Researchers and Growers Partner in Science

Ernie NeffResearch

Field days are an ideal way for researchers and growers to share information.

Researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) have conducted scientific studies in groves owned by grower cooperators around the state for many decades. UF/IFAS’ Michael Rogers refers to these researcher/grower relationships as “partnerships” and discusses their value. Rogers is director of the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center at Lake Alfred.

“These researcher/grower partnerships, they’re extremely important for how we operate,” Rogers says.

Researchers learned much basic knowledge about the devastating disease HLB soon after it was discovered in Florida in 2005. Now, Rogers says, researchers are taking practices and making them more efficient. For growers, he says, “it all comes down to being as cost-effective as possible.”

“For us to be able to fine-tune things, we really need that partnership with growers,” Rogers adds. “In the field, they’re (growers) talking to us; they’re watching what we do. And we get a lot of feedback. And it’s really practical feedback … The real-world perspective that growers provide us, that really helps us” in providing practical solutions to HLB and other issues.

Rogers says growers come up with ideas researchers never thought of. “Sometimes it’s the unexpected observation in the field that leads to a big breakthrough … They’re (growers) there every day, walking the groves, seeing what’s going on.” The researcher, on the other hand, just “pops in and out of the grove,” Rogers says.

COVID-19 hampered the researcher/grower partnerships over the past year, Rogers says. “We had restrictions on what our folks could do,” making interactions with growers more difficult. “We’re now able to get out” and interact more with growers in recent months, he adds.

Rogers says he was able to attend two grower meetings in May for the first time in about a year because of the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings. “It’s so good to see people and exchange ideas and talk about what’s happening, what people are seeing in the field,” he says.

This interview with Rogers is included in the May All In For Citrus podcast, a joint project of UF/IFAS and AgNet Media. Listen to the full podcast here.

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