The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Gulf Coast Research and Education Center is your center. It exists to serve you. So you’re always invited.
Please visit on Nov. 18. It’s when Florida Ag Expo returns after a COVID-19 interruption last year. I plan to be there, and I want to meet you.
Outreach is an essential element of cutting-edge science. It means sharing with growers what we discover.
The Ag Expo is one-stop shopping for a whole panoply of science at one time. Gulf Coast REC is among the most cutting-edge units in UF/IFAS. Many things that will happen in coming years will happen here first. The Ag Expo is an update from that cutting edge.
Here’s how I’ll help GCREC keep on the cutting edge:
- Artificial intelligence. I have approved two AI-related positions for Gulf Coast REC, one dedicated to mechanical harvesting, precision ag and robotics, and another focused on turbocharging our already outstanding plant breeding team.
- Hands-on learning. Through the Vice President’s Promise, I have pledged that all UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences undergraduates will have the opportunity for at least one meaningful beyond-the-classroom learning experience. That could be undergraduate research, internships, study abroad, professional conferences, and more. All our students at Plant City will have access to expanded and enriched real-world learning experiences.
- Saving citrus. Every day I am working to ensure that Florida remains a citrus powerhouse for decades to come. We have learned more about HLB in the past decade than the rest of the world did in the previous century. Our advances in nutrition, for example, have kept infected trees productive, and some of the cultivars we’ve developed and are developing show great promise for HLB tolerance. We will deliver more solutions to provide for a future for Florida citrus.
- Alternative crops. Diversification is essential for the future of agriculture in a state buffeted by climate change, urbanization, pests and disease, global competition, labor shortages and more. At Gulf Coast REC, we are researching whether we can make Florida a hops-growing state so our craft breweries can serve a home-grown product! The Expo will feature an alternative crops field tour.
- Inclusion, diversity, equity and access. At my request, all my department heads and center directors devised plans for how to increase diversity in their section of UF/IFAS. This will directly benefit Florida growers because it will improve the quality of our science. Innovation comes from diversity of thought, and diversity of thought comes from diversity of people. As a result, we’ll have more ways of thinking about and solving the challenges you face in the field, on the ranch or in the grove.
- Updating BMPs. Some fertilizer recommendations are being applied to varieties of fruits and vegetables and to farming techniques that did not exist when UF/IFAS first did the research. This cannot continue. I refocused funding internally to jumpstart work on tomatoes and potatoes at four sites across the state, including Gulf Coast REC. The Expo includes an update.
- Incentivizing ecosystems services. Partly through artificial intelligence, we will be doing research to quantify the ecosystems services agriculture provides, such as carbon sequestration. With that information, we can inform a public policy discussion of how you can be incentivized to continue and even do more of it. I advocate payment for ecosystems services. You should get rewarded for all that you produce, not just food.
Having to cancel last year’s Expo didn’t stop our outreach. In fact, when we had a virtual field day early this year, we had to cap attendance at 300. You can get a flavor for the day by checking out recordings here and here and here.
We’re looking forward to an in-person Expo. Cutting-edge science means getting input from the experts in the field—you. I’ll open the program on Nov. 18, but for the rest of the day I’ll be there to listen to you.
J. Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).