Kakkar Joins UF/IFAS Extension as Invasive Insect Specialist

Daniel CooperPests, Research

by Robin Koestoyo, UF/IFAS koestoyo@ufl.edu

Dr. Garima Kakkar

Dr. Garima Kakkar

Garima Kakkar is joining the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) to help the state fight invasive pests. Kakkar, an expert in invasive insects, is a multi-county Extension agent based in St. Lucie County.

Kakkar has a diverse range of experience in managing pest insects, and will now serve growers in the world’s premier citrus production region with the latest research findings. Her most recent assignment was working as a postdoctoral research associate for UF/IFAS, along with both UF and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in studies of an invasive whitefly, thrips vectors and a pepper whitefly.

“Dr. Kakkar has been synergistically blending research and practical information to create effective tools for the citrus and fruit crops industry,” said Ed Skvarch, director of UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County. “She believes that a channelized production system requires an Extension agent who is more than a liaison between different groups, researchers, growers or industry. Her goal is to develop programs that take research to the fields and industry, for the betterment of our agricultural production systems.”

Since taking her new position, Kakkar has focused on worker protection standards training, and she is organizing soil nutrition programs, developed in conjunction with the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, Florida, Skvarch said.

In addition, Kakkar assisted with the organization and event management of the 2017 Citrus Show in Fort Pierce, and co-organized the 2017 Agricultural Worker Safety Training, along with Christine Kelly-Begazo, County Extension Director of UF/IFAS Extension Indian River County.

In her new role, Kakkar provides technical expertise, education and training for producers who cultivate fruit crops, particularly citrus. In building working relationships with the growers, Kakkar monitors industry needs and develops programs to engage growers with the university’s research investigations. The programs will demonstrate economic benefits and results for the advancement of the region’s fruit crops industry, Skvarch said.

Because so many of the citrus industry’s issues are related to pest insects, Kakkar said her wide range of experience in managing pests for multiple economic commodities throughout Florida has prepared her for the Extension position. The industry’s most formidable pathogen, huanglongbing (HLB), or citrus greening, is spread by the Asian citrus psyllid.

“Extension is a transfer from research directly to stakeholders, and my research background will help me translate information from research to growers,” said Kakkar. “I have the flexibility to fill the research gap and act as a liaison between researchers and our stakeholders, one of which is the citrus industry.”

Kakkar earned a Ph.D. in entomology from UF. She holds two master’s degrees: a master of science in entomology from UF, and a master of science in agrochemicals and pest management from the University of Delhi in India. She earned a bachelor of science in botany from the University of Delhi.