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Research Lost at UF Sites

By: FLCrackerGirl, 5:55 PM GMT on February 27, 2006

University of Florida Entomology Labs in Vero Beach suffered Research Loss due to Hurricanes in 2004 & 2005.

Below is a reprinted article from the Palm Beach Post:
UofF Official: "Operate Under the Assumption That Hurricanes Will Hit Every Year"

University of Florida/BELLE GLADE The African mahogany tree could be seen for miles in Belle Glade.

After being replanted in 1937 from the Everglades to the University of Florida's Everglades Research and Education Center, the tree had grown to more than 100 feet tall and about 23 feet in circumference.

"It was the tallest tree in the Belle Glade landscape," said Christine Waddill, the center's director.

The tree's massive trunk now rests atop a crushed shed at the center, one of the most visible losses from Hurricane Wilma's destructive visit Oct. 24. It can't be replanted.

But the loss of the big tree was only the most obvious for the Belle Glade center. The most important damage suffered at the university lab was the research decades of it that was literally blown away, flooded out, or left without protective greenhouses. Wilma tore down 12 greenhouses and damaged 55 of the center's 60 buildings. At least eight will have to be demolished.

The scientists who conduct agricultural research say two of their most serious losses are time and the varieties of corn and other vegetables wiped out by the storm whose potential will never be known.

"I had two greenhouses full of corn. The glass fell on the plants, and we were unable to save them," said researcher Robert Beiriger. "We lost about 100 (genetic) lines and saved about 30. It's hard to say what the total value was."

Wilma, along with the hurricane season of 2004, wreaked havoc with experiments using critters such as the leaf miner, which disfigures lettuce by creating wiggly lines on it.

Entomologist Gregg Nuessly lost a genetically unique colony of leaf miners he had used for 16 years when Hurricane Jeanne destroyed the greenhouse plants on which they lived. That came after Hurricane Frances put an end to a colony of yellow sugar-cane aphids.

The research was restarted, and then destroyed again by Wilma.

"It is going to take us years to get back to where we were," Nuessly said. "It can take us months to find a colony in the wild and get it back into a colony. We will have to start over."

In an effort to get back on track after the two hurricane seasons, the Belle Glade center and the four other Institute of Food and Agricultural Science research centers in southern Florida Fort Pierce, Fort Lauderdale, Homestead and Immokalee plus a University of Florida medical entomology laboratory in Vero Beach, are jointly requesting $33 million from the state legislature this year. The request includes money for both programs and repairs, renovations and infrastructure.

Among the research goals are development of new specialty niche crops and identification of new uses, such as biofuels, for existing crops, and the exploration of new ventures such as agritourism.

Rep. Richard Machek, D-Delray Beach, said he supports seeking more money for the centers. Citrus canker eradication and urbanization have decreased farm acreage in the state, and there's a need for higher-value crops that can be produced on small farms, he said.

"These research centers are the backbone of the future of agriculture.... Agriculture has to find new levels of economic income for the farms of Florida," Machek said.

Agriculture preserves green space while keeping the state from being entirely paved over, Machek said.

With the nation in an energy crisis, producing crops for biofuels is part of the new era of Florida agriculture, Machek said. The climate allows three crops of corn, one possible source of alternative fuels, to be grown on the same land each year.

"Those who want to grow it need to have the research at their fingertips," Machek said.

Wilma's visit to Belle Glade finished off entomologist Richard Raid's field experiments involving disease control on carrots, parsley, corn, lettuce, snap beans and celery.

"We have completely different diseases in the fall than we do in the spring. With some of these crops, you have lost a full year," Raid said.

Also, dozens of barn owl nesting boxes, used to help control the rodent population in the sugar cane fields, were blown over or destroyed by high winds, and more than 20 of the young owlets died, Raid said.

"Their parents were huddled down in the cane and protected from the wind," he said. Those parents are now reproducing at a higher rate than usual.

Destroyed research cannot be recovered, but buildings can be rebuilt.

Because so many of the buildings at the centers, such as Belle Glade, established in 1921, and the Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, founded in 1929, were older, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is providing only about 15 percent of the cost of rebuilding, Waddill said.

"FEMA bases the payment on the structure that was there," she said.

For example, a 35-foot-by-100-foot greenhouse at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, which Waddill also directs, will cost $125,000 to replace, and FEMA is providing just $8,000 of that, Waddill said. Wilma also destroyed six other greenhouses at the Immokalee center and 3,000 square feet of laboratories.

While homeowners are having a difficult time finding workers for home repairs, the problem is compounded for public entities such as the university, which must go through a bidding process.

At the Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce, Frances and Jeanne destroyed the new aquaculture greenhouse that was used to house young brood shrimp. It was rebuilt, then Wilma took it down again, said Brian Scully, the center's director.

Cortney Ohs, an assistant professor who runs the shrimp-producing aquaculture program, said the greenhouse is expected to be rebuilt and repaired for about $60,000 in April. Brood shrimp were moved to one of the aquaculture facility's ponds, but Ohs' research into other species and their suitability for Florida, such as bait fish and freshwater prawns, is on hold.

"I am looking at a six-month delay, plus what I would have accomplished in those six months," Ohs said. "It is compounded in the future. The delay is in the research."

After cleaning up the mess left by the 2005 storms, the centers are slowly ramping up to normal speed, but with one eye on Mother Nature and preparing for the future with stronger, newer buildings.

"As we reconstruct, I am operating under the assumption that we will get hit with hurricanes every year," Scully said
By Susan Salisbury/Palm Beach Post Staff Writer


PalmBeachPost Storm 2006

Another Article can be found at Gainesville.com


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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