Dr. Wright, David L
A Professor in the Agronomy Department at the University of Florida North Florida Research and Education Center. My duties as an extension specialist (65% FTE) include development and delivery of information to support county faculty and their clientele in agronomy in crop production and management. Research (35% FTE) provides information for county faculty and agricultural industry on agronomic crops with a major focus on conservation technology production of peanuts, cotton, corn, soybean, small grains, and oil seed crops. Present projects include developing and delivering a non-edible oilseed crop (Brassica carinata) as a “drop in” fuel for farm and military use that fits current farming systems; developing and delivering management strategies and germplasm material for control of Asian soybean rust; developing and delivering management strategies for control of Fusarium hardlock of cotton; and developing and delivering the next advancement in conservation farming technology in a national/international project integrating livestock into conservation cropping systems. This project has the realistic goal of reducing water, pesticide, and fertilizer use by 50-70% while increasing yields and profits, reducing risks and sequesting carbon. All projects have a strong interdisciplinary perspective and incorporate systems level strategies and objectives to develop viable farm production systems which has led to speaking engagements to conservation and innovator groups of farmers and industry leaders around the country and the world with partnerships including Coca Cola, World Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, National Resource Conservation Service and other groups dedicated to conservation and sustainability.
An integral part of my extension and research program is the training of graduate students, postdoctoral associates, and visiting scientists. Lectures and seminars are given on campus so that students and faculty are familiar with our programs.
The focus of my research and extension program has been on real world problems faced by the agricultural industry. Our projects have a strong interdisciplinary perspective and incorporate systems level strategies and objectives to develop viable farm production systems that enhance economics, sustainability, environmental services, and mitigate risks for the operation. Key areas of creative work include: Development of conservation farming systems that integrate perennial grasses/livestock into row crop rotations to enhance soil health, reduce inputs by use of recycled nutrients and utilization of N from legumes and enhancing rooting. Adoption of the sod based rotation in both small plot and farm scale projects has shown the following.
1) Enhanced soil and water quality by increasing organic matter content .1 % per year which has resulted in almost 1 % increase over an eight year period making a significant impact on water and nutrient holding capacity. This has reduced irrigation needs by 50-70% and resulted in crops being grown more cheaply.
2) Increased water holding capacity by increasing organic matter content and creating an environment conducive to increased earthworm populations and better soil tilth. These earthworm holes and bahiagrass root channels allow more water infiltration deeper into the soil profile resulting in more subsoil moisture that can be utilized by crops as well as channels for the following crop to follow.
3) Reduced pesticide use (more than 50%) from having half the system in a perennial grass. We found that perennial grasses reduce plant diseases and nematode levels in the soil to levels not requiring treatment or reduced treatment levels.
4) Increased yield as a result of larger root systems and peanut yield being as much as 50% higher as compared to conventional rotations.
5) Reduced risks since half the farm is out of “cash” crops and perennial grasses can withstand drought, hurricanes, and various other stresses better than annual row crops, therefore, less money is risked each year.
6) Reduced N and K fertilizer inputs of 50% or more due to nutrients being recycled in manure and yields of cotton being improved by 200 lbs/A lint after grazing due to enhanced rooting as compared to cover crops alone.
7) Enhanced microbial populations with both cover crops and grazing during winter months along with indicator enzymes for C, N, P, and S cycling being enhanced indicating a healthier soil.
8) Improved farm income by 2 to 7 fold. With increased yield of row crops after perennial grasses as well as increased forage yields of small grains grown during winter months more profit is realized.
Management strategies for the conservation farming systems have been developed that is utilized in the conservation cropping system. The technology developed has been promoted through on farm demonstrations, short courses, county meetings, on line publications, scientific journals, extension fact sheets and other media presentations. Key findings developed used in the system include:
1) Conversion from tillage to conservation tillage with direct savings of $7-89/A in fuel and labor costs with at least $50/A enhancement in environmental services (less soil erosion, etc.) which amounts to an advantage of more than $.5 bil. to SE U.S. growers alone each year.
2) Deep tillage on Coastal Plain soils prior to planting small grain resulting in an increased yields of 12 bu/A making an economic impact of $100 mil. more income for SE growers.
