UF/IFAS dedicates new expansion to its SWFREC in Immokalee
Center Director Calvin Arnold welcomed a standing-room-only crowd at the expansion dedication celebration for the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Southwest Florida Research and Education Center (SWFREC) in Immokalee. The expanded facility will greatly enhance the center’s capabilities in support of citrus, vegetable and other specialty crop producers and industries.
The Florida Legislature granted $2 million to UF to build the facility, which houses three new labs and 11 offices for six new faculty members. Situated on 320 acres, the SWFREC serves growers, farmers and other clients in Collier, Charlotte, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties. SWFREC faculty members have expertise in seven disciplines: agricultural economics, citrus horticulture, entomology, plant pathology, soil and water science, vegetable horticulture and water resource engineering. The existing structure is 21,000 square feet, with the expansion bringing the total to 28,000 square feet.
The SWFREC houses plant diagnostic labs, which analyze and diagnose diseases such as citrus greening, citrus canker, black spot on tomatoes and peppers, and watermelon vine decline. The agricultural economics team offers a Farm Labor Supervisor Training Program. SWFREC faculty also facilitates the Citrus Health Management Areas program, a coordinated pesticide program to help stave off citrus greening.
“This expansion project affords our center the opportunity to form more interactive disciplinary teams to solve critical issues facing agriculture in Southwest Florida,” said Arnold. “Our new citrus horticulturist is on board, and our new plant physiologist will be here in January. Other faculty positions will soon follow.”
UF’s new president, W. Kent Fuchs, was in attendance at the ceremony as only the second UF president to ever visit the center. Fuchs grew up in Oklahoma on a cotton farm and understands the important role agriculture plays. After the ceremony, he took the time to speak with us about what’s on the horizon for the University of Florida.