A consortium of scientists and researchers, led by the University of Florida, has received the prestigious National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Partnership Award for Multistate Efforts.
The Southeast Climate Extension project is comprised of 19 researchers from half a dozen universities. They engage agricultural producers and help them implement management strategies to protect crops from weather extremes. In addition, they conduct research aimed at reducing climate and weather risks in agriculture and natural resources in Florida, and cooperate with similar programs through the Southeast Climate Consortium.
“The United States, as a global leader in agriculture, faces a demanding set of challenges as we work to feed the world,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. “These honorees are instrumental in helping NIFA find and apply solutions that ensure all people have access to a safe and nutritious food supply.”
There are several aspects to the SCE’s work, including the creation of networks of researchers, growers and producers, and the development of technology resources.
“I believe that it is a great recognition of the Southeast and UF-IFAS leadership in climate extension,” said Clyde Fraisse, UF associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering and the SCE project director. “As I look at other programs in our country and the world, it is clear that our program is quite advanced in providing stakeholders with information and tools to face the challenges posed by climate variability and change.”
The researchers created the Row Crop Climate Learning Network, focusing primarily on corn, cotton, peanut, soybean and wheat. Their work included field trips to farms, surveys, scientific presentations, roundtable discussions and opportunities for producers to participate in research studies. The network is notable because it places great importance on producers’ observations and concerns, and quickly delivers that information to researchers.
They hold an annual event – the Climate Adaptation Exchange Fair –and include individual farmers’ presentations on their experiences with a specific management technology, discussing the advantages and drawbacks.
The scientists created the SCE website (http://www.agroclimate.org/seclimate), where users can access almost 20 climate-related factsheets, the quarterly SCE newsletter, reports from past events, information on upcoming events and links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.
They developed the Water Footprint Tool, available on the SCE website, that allows producers to estimate water use, based on their specific operations. It also allows for water-use comparisons between years, cropping systems and regions; the results can be useful for sustainability studies and regional water management policy.
They developed the 4-H Weather and Climate Toolkit, which helps young people ages 8 to 12 understand basic climate science, weather forecasting and the effects of human activity on climate.
In addition, they formed a partnership with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, which supports African-American farmers and works to help them acquire or retain farmland ownership. SCE works with the federation’s mentoring program for young farmers; SCE volunteers provide information about traditional and emerging climate information and explain how both are relevant to risk management and climate resilience.
Other UF scientists involved in the SCE are: Wendy-Lin Bartels, an assistant research scientist; David Diehl, an associate professor in family, youth and community sciences; Daniel Dourte, a postdoctoral research and Extension associate; Heather Kent, a regional specialized 4-H agent; Jim Marois, a professor of plant pathology at the North Florida Research and Education Center; Fred Royce, assistant scientist in agricultural and biological engineering; Nicole Sloan, a writer in family, youth and community sciences, and
David Wright, an Extension specialist and professor at the North Florida REC.
The University of Georgia, Florida State University, Auburn University, Clemson University and Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University are also a part of the SCE.
Award recipients were honored Thursday in Washington, D.C.