Children are invited to an up-close-and-personal, hands-on experience with the world of citrus. They might even get their hands dirty while touring plant labs at this year’s third annual Citrus Youth Day on June 27.
Scientists at the Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC) in Lake Alfred, Florida, part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), host the Citrus Youth Day to get students interested in Florida’s signature crop.
About 50 students are already registered for the day’s activities, and there’s room for 25 more, said Jamie Burrow, program manager for UF/IFAS Extension at the CREC.
“Every year, we try to do something new,” Burrow said. “For the first time, we will be having a tour of two citrus horticulture labs.”
Manjul Dutt, a UF/IFAS research assistant scientist in horticultural sciences, will talk about how new citrus varieties are developed. He will demonstrate the various stages of citrus plant development, and the kids will be able to see what citrus cells look like.
During the lab tours, students will learn how citrus grows and the various methods scientists use to conduct their research, Burrow said.
Here’s what else is scheduled for the day:
- Davie Kadyampakeni, an assistant professor with the UF/IFAS Soil and Water Sciences Department, will host the soil water sensor station. Kadyampakeni will talk about the importance of accurately measuring water content in soil to manage water and nutrients efficiently. “We will show you some tools that we use in doing those measurements and let the children try to use those tools,” he said.
- Christopher Vincent, an assistant professor of UF/IFAS horticultural sciences, will host the station at which students can observe how citrus senses light: “Our lab will be focusing on how plants ‘see’ colors and how they are affected by treatments that change the colors,” Vincent said. “The kids will wear different colors of sunglasses and look at different colors to show how the sunglass filters change their perception of color.”
- Lauren Diepenbrock, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of entomology, will host the citrus pest station. There, she will talk about “bad” bugs, or pests of citrus, and “good” bugs, those that are useful in citrus production because they eat the bad bugs or help pollinate varieties that need pollination. “We will see bugs close up, using individual magnifying containers that attendees can take home and talk about how some bugs communicate with sounds.”
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