Three UF/IFAS scientists are not only trying to see if hops will grow in Florida’s hot, humid climate, but they also want to know whether they can quench the thirst of the fast-growing micro-brewing industry.

Brian Pearson, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of environmental horticulture, is one of three members of the hops research team. Pearson’s research to date won him third place in the Early Career Award for scientists at the American Society of Horticultural Sciences (ASHS) in early August. The Early Career Competition is for new faculty and professionals to share their discoveries to a peer audience.

UF/IFAS environmental horticulture assistant professor Brian Pearson examines hops at the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka, Florida.

“This is just the beginning of our alternative and specialty crop research,” said Pearson, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka, Florida. “Working with hops, fennel, safflower and skullcap, we hope to bring an array of viable, high-value alternative crops to Florida growers.”

Pearson’s master’s student, Richard Smith, won third place among graduate students in the oral competition for his presentation on hops research.

Also taking honors among UF/IFAS faculty and students in environmental horticulture were:
  • Professor Kim Moore, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center. Moore was elected as a fellow of the ASHS, the highest honor the society bestows on its members. Moore specializes in sustainable plant management. She also teaches four online undergraduate and two graduate courses.
  • Professor Gary Knox, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center, was named the Outstanding Extension Educator, an honor that recognizes work done over the past 10 or more years. Knox works as an UF/IFAS Extension specialist in nursery crops, including plant evaluation and plant-pest interactions.
  • Associate professor Mack Thetford, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS West Florida Research and Education Center, was honored as the Outstanding Undergraduate Educator, given to a person who has distinguished him/herself as an instructor for at least 10 years. Thetford co-teaches two statewide web-based courses on plant propagation and annual and perennial gardening. He studies landscape ornamentals and plant propagation.
  • Krisha Bhattarai, a doctoral student working under the supervision of professor Zhanao Deng at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, took second place for the graduate student poster competition. Bhattarai studies ornamental breeding, specifically, breeding gerbera daisies.
“National recognition of our faculty attests to the continued excellence the UF/IFAS department of environmental horticulture strives to achieve,” said Sandra Wilson, a professor in the department and former vice president of education for the ASHS. “I don’t recall a time in ASHS history when so many faculty from a single department were recognized with such distinction at a single conference. I’m very proud of my colleagues.”

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