UF/IFAS Gulf Coast REC to Benefit from Water Boost
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Thanks to the collective efforts of Tampa Electric Company and the Southwest Florida Water Management District, researchers at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center (GCREC) now have significantly more water with which to conduct their experiments.
“Having this added capacity results in UF/IFAS not having to construct costly ponds or other water retention structures for irrigation or freeze protection needs,” said Jerry Fankhauser, assistant director of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “Such research at the field level is grower-focused and vital for area growers and beyond.”
The additional water will let faculty at the facility – already known for their studies that help the tomato, strawberry and ornamental industries — conduct research into more crops.
For example, GCREC researchers conduct research that helps farmers grow hops, pomegranates, artichokes, blackberries and others as new crops, said center director Jack Rechcigl. Although the acreage at the facility will not increase, the additional water also will help the center add an organic research site soon to its existing property, he said.
Access to additional water came about after TECO bought several hundred acres of former citrus grove in Lithia, Florida, about 15 miles from the GCREC in Balm. TECO bought the land for a solar plant, and the land included water permits. Solar plants use minimal water, and TECO did not need the permits. The utility donated them to GCREC.
Before the GCREC could use TECO’s water, the water management district had to study the situation. GCREC lies in a water-use caution area in eastern Hillsborough County, so water management officials needed to make sure the amount of water going to the GCREC meets the needs of the center’s agricultural needs, without using too much water.
“We can use the additional water as one means to help produce data growers can use to improve yield on new and existing crops,” Rechcigl said.
By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, firstname.lastname@example.org
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.