UF Plant Diagnostic Center to host ribbon-cutting on April 25
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Plant Diagnostic Center, one of the top facilities of its kind, is a front-line defender against invading pathogens that threaten plants in Florida and around the nation.
The Gainesville-based center, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 25 to celebrate its new headquarters, which opened in January.
The ceremony will begin at 1:30 p.m. with speeches by Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources; Mike Irey, director of research for sugar cane and citrus for U.S. Sugar Corp. and Southern Gardens Citrus in Clewiston; and Rosemary Loria, a professor and the chair of the UF/IFAS plant pathology department — followed by tours of the facility and teaching gardens. The building, No. 1291, is located at 2570 Hull Road, directly behind Fifield Hall. Those interested in attending should RSVP to Lauretta Rahmes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352-273-4635.
The center’s job is to diagnose submitted commercial, homeowner and extension plant disease samples from turf, ornamentals, fruits, vegetables and other plants. It’s a service of UF/IFAS Extension and is overseen by the UF/IFAS plant pathology department. More than 2,500 samples pass through the center annually.
“There is a huge benefit to Florida agriculture to have a reliable laboratory to send samples to,” Loria said. “For a grower, getting an accurate and timely diagnosis and disease control recommendation can mean the difference between losing the crop and being able to sell it.”
Florida’s agricultural industry contributes more than $100 billion to the state’s economy each year.
Carrie Harmon, director of the center, said the service gives growers access to proven disease-management strategies.
“We’re an extension laboratory, and field-tested, Florida research is going into our management recommendations, so we know that those things work,” she said.
The center is part of the Florida Plant Diagnostic Network that includes diagnostic laboratories at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm and the Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead.
UF/IFAS’ plant diagnostic network is one of the top in the country because of its direct linkage with the department’s large number of plant pathology experts who specialize in areas that range from tropical ornamentals and fruits to row crops, tomatoes, strawberries and watermelons.
The center also houses the Rapid Turfgrass Diagnostic Service, which provides a fast turnaround for disease diagnosis in high-value turfgrass.
Additionally, it is one of the few plant diagnostic labs in the country that has a containment facility that can process highly regulated samples infected with pathogens considered a threat if released, as well as a molecular lab that allows for cutting-edge research and DNA diagnosis.
And since most of the plants that come into the U.S. are imported through Miami, the UF plant disease labs are often the first places that detect new diseases and threats, Loria said.
“With the volume and the opportunity to bring pathogens and pests right from field situations through the airport and into the country, we need to be among the best to keep agriculture as safe as possible,” she said.
Harmon has conducted training programs in the Caribbean and in Central and South America so diagnosticians there can detect and treat the latest plant diseases before they can reach the U.S.
The new building is 6,000 square feet — 1,000 more than the previous — and features a larger classroom for professional training as well as a work room for students in the UF/IFAS doctor of plant medicine program, who often work in the clinic.
For more on the center: http://plantpath.ifas.ufl.edu/clinic/.