Getting a head start on potential threats to ag

Scientists and growers get ready for the Florida Ag Expo

THE AGENDA for the Florida Ag Expo at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center (GCREC) on November 2 includes a session on the Q-biotype whitefly, but not because it’s already wreaking havoc on your fruit and vegetable crops.

As of this writing, there’s still no evidence that the Q-biotype has infested local fruit or vegetable fields. The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is dedicated to delivering solutions to growers. Often that means starting before the problem even arises.

That’s the case with the Q-biotype. Getting a head start is why we send researchers abroad looking at threats we expect to arrive here. It’s why we do so much work on monitoring and detection. It’s why our researchers test possible solutions for things that aren’t a problem for you — yet.

It’s also why we recognize that it’s important to put our discoveries into your hands. No one can implement solutions to your problems better than you can. You just need the tools. That’s why we have the Florida Ag Expo.

At the expo, you’ll hear from IFAS scientists about what should concern you regarding the Q-biotype whitefly, and probably some about what shouldn’t concern you. It won’t just be talk, either. Some of you will have the chance to practice identifying whiteflies and other bugs using microscopes in the lab of Dr. Hugh Smith of our GCREC faculty. He’ll help you differentiate harmful pests from benign bugs.

There’s lots more on the agenda: field tours, the grower panel, exhibitors, and a no-cost lunch if you register in advance at

The expo is one way UF/IFAS partners with growers to get a head start on things that could become problems and share strategies on how we can more successfully address them if they do. With so many existing and potential threats to agriculture, it’s imperative that we work together on this.

The expo is such an important event that I’ve invited my entire leadership team — including the directors of all 12 IFAS research centers and 14 academic department chairs — to Balm to participate. If you want the ear of IFAS leadership, the Florida Ag Expo is the place to do it.

What you’ll get the most out of, though, is talking to our faculty — the men and women who are working for you every day in the greenhouse, the lab, and the experimental fields.

The expo will give you a chance to see things you couldn’t otherwise see — because they’re so tiny (like bugs) that they escape notice. The event will also give you the opportunity to talk about potential challenges haven’t even fully reared their heads yet.

I hope to see you there. I look forward to talking science with you.


article by JACK PAYNE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jack Payne is the University of Florida’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Email and follow on Twitter: @JackPayneIFAS.

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