Brazilian Peppertree, Hemp Among Top UF/IFAS Stories for 2019
A year of impactful teaching, research and outreach meant UF/IFAS was frequently in the headlines in 2019. Here is a round-up of some of the biggest stories from this year.
Brazilian peppertree is an invasive plant that threatens natural areas in Florida, including the Everglades. This year, UF/IFAS scientists released Brazilian peppertree thrips, the first biological control insect released in Florida for the invasive plant. Over time, these tiny insects will decrease the need for land managers and ranch owners to use heavy machines and chemicals to control the invasive tree. The thrips have been studied for more than 15 years leading up to their release.
Algae blooms and other environmental concerns have been top of mind for many Floridians. From state government to local county Extension programs, UF/IFAS faculty have been bringing science to the important and complex issue of water quality in Florida this year.
Trade impacts on agriculture
With trade agreements in the news, UF/IFAS scientists reported research showing potential effects of U.S. imports of fruits and vegetables from Mexico on Florida’s agricultural industry, if current trends hold. These findings can inform future trade policies.
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As researchers learn more about hunger on college campuses and elsewhere, institutions such as the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) have stepped up to respond to the needs of students and other community members.
The disease known as lethal bronzing is making its way steadily through South Florida’s palm tree population. Brian Bahder, assistant professor of entomology at the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, is leading a team of researchers to develop management strategies for the disease along the roadways and in nurseries which are most susceptible to the disease.
Florida’s citrus growers can soon get additional help in managing citrus greening through the newly developed UF/IFAS Citrus Nutrition Program started this year. The basis for the program is to improve the overall health and productivity of citrus groves affected by citrus greening by refining production practices; in particular, adjusting fertilization programs. So far, the program has been popular with growers.
The UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Pilot Project passed a critical milestone toward understanding the potential of growing hemp throughout Florida. Hemp was planted at several research sites across the state, the first hemp plants to be legally grown in the state since the 1950s. Researchers are looking to identify hemp varieties suitable for Florida, develop industrial hemp management practices for growing hemp in the state’s diverse growing environments and also assess the risk of hemp being an invasive plant.
Focus on Student Experience
UF/IFAS CALS introduced several initiatives this year to enhance student learning experiences, from a new student mentorship program for faculty to online gardening classes. These efforts give students more hands-on, individualized learning opportunities.
Hurricanes: Recovery and a Close Brush
In 2019, the Florida Panhandle was still recovering from Hurricane Michael, a category 5 storm that wreaked havoc in the region in late 2018. Hurricane Dorian had residents and industries on Florida’s east coast worried this year, though the storm remained off the coast and left the region relatively unscathed. In both storms, UF/IFAS faculty and staff demonstrated the value of the institution to communities impacted by these natural disasters.
From detecting the Asian citrus psyllid with artificial intelligence to preventing disease with tractor-drawn UV-lamps, UF/IFAS researchers worked hard this year to come up with innovative technological solutions to some of agriculture’s biggest challenges.
Working in the garden is good for the body and the mind. That’s the idea behind new horticultural therapy education programs and classes offered through UF/IFAS CALS.