Immokalee center returns to serving local industry

01/15/2014 05:00:00 AM
Phil Stansly

In recent years, scientists at SWFREC have been in the forefront of developing:

•          Best Management Practices – BMPs -- to enhance water quality;

•          Water farming programs to create storage capacity and wildlife habitat;

•          The Florida Master Naturalist educational program’

•          Management strategies and biological control of invasive plants, such as tropical soda apple;

•          Diagnostic and management protocols for serious plant diseases, such as citrus greening, tomato yellow leaf curl virus and watermelon vine decline’

•          Mechanical harvesting systems for juice oranges;

•          Area-wide citrus health management areas to control Asian citrus psyllids;

•          Nutritional and horticultural treatments to sustain production from greening infected citrus trees;

•          Peaches and blueberries as alternative specialty crops in Southwest Florida; and

•          Farm worker safety and compliance training workshops.


Center’s future returns to stakeholders

Unfortunately, IFAS has experienced a series of budget reductions and inflationary pressures through the past 10 to 15 years that have eroded the capacity to meet the research, teaching and Extension needs of the agricultural interests in Southwest Florida. 

In particular, the original 12 faculty programs have been reduced by attrition to only seven. Perhaps more significantly, leadership has been compromised by a series of interim center director appointments. For the past 13 years, SWFREC has been without a center director solely dedicated to advancing the University of Florida’s land-grant mission in Southwest Florida.

On Oct. 2, 2013, a previously announced downgrade of SWFREC to an “Extension and Demonstration area” was rescinded by Jack Payne, University of Florida senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. At the time, he announced that despite funding issues, SWFREC would continue to conduct research in response to agricultural and natural resource issues.

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