Guest Column: Jack Payne

March 16, 2018

Maybe you saw the headlines a couple of years ago proclaiming the American lawn as the nation’s largest “crop.”

Bigger than corn. Bigger than soybeans. That calls for big science. Producers in the nursery and landscaping industry and the scientists who support them are playing on what is arguably American agriculture’s biggest stage.

The University of Florida Institute of Agricultural and Life Sciences faculty do this quietly, in the wings, on most days. But the Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology has its annual day on center stage on March 14. The Urban Landscape Summit is at the UF/IFAS Straughn Center.

You can register up to the day before the event by visiting the event's registration page. I hope you’ll consider joining Ben Bolusky, CLCE Director Michael Dukes, his team of scientists, and me for an information-packed day.

Dukes and his faculty are there for you all year long. But if you want one-stop shopping on best management practices, the causes of urban tree deaths, pest control, and more, the summit is a great crash course.

As the leader of UF/IFAS, I often talk about the challenge of feeding 10 billion people worldwide by 2050. Here in the U.S. we face a similar challenge from growth. We’ve got 1,000 people a day moving to Florida, and they want the same palms, lawns, flowers, shrubs, and vegetable gardens that are part of the allure that brought them here.

In fact, Basil Iannone, who’s on the summit agenda, speculates that urban landscapes are the fastest-growing land cover type in the U.S. We see throughout Florida how fast the built and engineered environment is growing.

The CLCE’s annual science fair for landscape professionals gets as deep as turfgrass genetics while at the same time remains accessible as the new mobile weed app we’ll demonstrate.

The demands on solid science for nursery and landscape professionals are greater than ever before. We need to know more about what consumers want – even when they don’t articulate it. We need to discover and diffuse practices for the landscaping industry to be good environmental stewards. We need to help producers make a living.

The summit is a good example of how IFAS provides science for both agriculture and natural resources instead of viewing the two fields as in competition with one another.

It is also the land-grant mission in action. The partnership among academia, government, and industry will be on full display at the summit. Such partnership helps great land-grant universities such as UF stay relevant to the 20 million Floridians it serves.

Jack Payne is the University of Florida’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.




What: The Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology’s third annual Urban Landscape Summit 

Where: Straughn Center, University of Florida, Gainesville 

When: March 14, 8 a.m. to 5:15 p.m; on March 15, from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the Center will hold training sessions for Extension agents

Who: Agricultural scientists presenting the latest in science and technology advances of interest to the nursery and landscaping industries

More Information:

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