This past May 15-17th was the first UF Agroecology International Summit: 13 faculty and administrators from 11 universities in 8 countries gathered in Florida to tour much of the state, visiting several UF Research and Education Centers (REC), before finishing up with an on-campus departmental exchange in Gainesville.
The trip started on Monday the 15th with a morning visit to the Tropical REC in Homestead, hosted by Dr. Zachary Brym, Assistant Professor in Agroecology. The group heard about the diverse programs ongoing at TREC, with a particular focus on tropical fruit production. This was followed in the afternoon by a visit to the Everglades REC in Belle Glade, where Drs. Nuessly, McCray, Sandhu and Odero from EREC talked about the unique muck soils and associated sugar cane production south of lake Okeechobee. The next day the group toured the Range Cattle REC in Ona with Dr.Joao Vendramini, to discuss forage production. The afternoon was dedicated to Florida’s signature crop: citrus, at the Citrus REC in Lake Alfred with Dr. Christopher Vincent. It was an occasion for all our guests to learn about the consequences and specific challenges caused by citrus greening, while sampling some homegrown FL orange juice. On the way to the UF campus in Gainesville on Wednesday, the group toured the Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra, where field and greenhouse research is conducted by over 400 UF faculty. The remainder of Wednesday was spent at a welcome luncheon with Dr. Elaine Turner, Dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, where they were also welcomed by the UF
Provost, Dr. Joseph Glover. After lunch, they enjoyed a special “behind the scenes” tour of the UF Natural History Museum with Dr. Andrei Sourakov. The week concluded on Thursday with the Agroecology Summit proper: 12 UF CALS departments were represented and gave an overview of their programs, followed by an official presentation of the International Partners and a wrap-up discussion regarding potential collaborative opportunities.
This first UF Agroecology Summit was considered a success by everyone, and its initial goals were met: strengthen collaborations between UF and International Institutions, as well as promote partnerships among the group as a whole. Dr. Rowland, director of the UF Agroecology program, says about this experience: “The group has discussed continuing the event on an annual basis which shows the long-term commitment of the group to working together. Some very exciting ideas came out of the event, and I am looking forward to the group tackling some of these initiatives. I’m sure these efforts will expand this network and deepen the links between our different programs. We are currently talking about creating not only shared lectureships and faculty and student exchange programs, but also grant proposals and other research collaborations. It is truly a great time for our program and Agroecology worldwide”