Over the course of two days next month, UF/IFAS will continue its work on charting a course for the green industry for the next 30 years.
The Urban Landscape Summit is back in person (though you can tap into it on Zoom) on April 19-20 in Gainesville. It’s one of our most important symposia because it represents a direct effort to confront the sustainability of a Florida with millions more residents.
That means speaking science to those residents. That can be as much of a challenge as developing the science. That’s why you’ll see the words “attitudes,” “preferences,” and “stakeholder education” throughout the agenda.
We already know a lot about what to do. FNGLA has endorsed Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ as the path to the future. Former FNGLA President Ed Bravo helped lead a team which issued an FNGLA white paper calling for elevating the use of FFL. And Ben Bolusky concluded last year’s summit by saying we all need to get behind FFL.
So why do so few homeowners consciously adopt the basics of right plant right place, water efficiently, fertilize appropriately and the other six principles? A big part of the agenda of this year’s summit is about science communication.
UF/IFAS faculty and a water management district communicator will present their findings about “Adjusting Irrigation Attitudes.” Basil Iannone of the UF/IFAS School of Forest, Fisheries, and Geomatics Sciences has a session on making invasive species terminology more consistent and comprehensible to our audiences. A social science team will delve into “Scaling up landscape behavior change.”
I’m excited we keep adding expertise to these efforts. For example, our new environmental horticulture faculty member Ryan Klein will explore how we assess the risks posed by trees. The goal is to improve those assessments to reduce the bias and subjectivity which can lead to either unnecessarily removing trees or retaining trees likely to fail and fall.
Michael Dukes organizes the annual summit to keep our focus on the big-picture goal of changing our lawns and landscapes to avoid the worst-case water use projections for 2070.
Michael’s vision in creating the Center for Land Use Efficiency has been to bring together plant sciences, engineering and social scientists to share information on what Floridians can do to reduce water use and improve water quality. This includes grappling with how we can do more to promote behavioral change to reflect what we already know.
Your participation can help us incorporate more real-world experience into what our faculty are finding under the controlled conditions of our research. I hope some of you will join Ben at the summit and add your voice to the conversation.
I know there’s a perception we in academia are talking to ourselves at these symposia. But sometimes we’ve got to talk to ourselves to figure out how to talk to the millions of Floridians who’ve never heard of FFL, FNGLA or UF/IFAS.
Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).