In March 2019, the Board of Directors approved $100,000 to designate toward a research fund, supporting grant initiatives that will focus on research and development within the industry.
“Florida Watermelon growers all face challenges from diseases and pests to bring their products to market. FWA is committed to help all growers by supporting research targeted at disease and insect resistance, fertilizer application and advances in growth and harvesting technique,” said Laura Land FWA Chairman and co-chair of the FWA Research Committee.
“Through direct contributions and letters of support to researchers applying for state and federal funding, FWA has facilitated several million dollars’ worth of research over the years. Establishing a dedicated research fund will take us to the next level in supporting research with a direct impact on the success of all Florida watermelon growers,” Land said.
A seven-person committee was established and charged with the responsibility of reviewing and recommending research projects subject to approval by the Board of Directors. Co-chairs will be representatives of North Florida growers and South Florida growers, and committee members will be appointed according to equal geographic representation.
Cory Dombrowksi and Laura Land were appointed as the first Co-chairs of the Research Committee. The following have been selected to serve as members of the committee: Mark Bryan, Bob Stewart, Dan Thomas, Phil Turner Jr., and James Carlton.
The first project proposed by the committee will be a collaboration with Robert Hochmuth, of NFREC-Suwannee Valley, to focus on the potential role of controlled release nitrogen fertilizers in reducing leaching losses in Florida watermelon production. The objective of this grant is to evaluate the use of controlled release nitrogen sources as an alternative to conventional, more soluble, sources of nitrogen in the bed fertilizers.
“Florida watermelon growers are working hard to be part of the solution to improve Florida’s water quality,” Co-Chair Cory Dombrowski said. “The Florida Watermelon Association is proud to support Dr. Hochmuth’s research to ensure efficient use of fertilizer to grow high quality produce with minimum impact on the water we all depend on.”