University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) personnel are finding more ways to stay in touch with growers safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are doing it online and by phone; some are now even being allowed to visit in person, like at groves owned by growers cooperating with UF/IFAS on research. If UF/IFAS personnel do show up at your grove, they may act a little differently than they did pre-COVID-19, warns Citrus Research and Education Center Director Michael Rogers.
“Don’t be offended if they’re in your grove and you approach them and they back up or put on a mask,” Rogers says. “We’ve instructed them to stay away from people” by following COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. He notes that if multiple UF/IFAS personnel go to a grove or other site, they’ll likely all be in separate cars, again practicing social distancing.
Rogers says visits to groves are just one example of UF/IFAS personnel increasing their activities as Florida reopens in phases. For a few months, most researchers and others were working from home. Only a few were allowed to visit research facilities and other UF/IFAS sites as necessary to maintain ongoing experiments and perform other essential tasks. “We’re really seeing quite an increase in our activities in field-related research projects” and in UF/IFAS labs, Rogers says. At UF/IFAS labs and other facilities, many of those who have been allowed to return are working in staggered shifts to provide social distancing, he says.
Rogers briefly discusses the recent appointment of J. Scott Angle as UF/IFAS vice president of agriculture and natural resources. Learn more about Angle’s appointment here.
Online educational and CEU opportunities for growers will be coming soon. Rogers says Extension agents are working on providing online presentations of talks that would have been made at the annual Florida Citrus Growers’ Institute in Avon Park in April. That event was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Rogers also urges growers to tune in to a UF/IFAS webinar June 8 at 3 p.m. That webinar is for all agricultural stakeholders of UF/IFAS, and will tell what’s happening and being planned.
Everyone looks forward to getting back to more normal operations in the face of COVID-19. “But, in the meantime, we’re going to continue to expand our capabilities digitally to reach growers any way we can,” Rogers says.
This interview with Rogers is part of the May All In For Citrus podcast, a joint venture of UF/IFAS and AgNet Media. Listen to the full podcast.
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