BY ROBIN KOESTOYO
FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Lorenzo Rossi’s role with the American Society for Horticultural Science will begin to increase. Recently selected for the organization’s Leadership Academy, Rossi will commence training to support agricultural production on a global scale.
Rossi, an assistant professor at the UF/IFAS Indian River and Research and Education Center (IRREC) in Fort Pierce, leads a team of 15 associates who perform groundbreaking research to support high-value crops.
“Dr. Lorenzo Rossi’s selection for the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) is appropriately outstanding,” said Ronald D. Cave, Rossi’s supervisor and Director of the Indian River Research and Education Center. “Dr. Rossi’s research program is robust, confronts current research problems, and his aim is to meet agricultural growers’ needs. Dr. Rossi is clearly showing good leadership skills in his young career at UF.”
Cave said Rossi’s appointment to the ASHS Leadership Academy is owing to Rossi’s rapid advancement from an early career professor to a mid-career educator and targeted researcher with demonstrated achievements. Many of Rossi’s peers would point to the success of his students.
Rossi will begin his training with the American Society for Horticultural Science Leadership Academy in July at the ASHS conference in Orlando, Florida. According to the ASHS website, the Leadership Academy is a specialized program to grow skills for professors and industry professionals to advance the organization’s mission through higher education, funding appropriations, and legislature. Rossi was selected for the training program by educators and industry applicants nationwide in a highly competitive process.
In his visions for the global horticultural industry, Rossi sees opportunities to uplift producers, students and the nation’s economy with the improvement of sustainable horticultural practices through better management of plant root health.
To achieve this goal, Rossi underscores his vision with strategies he would develop and refine with the ASHS leadership academy. Those strategies comprise improved soil management for horticultural crops, the employment of high technology in production operations, and targeted support for legislative and trade issues that impact the American horticultural thrust.
“We must realize that American horticulture can be great and that we must compete with growers in Central and South America,” said Rossi. “Funding is needed for horticultural research because high-quality fresh fruits and vegetables are in demand, and we need to prioritize competitiveness.”
Rossi believes highly trained students are one of the solutions to such issues. Last week, a Ph.D. student in Rossi’s laboratory placed first in a student oral competition at the Florida State Horticultural Society. Last month, a second student completed a Ph.D. and is now employed with the United States Department of Agriculture. Last year, a third Ph.D. graduate secured a position as a postdoctoral research associate in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
A current Ph.D. student earned a master’s under Rossi’s supervision and elected to pursue the terminal degree. Midway through a doctorate, Lukas Hallman notes the uncommon opportunities he has enjoyed in Rossi’s program.
“Dr. Rossi has provided an abundance of opportunities for his students. From working on different research projects, to attending national academic conferences, to presenting at extension field days,” said Hallman. “The diverse opportunities provided by Dr. Rossi have greatly enhanced my professional development.”
Along with ASHS Leadership Academy and participants in the training program, Rossi will visit Washington, D.C., to participate in community outreach for horticultural industries. “The leadership academy is a way to learn skills to move forward in my career,” said Rossi. “My intentions are in promoting horticulturalists and our special interests.”
Rossi said there is strength in empowering others. “With the leadership training, I expect to develop a vision for initiatives that will move American horticulture in the direction that will benefit global food production,” Rossi said. “On a worldwide scale, we must design educational programs that reach the underserved, not just those who can afford those opportunities.”
Rossi said educators must work more with production company leaders to initiate partnerships and raise funds to support students and producers from developing nations. This is a fundamental aspect of inclusion: to make sure the activities we provide are accessible to everyone who wants to apply, and this can be executed via assistantships and travel grants.
Nationwide, he believes this moment offers a wide array of high technology for growers, and that the tools must be more widely adopted and employed. He notes soil moisture sensors, drones, and mobile phone applications for greenhouse management and irrigation. Digital communications offer educators and private industry more opportunities to advance education and business models.
“We have many opportunities to make American horticulture highly profitable and productive,” said Rossi. “American growers produce high-value food and ornamental crops; we can do more to make it exceptional.”
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) 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 U.F. College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.
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