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EH Faculty Awarded SEEDIT Grants to Fuel Research Efforts in Emerging Agricultural Enterprises

Drs Paul Fisher, Satya Swathi Nadakuduti and Zhanao Deng, Environmental Horticulture faculty members, were awarded grants from the Support for Emerging Enterprise Development Integration Teams (SEEDIT) program. The purpose of the SEEDIT program is to promote and grow integrated research and Extension team efforts toward emerging agricultural enterprises. SEEDIT is funded by the UF/IFAS Dean for Research Office and Dean for Extension Office in partnership with the Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources. 

Dr. Zhanao Deng, Professor, Gulf Coast REC & Environmental Horticulture

An Integrated Research and Extension Team to Break the Chokepoints in Commercial Production of Blackberries, an Important Emerging Crop in Florida

Blackberry is the fourth most important berry crop in the U.S. and has emerged as an important alternative crop for Florida growers. Low yield is THE factor that limits Florida blackberry growers. The primary causes of low berry yields in Florida are inappropriate selection of blackberry varieties, lack of sufficient chilling in the winter for sufficient bud break and flowering shoot development, and high incidences of diseases and pests. In this project, we aim: 1) To provide blackberry growers with the much needed training and resources for selecting varieties, pruning and managing plants, and controlling major pests; 2) To equip extension faculty with the latest knowledge about blackberry production; 3) To increase the IFAS research capacity for addressing major issues in blackberry production; and 4) To develop innovative tools for managing blackberry plants and major pests.

Paul Fisher, Professor & Extension Specialist, Environmental Horticulture

Florida Superfoods – Ginger, Turmeric, and Camellia Tea

Ginger, galangal (Thai ginger), turmeric, and Camellia sinensis tea are popular “superfoods” with edible qualities, human health benefits, and ornamental value. Development of new FL enterprises for these crops is limited by a lack of production protocols and economic analysis in our conditions. Analysis of large-scale markets is needed, including sale as live plants, fresh produce, or value-added products in the beverage and herbal supplement industries. This project will not only provide new research-based information for these specific crops, but will help build a new UF team “MICE (Medicinals In Controlled Environments)” across UF IFAS and Pharmacy for plant-based products with medicinal properties. Specific objectives are:

  1. Evaluate economic yield and compare production system options (container v. soil, covered v. field) of different varieties in five FL locations, and refine organic protocols at Gainesville.
  2. Evaluate quality of locally-grown product compared with imported product in terms of achieving market specifications, postharvest performance, and value-added proposition for Florida-grown material.
  3. Identify size, price and profitability of different markets for fresh, dried, and value-added products.
  4. Engage and communicate project outcomes with consumers, producers, and entrepreneurs.

Satya Swathi Nadakuduti, Assistant Professor, Environmental Horticulture

Scutellaria, a Florida Native Ornamental with Potential Anti-Cancer Properties - An Emerging Enterprise

Scutellaria spp has tremendous potential for the ornamental and medicinal plant industry in Florida. The root extract of S. baicalensis has been widely used for medicine in Asia for over 2,000 years, and it has a variety of bioactivities, e.g., anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and neuro-psychologic properties due to synthesis of unique flavonoids and indolic compounds. Commercially, it has a market for ornamental and medicinal applications including supplement capsules, dried plants for tea, powdered or liquid extracts. Florida native species, S. integrifolia and S. arenicola also synthesize these active medicinal compounds. In order to develop Scutellaria crop as a new enterprise crop, we need to identify germplasm and best production practices, while evaluating the metabolite profiles under controlled environments to maximize the synthesis of active pharmaceuticals.

  1. Evaluate Scutellaria species in three Florida landscape locations for ornamental & medicinal purposes.
  2. Manipulate controlled environment experiments with CO2 enrichment, variable light quality and nutrient concentrations in order to maximize pharmaceutically active metabolites.
  3. Quantify price and quality of existing Scutellaria products and develop enterprise budget based on Florida data.
  4. Engage and communicate project outcomes with producers, processors and entrepreneurs.