From the University of Florida/IFAS:
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Research funding for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences hit an all-time high in Fiscal Year 2015, at almost $125.82 million, according to figures released this month by the UF Office of Research.
The UF/IFAS total, representing funds from grant awards, contracted research, donations and other sources, exceeds last year’s figure by 23 percent; UF/IFAS records indicate it also tops the previous record, set in FY 2012.
“This is one of the proudest moments of my career so far,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “You just don’t get stronger proof that UF/IFAS is delivering results for our many constituencies and stakeholders. These results are a tribute to the leadership of Dr. Jackie Burns, UF/IFAS dean for research, and the incredible talent of our UF/IFAS faculty.”
The new figures come from a campus wide annual report on research funding. It provides numerical data on funding received by major campus units, as well as information on sources and types of funding received; the data cover July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015.
Payne noted that UF/IFAS accounted for 18 percent of total UF research funding received during FY 2015 — a year when the university also had a record-setting total, $706.78 million. This campus wide figure surpassed the previous record, set in FY 2014, by $5.1 million.
“2015 is a most appropriate year for these milestones,” Payne said, “because it marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of Gatorade® by Dr. Robert Cade and his colleagues at the UF College of Medicine, as well as the 20th anniversary of the commercial debut of the Sentricon® subterranean termite control system, which was co-developed by UF/IFAS researcher Dr. Nan-Yao Su.”
“Both of these inventions have made millions of dollars and helped millions of people,” he said. “Both of these pioneers, who helped spawn entire industries, have been named to the Florida Inventors’ Hall of Fame. Previous research funding helped these gentlemen reach amazing pinnacles of success, just as current research funding helps scientists who will reach amazing new pinnacles in the future.”
The UF/IFAS research enterprise, known as the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, obtained the second-largest amount of research funding that any major UF academic unit received in FY 2015, surpassed only by UF’s College of Medicine, with $268.28 million.
Agricultural research and development funds for U.S. land-grant universities yield an estimated $20 in economic return for every $1 invested, Payne said.
In Florida, investments in UF/IFAS research pay off each year in myriad ways. The state’s combined agricultural and natural resources industries produce about 300 commodities; in calendar year 2013 they accounted for $148.54 billion in total economic impacts, and provided 2.16 million full-time and part-time jobs, representing about 20.2 percent of all jobs in Florida, according to a UF/IFAS report covering 2013, the most recent year analyzed.
“Our long-term goal is to move the state toward sustainable prosperity, where Florida’s economic vitality and environmental health are both maximized,” Payne said. “Throughout the UF/IFAS community, we have brilliant people who are focused on important issues, who are dedicated to innovation and hard work. I offer my congratulations to all concerned. By that, I mean not only my UF/IFAS colleagues and the campus community, but also Florida residents and people around the world who’ve benefitted from UF’s research efforts.”
Jackie Burns, UF/IFAS dean for research and director of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, said that one reason for this year’s big jump in UF’s overall research funding was a 41.38 percent increase in funding from corporations and companies, an increasingly important funding source for land-grant universities. At UF, these funds accounted for about $102 million in funding campus wide, or about 14 percent of all UF research funding in FY 2015.
“We’re proud of our research collaborations and partnerships with private industry,” Burns said. “Fundamentally, we’re carrying out the land-grant mission to help producers address production issues. These projects also enable UF/IFAS to help protect and improve natural environments, safeguard domestic food supplies, support farming communities and facilitate global sales of U.S.-grown products.”
Of the UF/IFAS research funding total, 88.42 percent of it, or $111,244,283, was disbursed through the UF Office of Research — Division of Sponsored Programs. More than $14.5 million in research funding came to UF/IFAS through channels other than the Division of Sponsored Programs, including additional USDA capacity fund support totaling $12,552,383, and gifts through the University of Florida Foundation to UF/IFAS research programs totaling $2,021,030.
“We are grateful for all of the support we receive, especially gifts from generous contributors to the University of Florida Foundation,” Burns said.
Major interdisciplinary programs with UF/IFAS affiliations and notable research funding success in FY 2015 included Florida Sea Grant, with a total of $3,678,786, up 66.36 percent from the previous year; and the UF Water Institute, with $249,341, up 69.27 percent.
UF/IFAS research programs address serious threats to major commodities, none more serious than the bacterial disease citrus greening, which could permanently alter the state’s $10.7 billion citrus industry, Burns said. Projects address citrus greening by developing, evaluating and improving strategies for strengthening citrus trees’ tolerance to greening disease, weakening the bacterium responsible for the disease, helping growers reduce their insecticide needs with high-efficiency application technology, breeding citrus rootstock varieties with enhanced tolerance to greening infections, and investigating whether steam-heat can slow the disease progression in infected trees, Burns said. A recent $1 million appropriation from the Florida Legislature will fund important field work that is critical for developing sustainable strategies for citrus production under endemic greening conditions.
Some of UF/IFAS’ individual and team funding successes recently include a five-year, $13.7 million grant to IFAS Global and other institutions, to strengthen human and institutional capacity and modernize agricultural practices in Haiti; participation in a $4.8 million federally funded project investigating how organisms interact with the environment; a $2 million appropriation from the Florida Legislature to research hemorrhagic diseases that can cross over from deer to cattle; and a $1 million appropriation from the Florida Legislature to begin renovations on the UF/IFAS Beef Teaching Unit in Gainesville.
Recent research successes from UF/IFAS include a mobile device app that helps strawberry growers minimize fungicide use while discouraging fungal diseases effectively; myriad studies demonstrating the effectiveness and water-saving capabilities of irrigation controllers at residential and commercial properties; and a 20-year plan to reduce phosphorus levels in water entering the Florida Everglades resulted in a 63 percent reduction in total phosphorus load in 2014, thanks to best management practices developed by UF/IFAS researchers, promoted by Extension agents and adopted by producers.
Promising new UF/IFAS research initiatives include the Nature Coast Biological Station, a unique observation and research facility on a huge and largely pristine area of Florida’s Gulf coast; large-scale field trials of new low-chill blackberry varieties suitable for production in Florida, to help nurture the state’s small but promising blackberry industry; and efforts to develop strategies to reduce the effects of heat stress on cows in late-stage pregnancy.