Faculty Research in Environmental Horticulture

Algae samples

Our faculty undertakes applied and basic research in many fields of horticulture.

This includes teams focused on:

  • Ornamental plant breeding for new cultivars that have superior performance, resist disease, are not invasive, and use less water and pesticides
  • Conservation biology to support habitat restoration, endangered species, and environmental protection
  • Best management practices to protect our water resources and ensure plants are grown and maintained using sustainable method

Research Focus

Landscape Management

Most Americans place a high value on landscaping, green space, and water amenities. Concern for the environment and protection of natural resources, particularly water and soil, is of critical importance to the quality of life in Florida. Research is needed to provide landscape contractors, architects, government agencies, and consumers with solid recommendations for selecting, establishing and maintaining trees, shrubs and other landscape plants in an environmentally sound manner. 

Faculty Involved in Landscape Management Research:

Nursery Crop Production

With over 7,000 registered nurseries, Florida ranks only behind California in terms of the volume of wholesale nursery products. The farm gate value of Florida nursery crops was $3 billion based on an economic study conducted in 2005, and there were 58,000 acres of container production and 23,000 acres of field or in-ground production. Our production research programs are aimed at supporting growers with improved production information that allows them to be more successful, produce a better product for the consumer, and be better environmental stewards.  We are an active partner in the Floriculture Research Alliance, a university-industry consortium for applied research on production, propagation, and shipping of young plant material.

Faculty Involved in Nursery Crop Production:

Plant Breeding & Biotechnology

Florida is among the largest producer of ornamental plants in the nation. Ornamental plant breeding has been a major programmatic area in the Environmental Horticulture Department. The present program focuses on genetic improvement of several major tropical foliage plants, caladium, coleus, gerbera, and foliage plants for landscape use. Over the past 10 years, the breeding team has released 85 varieties. Many varieties have been licensed for large-scale commercial production and generated over $532,000 in royalty returns to support breeding and research activities during this period. The strengths of the program include the wide diversity of crops being improved and a critical mass of faculty members with experience in an array of genetic improvement approaches. The laboratory and production facilities on main campus in Gainesville and two research and education centers allows us to screen new varieties for superior performance in a range of production and landscape environments. In response to industry needs, the breeding program will focus on improving numerous horticultural traits in plants that are critical for Florida growers and consumers.

Faculty Involved in Plant Breeding & Biotechnology:

Restoration & Conservation Horticulture

Ecotourism in Florida has a $7.8 billion yearly impact on the state's economy. The areal extent of Florida's unique ecosystems has been reduced by approximately 57%. Habitat has been converted to residential, agricultural, and commercial use; remaining habitat has been fragmented, hydrologically altered, fire-suppressed, and overrun by invasive plants. Our Plant Restoration and Conservation Consortium programs are addressing this challenge by developing strategies for invasive species management, reinstatement of natural disturbance regimes, and active revegetation of habitats with native species. Ex situ conservation approaches, including seed storage, plant propagation (i.e. tissue culture, vegetative and sexual propagation) and genetic diversity characterization, are developed for critical native species. In addition to practical applications, the program makes considerable contributions to advances in basic science including the fields of conservation genetics, restoration ecology, and plant physiology (over 41 peer reviewed publications and more than $2 million grant dollars generated in the last three years) and education (over 15 peer reviewed teaching publications in the last three years).

Faculty Involved in Restoration & Conservation Horticulture:

Water

The enormity and complexity of the environmental horticulture industry in Florida necessitates the partnering of our faculty with colleagues from other agencies, institutions, universities, and departments to meet the research and education needs of Florida’s citizenry. For example, the Water Education Alliance for Horticulture is a partnership between universities and industry designed to help growers use water efficiently and sustainably. Their goal is to provide growers with information on water treatment and to fill informational gaps on technology efficacy. Similarly, a collaborative effort between UF and USDA scientists produced the CCROP (Container Crop Resource Optimization Program) web-based decision support tool that can be used by growers for daily irrigation scheduling as well as for estimating season-long water requirements. Likewise, UF turfgrass scientists located throughout Florida are addressing water quality issues (nutrient leaching) in partnership with Florida Department of Environmental Protection; landscape irrigation planning in partnership with the Southwest Florida Water Management District; and improved turfgrass germplasm in partnership with turf researchers from five southern US land-grant universities with funding provided by the USDA-NIFA.

Faculty Involved in Water:

Research Centers/Extension Offices

There are twelve Research and Education Centers (RECs) across the state of Florida, with scientists from various academic disciplines. They conduct research and provide information that will solve agricultural problems pertinent to the growers and consumers in their surrounding communities.

UF/IFAS has Extension offices in each of Florida's sixty-seven counties, with faculty members, scientists, educators, administrative staff, and volunteers, all working to provide solutions for every Floridian's life.

You can find a list of all RECs and county Extension offices at Solutions For Your Life.