UF/IFAS, Australia Formalize To Collaborate On Fruit, Crop Research

By: Lourdes Mederos

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — The highly coveted vanilla spice, along with mangoes and passionfruit are at the root of a collaborative agreement between two entities that are continents apart.

UF’s Board of Trustees, on behalf of the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, have signed an agreement with the Northern Territory of Australia that allows for the exchange of UF/IFAS scientists, faculty, and students, as well as the sharing of technological knowledge, development of research projects.  

The initiative’s objective is to let researchers stud and discuss vanilla, passionfruit, and mangoes so they can identify shared strategic interests on the sustainable development of the fruits and crops. The MOU in effect until July 2, 2022, when the agreement expires.

Alan Chambers, Courtesy Alan Chambers

“We are excited by the new opportunities that will come out of this partnership,” said Alan Chambers, a plant geneticist at UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center vanilla research site. “We share many of the same challenges around tropical fruit production and expect to create synergy leading to benefit researchers, growers, and consumers alike.”

The agreement sets the stage for four components:

  • The exchange of technical information between the parties as it pertains to growing vanilla, passionfruit and mangoes,
  • The investigation of research questions to improve production systems and returns for growers on these crops,
  • Develop research proposals to secure funding on a case-by-case basis,
  • Support the exchange of staff and students to build capacity and facilitate the transfer of technical knowledge between the parties.

“This collaboration will help advance tropical fruit production in Australia, the United States, and beyond,” Chambers said. “This includes research from horticulture to plant breeding.”

Both the Northern Territory of Australia and UF/IFAS work with stakeholders to ensure efficient and profitable cultivation of tropical crops in their areas. This includes collaborating with growers and community members.

Most of the results of this collaboration will include “behind the scenes” work that could eventually become useful to growers, added Chambers.

“With the MOU, we can start the process of defining the areas for the greatest impact. Eventually, growers and consumers could see new crops or new cultivars for their favorite crops grown more sustainably and available locally.”

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