3) Irrigation and nutrient management scheduling on corn resulting in 50 bu/A yield increase for SE growers or $20 mil. more income for Florida growers and $400 mil. more for SE Growers.
4) Developing management for control of hardlock in cotton which is a severe Florida problem due to humid conditions near the coast. The management with fungicides and insecticides has resulted in doubling of yields by many growers but a consistent 200-300 lbs/A lint yield increase on average for Florida growers adding $20-30 mil. to the economy of Florida growers yearly.
5) Asian soybean rust was found in the U.S. in the Fall of 2004 with the potential of costing U.S. soybean growers $3-4 bil. a year in fungicide and application costs. Over 50 man years of research was done at our location to find that would control the disease including resistant germplasm. More than 2/3rds of the scientific papers written are from our location. Sentinel plots saved U.S. growers $299 mil. the first year in pesticide costs.
6) New research is looking at carinata as a “drop-in” fuel as a winter crop that can be used in conservation cropping systems.
As an extension specialist, all of my research and extension efforts have involved team efforts in finding solutions to challenges and critical needs of the farming community and delivering results in a user friendly manner to the consumer. I have served as leader or co-leader of statewide extension programming for agronomic crops for the past 25+ years with the objective of delivering educational programs to county extension faculty. My current leadership duties are “To enhance and maintain agriculture and food systems” and serve as a team member of the Focus area “Agricultural profitability and the sustainable use of environmental resources”. This focus area creates an environment for statewide programming with a team of specialists and county faculty which develops priorities and teams for specific production challenges for agronomic crops. My specific program focuses on development and implementation of an extension agronomy program for row crops and diversified conservation farming systems. Extension education materials are developed in conjunction with other specialists for county extension faculty and their clientele including on-line publications, providing in-service training, and other educational material and support. The success of the program is reported by
1) attainment of extramural funding,
2) publication of articles on line or through popular press aimed at end-users,
3) development of EDIS (Electronic Data Information Source) publications,
4) meetings, field days, and in-service training events to support county extension faculty so that they can better deliver educational programs to
their clientele and help in one on one decisions making
5) training students and young scientists and
6) making an impact in the farming community through increased profitability and environmental stewardship. I am also a founding member (established in 2008) of the IFAS Focus Team “Climate Change and Variability: Adaption and Mitigation” G2-F5 of which our sod based rotation is a major factor in mitigating climate change impacts.
Currently, four main areas of extension programming are defined below, and their description, objectives, education activities and impacts are provided for the last 10 years.
Livestock Integration into a Bahiagrass/Peanut/Cotton Rotation Using Conservation Tillage
- to promote and educate county extension faculty and their clientele on diversified conservation farming systems for agronomic crop production that includes perennial grass/livestock rotations with row crops to enhance the environment, decrease pesticide use, increase yield, reduce economic risks, while enhancing farm profits.
- to encourage new adoption of sod based conservation farming systems in each of the counties by local grower through county educational efforts, field day, short courses, EDIS publications, etc. so that growers can see the benefits of the system first hand.
- to provide education through dedicated websites, demonstrations, and other information on the value of the system for risk management, environmental enhancement and to encourage partnerships with agri-business, NRCS, water management districts, conservation groups, etc., for promotion and adoption of the conservation farming system.
Program Area 2
Carinata as a “drop-in” fuel
- to determine management strategies for producing carinata in the SE U.S.
- to find varieties that were short season and ready to harvest in late April or early May and produce 3000-4000 lbs/A of seed to compete with petroleum oil.
- to serve as a resource for information, training, research facilities, for the agricultural community in the area of biofuels crop production and as a key site for evaluating germplasm for commercial companies interested in biofuels along with provide training opportunities for county extension faculty and their clientele, extension specialists, consultants and scouts in Florida and the U.S.
The potential looks good with about 20,000 acres of commercial production that has been accomplished in the SE. Our goal is to have a crop that will produce 200 gallons of biofuels per acre and have the value of meal for livestock feed in addition. Much work is being done with partnerships including the petroleum industry.
To read more on these Program Areas, susch as the current situation(s) and Their Impacts please visit the link provided below.