UF/IFAS is working on solving farmers’ problems in Benin, Ecuador and Uganda. Why? So they never become your problems.
Take Mathews Paret, for example. He’s diagnosing watermelon diseases in Benin. What he learns there will be invaluable to preventing those diseases from taking hold here and managing them if they do.
Farmers didn’t need the pandemic to teach them how vulnerable we are to threats that emerge from faraway places. Pests and disease have long hitchhiked their way to your farms, forests and ranches through our public seaports, international airports, and more than 100 million annual visitors.
International work is how we take the fight to pests and diseases before they get here, to play defense by going on offense. For example, UF/IFAS entomologists went to Ecuador to teach a pest management course and while there were able to observe a pest known as the tomato leafminer in the field. The experience prompted our entomologists to conduct Florida early detection educational sessions for growers, Extension agents, Master Gardeners, community gardeners and others to identify and report this pest should it arrive here.
UF/IFAS research in Brazil has been important in familiarizing our faculty with citrus diseases such as citrus leprosis that we don’t currently have in Florida. Before his retirement, citrus agent Stephen Futch led several grower tours to Brazil to give them a firsthand look at potential threats and useful production practices.
We don’t have a monopoly on great ideas. We learn from other nations’ agricultural scientists the way UF/IFAS animal scientist Nicolas DiLorenzo did when he brought home from a conference in Ireland a way to capture and measure a cow’s methane emissions. He’s putting to use in Marianna what he learned abroad in his research on how to lower methane emissions through nutrition.
Increasing agricultural productivity is one of the most effective means of lifting people out of poverty. When we help another nation’s farmers, we’re contributing to the rise of a class that can afford to buy Florida-grown imports. Aid-to-trade success stories include South Korea, which for many years was a humanitarian aid recipient but is now one of the leading importers of Florida citrus.
International work raises our stature and visibility, giving us a recruiting edge in an international talent market. By attracting the world’s best faculty and students, we bring greater expertise to addressing your problems.
The most compelling case for our global reach is simply that it’s the right thing to do. Because we are among the world’s most productive farmers and most cutting-edge agricultural scientists, we help feed the world. We reduce human suffering and give more people the opportunity to develop their potential. We should not abdicate this moral responsibility to someone else.
Exporting our knowledge and your crops advances diplomacy, national security, cultural exchange and scientific progress.
It also advances worldwide prosperity, from Africa to Alachua County, from smallholders in Asia to 500-acre family farms in Florida. I believe in the international work of UF/IFAS—and plan to expand it.
International research, teaching and Extension makes us better scientists. That makes us better at serving you.
Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).