The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is getting a boost to several projects after Governor Ron DeSantis signed Florida’s 2022-23 fiscal year budget last Thursday.
UF/IFAS, which is responsible for the research and development of Florida’s agriculture industry, will have more funds to expand knowledge in agricultural, human, and natural resources thanks to the recently signed $109.9 billion budget set to take effect next month.
In addition to providing a $3.6 million increase to the UF/IFAS base operating budget, the latest budget cycle invests $8.8 million toward research on nutrient application rates for citrus, corn, green beans, tomatoes and potatoes.
Florida’s farmers rely on nutrient management guidelines and recommendations that ultimately come from UF/IFAS. The requirements ensure that farmers across the state grow their crops in an environmentally conscious manner.
But some in the agriculture community note that these fertilizer regulations are outdated, leaving many to question whether the one-size-fits-all approach needs improving — especially given the dismal forecast for Florida’s citrus industry.
A behemoth in Florida’s ag industry, the citrus industry has been on a steady decline for nearly two decades because of the deadly citrus greening disease. Citrus greening, otherwise known as Huanglongbing (HLB), has wreaked havoc in Florida for over 15 years and continues to strip the state of its major crop.
The devastation of citrus led to lawmakers passing a bill (SB 1000) during the 2022 Legislative Session that will allow certified agronomics professionals to customize nutrient application plans for Florida’s beleaguered citrus industry. The bill also seeks to keep accountability measures in place, giving citrus growers — who also grappled with a fertilizer pandemic — a pathway forward.
With the Sunshine State boasting over 300 different commodities, UF/IFAS said the funds will be used to “equip Florida farmers with science-tested best rates for optimal productivity and sustainability.”
Additionally, the budget provides $1.1 million toward the geomatics program within the School of Forest, Fisheries and Geomatics Sciences, with another $2 million going towards an ecosystem services project that will develop an artificial intelligence (AI) tool to identify, validate and quantify ecosystem services delivered by agricultural and natural systems in Florida.
“We recognize the trust these investments signify in UF/IFAS teaching, research and Extension, which are themselves investments in Florida’s people and our collective future,” said Scott Angle, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and the leader of UF/IFAS. “We are grateful for the opportunity to give back in such an impactful way, through improving processes that help us grow food, preserve our natural resources and train the next generation of Florida’s land stewards.”
Florida’s 2022-23 state budget begins July 1.