GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Scientists at UF/IFAS are using this year’s allotment of $141 million in research funding to develop better sweet corn, improve cow-calf breeding, make further progress toward controlling citrus greening disease and more.
Robert Gilbert, dean of UF/IFAS Research and director of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, gleaned information from major grants from fiscal year 2019-2020 and sees many bright spots.
“These grants illustrate the tremendous breadth and depth of UF/IFAS programs,” Gilbert said. “Our faculty are doing cutting-edge basic research and applying the results to make a tremendous impact in the lives of citizens of Florida, the nation and the world.”
Much of this research helps Florida’s farmers save money, fertilizer, pesticides, water and other inputs necessary to produce their crops. Those crops and livestock support billions of dollars of economic activity throughout the state.
(Marcio Resende in a field with sweet corn – Resende is based in Gainesville. (photo is “courtesy Marcio Resende, UF/IFAS.”)
During the fiscal year 2019-2020:
- In horticultural sciences, Assistant Professor Marcio Resende and Professor Mark Settles received more than $4.3 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA). Resende and Settles are investigating integrated technologies to improve sweet corn production and marketability. Sweet corn grown in Florida is worth $141 million, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- In animal sciences, Assistant Professor John Bromfield, Associate Professor Raluca Mateescu and Distinguished Professor Pete Hansen received $350,000 each from USDA-NIFA to examine aspects of cow-calf breeding, genetics and management. Combined, the beef and dairy cattle industries and allied input and distribution services supported $16.8 billion in sales revenues throughout Florida’s economy, according to a 2017 report from UF/IFAS economists.
- In plant pathology, Professor Pamela Roberts at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center garnered $1.9 million from USDA-NIFA to manage bacterial diseases in peppers. Sales of peppers in Florida in 2019 totaled $235 million, according to the US. Department of Agriculture.
- In microbiology and cell science, Professor Nian Wang of the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center received a $560,000 grant from USDA-NIFA to use citrus immunity to combat citrus greening – also known as huanglongbing (HLB). Citrus is a multibillion dollar per year industry in Florida.
- In the School of Forest Resources and Conservation, Professor Matias Kirst received an $850,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to perform pioneering work to introduce nitrogen fixation into poplar trees. Florida’s forest industry supports $12.55 billion of economic activity annually, according to UF/IFAS economists. The ecosystem services that Florida forests provide — which forests can only support if they are healthy — were estimated to be worth $24 to 32 billion annually in the most recent UF/IFAS report.
- In entomology and nematology, Professor Dan Hahn received a $650,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to suppress dangerous mosquito-borne diseases in Florida.
COVID-19 is not slowing UF/IFAS researchers one bit. In fact, they’re applying for more grant funding, Gilbert said. From March 1- August 1, 2019, UF/IFAS faculty submitted $175 million in grant applications. During the same period in 2020, they applied for nearly twice that amount — $338 million in grants.
“This shows the dedication of our research faculty and bodes well for the future of our research enterprise,” Gilbert said.
–Brad Buck, UF/IFAS