UF/IFAS’ impact across the state of Florida
When you hear the name University of Florida, you may associate it with Gainesville, Florida; However, UF’s presence reaches down to our backyard here in Southwest Florida. Research and outreach at these facilities help combat the water quality crisis.
Between its Extension offices and research facilities, UF/IFAS, IFAS standing for Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, is wide-reaching.
There are 67 county UF/IFAS Extension offices and more than a dozen Research and Education Centers, and Demonstration Sites. “Land was granted to the state universities, and in turn, they got out in the communities and we’re called agents because we are agents of change. We’re out there kind of communicating knowledge, but also on the front lines and learning from the communities that we serve,” David Outerbridge, the Director of UF/IFAS Extension Lee County, said.
Outbridge’s Extension is located at Terry Park off of Palm Beach Boulevard in Fort Myers. “People are always welcome to come in if they have any plant problems, any area we know we serve vast segments of the community,” he said.
The Extension offers information regarding Family and Consumer Sciences, Horticulture, and Family Nutrition, to name a few.
Further inland at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, researchers test out experiments for more efficient farming practices, such as steam weeding and targeted chemical spraying. Both methods help product water quality by cutting back on nutrients or chemicals entering waterways.
Dr. Kelly Morgan serves as the Center Director and Professor. He said the SWFREC is one of thirteen centers run by UF/IFAS. “The goal of these centers is to conduct high-priority research to generate new technologies and improved practices used by growers of specific regions of the state. Information gained from these research activities is provided to regional agricultural growers to solve problems related to agricultural production and protection of natural resources,” he explained.
In regards to water quality, Dr. Morgan said the center explores different technologies to more efficiently use water, nutrients, and chemicals to reduce contamination. He said, “The center is heavily involved in evaluation and development best management practices (BMPs) that improve the efficient use of nutrients and decrease the potential of agriculture to reduce water quality.”
To find your county’s UF/IFAS Extension, click HERE.
More information on the SWFREC can be found HERE.