About UF/IFAS SWFREC

Established in 1958 as a University of Florida support facility, the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center (SWFREC) was dedicated in 1986 as a UF/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) station.

Situated on 320 acres, the center serves growers, farmers, and other clientele in Collier, Charlotte, Glades, Hendry, and Lee counties. It supplies decision-makers with specific knowledge to sustain and enhance agricultural, human, and natural resources through nationally and internationally recognized research, extension, and teaching programs.

UF/IFAS Mission Statement

The Mission of the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge in agricultural, human, and natural resources and to make that knowledge accessible to sustain and enhance the quality of human life.

SWFREC Mission Statement

The mission of the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center (SWFREC) is to supply decision-makers with specific knowledge to sustain and enhance agricultural, human, and natural resources through nationally and internationally recognized research, extension, and teaching programs.

Vision for the Future of SWFREC

The University of Florida/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center (SWFREC) in Immokalee serves a diverse set of needs for the area agricultural industry, students and, community. The SWFREC conducts high-priority research and extension functions to generate new technologies and improved practices used by growers of the state to solve problems related to agricultural production and protection of natural resources. The primary goal of SWFREC is to facilitate improvements in area and statewide water and environmental quality.

The past four years have seen an increase in offices and laboratories by 5,000 square feet (one-half the area of the original 1989 building), the building of eight new greenhouses, and the addition of seven faculty. General goals of SWFREC include: alternative citrus and vegetable crop production practices, insect and mite management, plant disease diagnostics and control, and improved irrigation and nutrient management. The faculty has contributed to improved citrus production by trees affected by Huanglongbing (HLB), but has not reduced efforts to address problems facing vegetable producers. Specific technologies researched by SWFREC include: precision agriculture technology, computer-aided irrigation scheduling, growth model based nutrient management, organic options, soil microbiology, plant physiology, water conservation, and principles of economics and labor supervisory techniques.

During the next few years, the center farm field and grove, used to conduct much-needed research and graduate student projects, will be a priority to keep pace with the agriculture industry. Hurricane Irma dramatically pointed out the need for improved drainage on our experimental fields and grove. The drainage system and reservoir had not been properly maintained for many years. With the help of local growers, we have made improvements that will reduce the impact of all but the most devastating storms. Like the drainage system, the irrigation system on our farms has not been upgraded to current production standards. Money has been secured to automate our irrigation systems. Additional funds are being sought from the legislature and donations from suppliers that will further improve irrigation in keeping with the practices employed by many of our clientele. These renovations would include improved irrigation water delivery and sensor-based automation to facilitate better research and demonstration of critical agricultural inputs. These improvements will allow researchers to implement fertilizer application through the irrigation system that is more efficient than ground application and becoming widely used by tree and row crop farmers. The Return on Investment for these improvements is an increase in our ability to demonstrate the efficiency and effectiveness of the latest technology. These long-term productivity improvements will help increase agricultural production and provide an economic boost without increased impact on water quality and the environment.

Improvements in our farm equipment to improve our production practices are critical. We are in the process of purchasing a new 190-horsepower tractor to replace some of our low-powered and aging tractors. Additional newer equipment will be purchased in future years to greatly improve our ability to produce plots in keeping with our clientele. Students experience hands-on research, many with on-farm projects and cooperation with local growers. These programs are enhanced greatly by post-docs and visiting scholars. More than 20 M.S. and Ph.D. graduate students will utilize the experimental fields and local farms to conduct thesis and dissertation research that will benefit the growers and the environment. With the help of our growers, we are in the middle of a fundraising campaign to build a student residence dorm to house these students at SWFREC, further enhancing our ability to attract the best students to conduct much needed high-impact research.

Departments / Study Areas

Agricultural Economics

Agricultural Economics

The Food and Resource Economics Department reflects the diversity of Florida's agriculture which has more than 50 major commodities. The Department has 41 faculty members involved in a full range of research, extension, and teaching programs including Agricultural Marketing and Policy, Production/Farm Management, International Trade and Development, Marine Economics, Natural Resources, Community/Regional Development, and Labor Economics. In addition to 33 faculty members located at the main campus in Gainesville, eight faculty are found at research and education centers located throughout the state.

