State of Success: Florida | National Institute of Food and Agriculture

To celebrate National Florida Day on January 25, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) highlights the innovative NIFA-funded research conducted by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Dr. Oscar Liburd conducts research on the management of thrips in blueberries. Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS.

Historical Background

The university’s agricultural research, teaching and Extension mission, known collectively as UF/IFAS since 1964, has roots that date back to its inception in 1853. Today, UF/IFAS has 12 research and education centers across the state and an Extension office in each of Florida’s 67 counties. In 2022, the university’s work in agricultural sciences ranked No. 4 in the US

Successes and Innovations

Not all strawberries, tomatoes or blueberries are created equal. At UF/IFAS research centers across the state, scientists develop new varieties of crops that better withstand Florida’s intense climate, the pests that like to eat them, and diseases. Often, part of the goal is that these new varieties taste better, too! This work continues, but now with the use of artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technology to meet the needs of farmers and consumers faster than ever before.

At the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center, scientists have developed ways to reduce greenhouse pests using biological controls, where another insect eats the pests. When farmers can use more biological controls, pesticide use is reduced, plants thrive and consumers are happy.

NIFA-Funded Research

NIFA-supported research improves the plates of those in Florida and beyond. UF/IFAS researchers help growers provide tasty and nutritious food with fewer inputs like pesticides and fertilizer. The work extends beyond our morning cup of coffee and the food we eat, too. Researchers work to improve the quality of turfgrass, provide resources to homeowners and more. Extension agents in every county share those research results with communities around the state.

Fred Gmitter in a greenhouse with citrus trees. Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS.

Unique Agricultural Challenges

Huanglongbing, also known as HLB or citrus greening, is a disease affecting citrus production globally. The deadly disease affects all types of citrus and sickens trees, making them less productive, and sometimes trees decline to the point of producing little to no fruit. Florida production has dropped to an estimated 18 million boxes projected by the USDA for 2022-23, the lowest projection since World War II and down from last year’s 41 million boxes. With the support of NIFA, UF/IFAS has done more research on HLB than any entity worldwide and is working on solutions for growers to help manage the disease.

From left, Kevin Wang and Dana Choi at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center. Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS.

Future Research

UF/IFAS continues to leverage groundbreaking technology to develop solutions to agriculture’s greatest challenges. UF/IFAS has invested in artificial intelligence with the support of NIFA and others to fight pest pressure on key Florida crops, reduce food waste, better utilize our precious water resources and more. Utilizing resources like artificial intelligence allows researchers to find solutions to everyday problems, faster.

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