Dr. Michael Dukes and I have revamped our approach to water use. We’re expanding what we mean by landscapes to include production agriculture.
The new Center for Land Use Efficiency, or CLUE, does not have a single headquarters. It’s in various campus locations where we do water work, administer Florida Friendly Landscaping™, or search for less resource-intensive ways to produce food and foliage. It’s on the web at https://clue.ifas.ufl.edu/.
CLUE is a guiding idea. You don’t need money to come up with a great idea.
Good thing, too, because soon after we brainstormed CLUE, we had to shut down the Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology (CLCE) when its legislative funding dried up.
This forces us to eliminate the annual Urban Landscape Summit. We also lose the graduate students who researched issues which matter to FNGLA and the landscape industry FNGLA represents. It empties the innovation fund which awarded startup grants to scientists who work on lawns and landscapes.
What we still do have is a vision. We even have some funding left to begin to implement that vision, directed primarily toward agricultural best management practices – those methods which are less resource-intensive. And when we say agriculture, we include the green industry.
As Michael and I see it, there are three places IFAS needs to focus our efforts on water. For one, Florida’s farms and nurseries depend on sufficient and clean water. A second is planned communities. The third is millions of lawns and landscapes, with owners who want them green.
Michael’s vision was to bring these three areas under one administrative umbrella. The previous center did not include agricultural water use in its work. CLUE does. It will pursue landscape ecology by:
For a long time, we separated our work on water by crop. BMPs if you grow food or nursery crops. Florida Friendly Landscaping™ if you grow landscape plants or sod. Now it’s all in a single more-crop-per-drop shop.
Two things will keep this work going through the transition we’re in now.
The first is momentum. The old center lit the fuse for Eban Bean’s work, for example, on what landscape soils need to use water most efficiently. Based on his promising early advances, his work is likely to continue to attract funding no matter the aegis under which it operates.
The second is seeking funding in Tallahassee in 2020 to advance Eban’s work by demonstrating the use of compost and other materials, as well as scientifically-proven horticultural methods, to improve irrigation for residential yards. We could use your help to communicate how important this is to Florida. Ask Ben Bolusky for specifics.
Don’t get me wrong, the budget cuts hurt. FNGLA was a key player in identifying the need for the CLCE more than a decade ago and then helping acquire the state funding to launch it in 2006. It pains me to inform you we’ve had to sunset it.
Ideas don’t have to expire when money does. In fact, scarcity has a way of inspiring creativity.
To implement what results from this creativity, though, undeniably requires money. We will continue to search for ways to partner with government and industry. That’s how the land-grant model works, after all.
Let’s not lose momentum because of an interruption in funding. Together, let’s make the case to bring government back into the fold of partnership. We don’t know if we’ll succeed in 2020. But if we do, we’ll have a much stronger CLUE.
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.