Research Report: Dr. Bruce Schaffer

In this installment of TREC’s Research Report, you’ll learn about Dr. Bruce Schaffer and the research his lab is conducting to discover the effects of flooding on tropical fruit crops.

Flooding is a common occurrence in south Florida

Recently climate change has become a talking point for legislators and policy makers. However, growers in south Florida have long been familiar with flooding and standing water in their fields due to hurricanes and tropical storms. For over 30 years, Dr. Bruce Schaffer has studied the effects of flooding on the physiology and growth of subtropical and tropical fruit crops and what growers could do to mitigate flooding stress. Since flooding decreases the soil oxygen content and negatively impacts plant metabolism, it is important to understand how some tropical fruit species have adapted to flooding conditions.

Effects of flooding on tropical fruit crops

Dr. Schaffer has documented that some tropical fruit tree species grown in south Florida develop physiological, anatomical, or morphological mechanisms to adapt to soil hypoxia. Hypoxia is a term for low soil oxygen content (approximately 1-4 mg/L) that results from flooding due to tropical storms and hurricanes. Some adaptations in response to long-term soil hypoxia include the development of stem aerenchyma tissue, adventitious root development, or hypertrophic (swollen) stem lenticels.

Saltwater intrusion and tropical fruit crops

Recently, Dr. Schaffer’s research has expanded to include the effects of salinity on tropical fruit crops. As a consequence of global climate change and rising ocean levels, salt water is expected to progress

Achachairu, a tropical fruit tree from the tropical regions of Bolivia. Scientists at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research & Education Center are studying the physiological, biochemical, and morphological responses to flooding with fresh and saline water, and to soil salinity, to determine their tolerance to these combined stresses.

inland in south Florida, increasing the salinity of the soil and irrigation water. Currently in Dr. Schaffer’s lab, the effects of salinity on papaya and achachairu, a potential new commercial crop for south Florida, are being investigated. You can learn more about these projects and other research emanating from Dr. Schaffer’s lab by reviewing his lab’s website.


Posted: January 2, 2024

Category: Agriculture, Crops, Horticulture, UF/IFAS Research

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