestyle horticulture.”
Other researchers across UF/IFAS join Felter in teaching the course. Lance Osborne, an entomology professor who specializes in invasive pests and the use of insects to manage them, teaches sections scouting for insects and beneficials. Hannah Wooten, a UF/IFAS Extension agent based in Seminole County, teaches the mechanics of scouting. Grantly Ricketts, an agent out of UF/IFAS Extension Osceola County, teaches scouting for nematodes.
“We have in incredible amount of talent at UF/IFAS that is available to homeowners, growers, producers, nursery workers and landscapers,” Felter said. “The IPM Scouting class is just one of many programs available to the public. Our passion is in sharing our research to make central Florida a greener, more environmentally friendly place to live.”
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.