By taking a more holistic approach to challenging issues facing Florida, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers will share more and better information about water and land use, including farming and urban landscapes, with the establishment of a new center.
Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, said the center will galvanize UF/IFAS faculty to work collaboratively to find universally beneficial solutions to land and water issues.
“UF/IFAS has great researchers and Extension agents working in the water and land-use fields,” said Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “The Center for Land Use Efficiency will be a new resource for them to better serve Florida residents, industry, communities and agricultural interests as they deal with these critical issues.”
UF/IFAS faculty study these areas in various academic departments, research and education centers and in UF/IFAS Extension county programs.
The new entity combines faculty from the Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology (CLCE), the Program for Resource Efficient Communities and many scientists who conduct research and includes Extension education about agricultural best management practices (BMPs). With agricultural BMPs, growers strive to gain the maximum economic benefit while minimizing impacts to the environment. The new center will also include oversight of the UF/IFAS urban landscaping programs like Florida Friendly Landscaping and the UF/IFAS Extension Master Gardener program.
Michael Dukes, a UF/IFAS professor of agricultural and biological engineering, will lead the new effort.
About 21 million people already live in Florida, and 1,000 new people move here each day. All those people stretch the state’s finite water supply and impact Florida’s natural resources, Dukes said.
Furthermore, because urban, suburban and rural land uses impact each other, UF/IFAS recognized a need to align its faculty to be multi-faceted, comprehensive and more holistic.
UF/IFAS faculty from environmental horticulture, agricultural and biological engineering, horticultural sciences, agronomy, soil and water sciences, Florida Sea Grant and family, youth and community sciences – among other disciplines – will be part of this center.
In addition to researchers sharing data with each other and with the public, the new center will give UF/IFAS more opportunities to leverage data for funding opportunities, Dukes said. That funding leads to more and better scientific information, which helps growers and other land users understand how to maintain a positive economic return without impairing the environment, he said.
Another impetus for the creation of the center is an interest in a comprehensive approach to nutrient management and its impact on Florida residents and the environment. Nutrients include such inputs as phosphorus and nitrogen, which originate from multiple sources including residential, commercial and agricultural use.
“So, if you think of a watershed, you have urban land use, industrial land use and agricultural land use – it’s all connected. It’s holistic,” Dukes said. “We have fantastic faculty and exceptional outreach programs here at UF/IFAS. I’m always impressed whenever we can come together. Faculty always do better when they’re part of something greater, when they’re looking at different points of view.”