Center Director's Message - Dr. Jack Rechcigl
The UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center (GCREC) has evolved from a small tomato research center with one scientist to a center of 20 scientists and over 200 employees that offers responsive research solutions to growers for numerous commodities grown in Florida.
GCREC has been at its present location since 2005, after over 80 years of existence at two previous sites in Bradenton and Dover. The centers were previously established because of particular agronomic needs in the region. Historically, the Bradenton location focused on vegetable and cut-flower ornamental production. In recent years, environmental issues, protection of natural resources, as well as urban landscape and land use changes, have become important. The merger of location sites, identification of new research thrust areas and the addition of a teaching program with faculty located at Hillsborough Community College in Plant City, have given the faculty of GCREC many challenges and opportunities to meet the needs of Floridians.
The vision and mission of the center have been consistent throughout its nearly 100 years of existence and are in concert with the land-grant mission of service to the state of Florida. Specifically, the center developes and disseminates new scientific knowledge and technology that will assist Florida's producers to be competitive, both nationally and in the world economy. Key elements of the center's research mission are to develop low-input horticultural crop production and pest management systems, to develop conservation strategies to improve the sustainability of agriculture and urban landscape, to improve the genetics of commercially important horticultural crops, and to address major economic challenges to increase the profitability and sustainability of Florida agriculture. The faculty also excel in the teaching and extension functions of UF/IFAS.
Recently, through current and ongoing efforts, GCREC has developed the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee, also known as DEI. This group, which is comprised of faculty, students and staff members, works on creating an atmosphere that welcomes diversity and inclusion. Through development of recruitment, outreach and mentoring programs, we hope to provide resources, tools and support for all faculty, staff and students at Gulf Coast Research and Education Center.
We are also very fortunate to have the support and guidance of our Gulf Coast Council, comprised of leaders from the private sector, commodity-related organizations and state officials. The purpose of the council is to assist in identifying needs related to the agricultural industries in the region and state. Their input is invaluable in helping set research priorities, so GCREC my continue to provide new solutions and innovations for the agricultural community.
Core Programs of the Future:
- Genetic improvement and cultivar development (disease and nematode resistance, improved horticultural characteristics) of tomato, strawberry, emerging crops, landscape and ornamental crops.
- Development of alternative crops for Florida production (i.e. hops, artichokes,pomegranates, blackberries, hemp).
- Sustainable and integrated biological, chemical and cultural pest management systems (diseases, nematodes, insects, and weeds), including the development and use of disease forecasting or decision support systems.
- Best management practices for sustainable crop and ornamental production systems, and urban tree and landscape management that conserve and protect soil and water resources.
- Environmental impact of known and emerging contaminants on surface and groundwater.
- Economic for profitable vegetable, fruit and ornamental production. Analyze labor and trade issues to address industry sustainability.
- Remote sensing applications for agricultural and environmental monitoring
- Use of artificial intelligence to enhance horticultural production with an emphasis on phenomics in plant breeding, precision pest management, and mechanical harvesting.
The UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center has proudly served Floridians for nearly 100 years, and we look forward to being around for decades to come.
Center Director and Professor