UF/IFAS received $8.8 million to conduct new research that will provide farmers with new and improved recommendations for fertilization of key Florida crops. The funding, approved by the Florida Legislature, will be administered by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Farmers apply fertilizers to their crops within recommended parameters commonly referred to as “best management practices” (BMPs). Florida BMPs come from UF/IFAS research that establishes appropriate fertilization rates for maximum economic crop yields and minimal nutrient losses to the environment.
With advancements in crop production brought about by selective plant breeding, improved growing techniques and emerging technology, new research is needed to update UF/IFAS nutrient management recommendations for key crops grown across the state.
“This research and the Extension activities resulting from it are important to Florida producers because many of the UF/IFAS fertilizer and nutrient management recommendations are decades old,” said Thomas Obreza, senior associate dean for UF/IFAS Extension and project leader. “Since that time, better plant genetics have increased yield potential, and technology has improved production practices. Our recommendations need to be brought up to date to align with current conditions.”
Using the appropriate amount of fertilizer or other inputs is also important for producers because it impacts their bottom line.
“Economics and resource-use efficiency are also important to our producers when they consider nutrient management,” Obreza said. “We will incorporate both of those aspects as we revise our nutrient management recommendations.”
Research in the first year will focus on five priority crops identified by the legislature: tomatoes, potatoes, citrus, grain corn and green beans. Hemp and forage grass will also be studied. Most of the work will be done with grower-cooperators in their fields, and it will cover production areas across the state, from the Panhandle to South Florida.
Research will take place in line with the crop seasons – tomatoes and green beans starting in the fall, potatoes in the winter and corn next spring. Citrus will start once the research teams are ready and will continue year-round.
UF/IFAS is slated to begin this work in late summer. Projects of this nature take two to three years to complete the research and develop new recommendations. Tomato and potato research will build on work started in 2021, supported by previous Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services funding. The new $8.8 million allows UF/IFAS to continue this research and expand it to additional crops at different locations across the state.
“UF/IFAS has an abundance of faculty with education, training and experience in soil fertility, agronomy, horticulture, water management and other aspects of Florida crop production that equip us for a project of this size and scope,” Obreza said. “We will have experienced and early-career faculty working together to produce unbiased scientific research results that will allow our Extension specialists to develop nutrient management recommendations for maximum economic yield while minimizing potential negative environmental effects.”
Featured UF/IFAS photo shows an elevated tractor applying fertilizer to a corn field. Credit: Cristina Carrizosa, UF/IFAS