Michael Burton has been named the next director of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Southwest Florida Research and Education Center (SWFREC). He’s scheduled to start at the Immokalee facility on July 1.
Burton recently served for 17 months as proxy for the dean of Missouri State University’s William H. Darr College of Agriculture. He spent the academic year teaching and conducting research in agronomy at the university. In the summer, he ran the family farm just outside Springfield, Missouri.
“On the farm, we grow sweet corn, strawberries and pumpkins among other crops — and it keeps me grounded,” Burton said.
Farming gave Burton a first-person view of what growers want and the challenges they face. Scott Angle, administrative leader of UF/IFAS, brought up Burton’s farming experience as one of many reasons he appointed Burton to the SWFREC job.
“Dr. Burton cares about producers because he is one … He espouses a leadership philosophy of encouraging and rewarding faculty for the work that needs to be done to serve stakeholders,” said Angle.
Burton grew up on the family’s secondary-enterprise farm near Anderson, Indiana, and spent 10 years in 4-H during his childhood. He also served as a state officer with Indiana FFA.
Burton began his academic career as an assistant professor of weed ecology at North Carolina State before being promoted to associate professor and moving on to Missouri State. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science from DePauw University in Indiana, then went to The Ohio State University, where he received two master’s degrees: one in public policy and the other in crop nutrition and seed physiology. Burton then received his doctorate in agronomy studying weed ecology from the University of Nebraska.
SWFREC’s primary mission is to help ensure growers are profitable, but not at the expense of natural resources. Burton will look significantly to SWFREC’s advisory committee for input. “We’ve got a pool of wonderful scientists and students at the center, and I look forward to working with them all,” he said.
Source: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
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