GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida agriculture loses an estimated $179 million annually to invasive species. This comes as no surprise to researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences as the state, with 28 ports of entry, is ranked number one in the continental United States for the number of invasive species established.
As National Invasive Species Awareness Week draws close—Feb. 26 to March 2—UF/IFAS scientists and Extension faculty mark the work being done statewide to manage pests ranging from weeds to trees to mammals to insects.
“Completely eradicating invasive species is timely and expensive. But our researchers fight the fine fight every day to manage a problem that hits every corner of the state,” said Jason Ferrell, a professor and director of the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. “We are proud of the work being done by our scientists, and know that while we have been successful in the past, there is still much work to be done in the future.”
The purpose of NISAW is to raise awareness and identify solutions to invasive species locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Recent successes by UF/IFAS researchers include management of tropical soda apple and mole crickets, which saved the state and beef cattle ranchers millions of dollars.
Nevertheless, researchers continue to battle invasive Burmese python in south Florida, and the Bufo toad in central and north Florida. Meanwhile, UF/IFAS scientists are trying to find a way to manage cogongrass in nearly every Florida county.
Currently, there are 14 faculty conducting research at the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants and nine graduate students, Ferrell said. Researchers work on everything from hydrilla to Chinese tallow tree to Brazilian peppertree, he said.
Across the state, there are dozens of UF/IFAS Extension faculty developing and maintaining programs to manage invasive species in their counties, said Nick Place, dean of UF/IFAS Extension.
“Invasive species encompass plants, animals, insects and diseases. UF/IFAS has faculty dedicated to teaching, research and Extension efforts for invasive species,” Place said. “The diversity of UF/IFAS Extension programs is extensive, so we have formed an initiative team, the UF/IFAS Invasive Species Council, to provide leadership across UF/IFAS in all aspects of invasive species Extension programming.”
Partnerships have been crucial to battling invasive species, Place said. “We work with the state’s Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMA) teams in several districts,” he said. “The partnerships include residents, scientists, and public and private organizations, because it will take a concerted, group effort to truly manage invasive species.”
For more information and to read more about UF/IFAS’ efforts to manage invasive species, visit www.blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/news. For information on identifying possibly invasive plants in your yard, visit assessment.ifas.ufl.edu. Click here to find your local UF/IFAS Extension office.
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