Success Status: Florida | National Institute of Food and Agriculture

To celebrate National Florida Day on January 25, the USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is highlighting innovative NIFA-funded research conducted by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Dr. Oscar Liburd is doing research on managing thrips in blueberries. Image courtesy of UF/IFAS.

Historical background

The university’s agricultural research, education, and extension mission, known collectively as UF/IFAS since 1964, has roots dating 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 the 67 counties in fl. In 2022, the university’s work in agricultural sciences is ranked fourth in the United States

Successes and innovations

Not all strawberries, tomatoes, or blueberries are created equal. At UF/IFAS research centers across the state, scientists are developing new varieties of crops that are better tolerant of Florida’s extreme climate, pests that love to eat them, and diseases. Often, part of the goal is for these new varieties to taste better, too! That work continues, but now with the use of artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies 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, in which another insect eats the pest. When farmers can use more biological controls, pesticide use is reduced, plants thrive and consumers are happier.

Research funded by NIFA

NIFA-supported research is improving panels for those in Florida and beyond. UF/IFAS researchers help farmers provide delicious, nutritious food with fewer inputs like pesticides and fertilizers. The business extends beyond our morning cup of coffee and the food we eat, too. Researchers are working to improve turf quality, provide resources for homeowners and more. Extension agents in each county share these research findings with communities across the state.

Fred Gemeter in a greenhouse with citrus trees. Image courtesy of UF/IFAS.

Unique farming 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 the trees, making them less productive, and sometimes deteriorating trees to the point of producing little or no fruit. Florida production fell to an estimated 18 million boxes per USDA projection for 2022-23, the lowest projection since World War II and down from 41 million boxes last year. With support from NIFA, UF/IFAS has done more research on HLB than any entity worldwide and is working on solutions for farmers to help manage the disease.

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

Future research

UF/IFAS continues to leverage leading technology to develop solutions to agriculture’s biggest challenges. UF/IFAS has invested in artificial intelligence with support from NIFA and others to combat pest pressure on key crops in Florida, reduce food waste, make better use of our precious water resources and more. Using resources such as artificial intelligence allows researchers to find solutions to everyday problems faster.