Dr. Fritz Roka's leads the Agricultural Economics program at SWFREC. This program supports other applied research programs in Florida with economic data and strives to improve the quality of cost, price and market information available to Florida farm owners and managers. Improved information should help agricultural producers make more profitable decisions in their commercial operations. In addition, this information should aid in the way resources are managed so to enhance environmental quality and conserve the region's natural resources.

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Agricultural Natural Resources Economics

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Agricultural Engineering

Precision Agricultural Engineering

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Water Resources

Dr. Sanjay Shukla's leadership of the Water Resources program, at SWFREC, is an extension of the UF/IFAS Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department. The mission of the water resources group is to develop high-quality information to support water management decision-makers in Southwest Florida. This information is based on field research, analysis of regional water resources, and hydrologic model simulation.

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Entomology

The entomology laboratory at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center (SWFREC) is part of the University of Florida's/IFAS research and education centers. There are 19 research centers throughout Florida. The SWFREC is located in Immokalee, FL, and responds to the agricultural needs of the region.

The Entomology program's objective is to collaborate with plant and animal producers of the region to attend their concerns with respect to insect pest and their management, natural enemies' conservation, insecticide use, and best management practices. Dr. Phil Stansly's researches at SWFREC are focused towards classical and participative research, extension, and personal attention to producers.

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Horticultural Sciences


Citrus Horticulture

Citrus Horticulture program serves the extension and applied research needs for 179,093 acres of commercial plantings in the Southwest Florida Gulf Coast region. Program areas emphasized include nursery tree production, nutrition sources for establishing young trees, general cultural practices during tree establishment, and environmentally sound cover crops for row middles in bedded flatwoods groves.

A 20-acre budwood planting, located at the Center, is maintained in cooperation with the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services and serves as the germplasm source of most commercial varieties for propagation of new trees by nurseries throughout the state. Educational programs include extension publications, magazine articles, extension short courses and field days, and college credit courses.

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Vegetable Horticulture

The Vegetable Horticulture program at SWFREC, provides statewide leadership in both research and extension, specifically in the areas of vegetable transplant production and stand establishment. The program emphasizes practices that are designed to reduce early crop losses and increase cropping efficiencies. In addition, the overall program is part of a statewide effort to improve production efficiency, impart up-to-date knowledge, develop and implement needed techniques, and to transfer technological information on a variety of vegetable crops and cultural practices.

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Plant Physiology

Plant Physiology program under the leadership of Dr. Ute Albrecht's will focus on the physiology of citrus and vegetables grown under different production methods in Florida.

One of the priorities of her citrus program will be the effect of different rootstocks on fruit drop in HLB-affected areas in combination with the use of different plant growth regulators to improve tree performance and productivity. In addition, different citrus rootstock propagation methods will be compared and their influence on plant growth and development studied.  

Dr. Albrecht’s vegetable program is anticipated to focus on alternative, more sustainable production methods such as grafting and the use of biostimulants and how they affect crop physiology and productivity.

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Weed Science

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Plant Pathology

The Plant Pathology program at SWFREC is dedicated to research and understanding of diseases affecting vegetables, tomato, and citrus in Southwest Florida. Under the leadership of Dr. Pam Roberts, the techniques utilized range from molecular-based analysis to field trials. The program is also home to the HLB/Greening Diagnostic Laboratory.

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Citrus Pathology

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Vegetable Pathology

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Soil and Water Science

The Soil and Water Science program at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center (SWFREC) is led by Dr. Kelly Morgan. The program provides a balance of research and extension activities relating to crop nutrition and water management. Best management practice (BMP) development and implementation in southwest Florida is relatively recent (<10 yrs). Therefore, growers need field data validating the effects of BMPs on production and profits under conditions unique to this area of the state. Likewise, regulators with federal and state organizations (e.g. U.S. EPA, Florida Department of Environmental Regulation, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and South Florida Water Management District) need solid science on which to evaluate the effectiveness of present BMPs and to determine the need for additional BMPs to be implemented in the future. Focus crops in the southwest Florida area are citrus, sugarcane, and vegetables.

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Soil and Water

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Soil Microbiology

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Welcome to SWFREC

The SWFREC has a rich history, serving not only Southwest Florida growers but also initiating new research and production programs that have advanced agriculture throughout the state.