FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Rhuanito “Johnny” Soranz Ferrarezi has joined the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to lead citrus horticulture research in the world’s premier grapefruit production region.
Ferrarezi brings more than 10 years of experience to his new position as assistant professor of citrus horticulture at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce. He joins two additional new hires at UF/IFAS IRREC who will work as a team to assist growers as they manage citrus greening, or Huanglongbing (HLB), the industry’s most formidable pathogen.
“Dr. Ferrarezi is capable and exuberant about his work to manage crop production,” said Ronald Cave, UF/IFAS IRREC director. “He has demonstrated a fervent commitment to agriculture in his native Brazil, which is also one of the world’s most productive citrus regions, and we are confident his work in Florida will be significant.”
According to Cave, Ferrarezi’s research with low-cost automation in citrus research groves is sought-after by growers and his peers. Ferrarezi identified an irrigation smart-device that costs growers a fraction of the standard equipment being used in most groves, and is more efficient in applying water to commercial crops.
“My research focus will be to support citrus producers with their efforts to protect crops from citrus greening,” said Ferrarezi. “Citrus greening is complex. My response to the matter is to help mitigate the disease by implementing nutrition and better irrigation systems for growers to extend the grove life under HLB–until scientists determine a cure for this disease–or find resistant varieties.”
Ferrarezi said the first step to fight citrus greening is to create an integrated solution that will involve research scientists from multiple disciplines. He noted his new UF/IFAS IRREC colleagues, Jawwad A. Qureshi, an expert with citrus pest management, and, Liliana Cano, an innovative plant pathologist, are also working with citrus greening.
Ferrarezi plans to work with local producers to conduct nutritional enhancement studies with fruit groves in which citrus greening is present. The nutritional enhancements will retain plant health and extend grove survival under HLB, he said.
Ferrarezi’s most recent position was as a research assistant professor with the University of the Virgin Islands Agricultural Experiment Station at Kingshill, VI, where he developed a horticulture program to assess cultivar performance in tropical climates to increase food security for the local farmers. Other positions he held were with private agriscience companies such as Alellyx Applied Genomics, a Monsanto Co. in Brazil; and, AgriSus Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, one of the world’s leading agricultural regions.
He has been recognized for outstanding contributions: In 2016, with the AmericanHort Alex Laurie Award, and with the CIGR Award and Armand Blanc Prize.
A prolific author, he published three catalogs for research projects; a book on nutritional guidelines for citrus seedlings production; and, wrote a book chapter about plant nutrition. He wrote and published 18 peer-reviewed journal articles in publications such as the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science, HortScience, Journal of Plant Nutrition and HortTechnology.
Throughout his graduate studies, Ferrarezi supervised four graduate students and 12 undergraduates.
Ferrarezi completed a Ph.D. in agricultural engineering in 2013 at the University of Campinas, São Paulo state, Brazil. He earned a master of science in tropical and subtropical agriculture in 2006 at the Agronomic Institute, Soil and Environmental Resources Center, also in Campinas, SP, Brazil. At Santa Catarina State University, Ferrarezi earned a bachelor in agronomy in 2002.
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