The Plant Ecophysiology group studies abiotic and biotic factors affecting subtropical and tropical horticultural crops. Abiotic factors include flooding, drought, wind, irradiance and atmospheric carbon. Interactions between environmental and biotic factors are investigated in cooperation with entomologists and plant pathologists.
The limestone soil, high water table, and subtropical climate in south Florida provide an ideal environment for development of numerous plant stresses. We focus on understanding physiological bases for plant responses to these stresses in order to develop methods of avoiding or mitigating them.
Another focus of the program is the development of best management practices to increase the compatibility of agriculture with the adjacent natural and urban ecosystems.
Our research focuses on plant ecophysiology with the primary aim of assessing the effects of environmental stresses on whole-plant physiology of subtropical and tropical horticultural crops. We also collaborate with colleagues in other disciplines to determine the interactions of biotic and abiotic stresses on crop physiology.
Leaf gas exchange, chlorophyll fluorescence, and plant water relations are determined as physiological indicators of plant stress and to identify mechanism underlying the causes of these stresses.
Plant Ecophysiology Lab personnel include permanent members, Bruce Schaffer (Professor) and Ana Vargas (Biologist and Lab Manager), and visiting scientists, postdocs, graduate students, student interns and research assistants. Many of our lab members are international, particularly from countries where subtropical and tropical horticultural crops are grown. Graduate students take classes on the main campus in Gainesville and conduct their research at the Tropical Research and Education Center (TREC). Most students finish their coursework in 2-3 semesters and then move to TREC to concentrate on their research. There is graduate student housing at TREC.