GAINESVILLE — Scientists at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences North Florida Research and Education Center — particularly its Marianna facility — may take a while to fully recover their research after it was damaged by Hurricane Michael, according to administrators.
In Marianna, five irrigation systems were turned over and damaged, according to Glen Aiken, director of the UF/IFAS North Florida REC. The center’s perimeter fence took hits from falling trees and limbs, as well. Buildings at Marianna sustained damage to roofs, siding and doors, a press release from UF/IFAS said.
The Florida Foundation Seed Producers — adjacent to the main Marianna operation — suffered extensive damage to its peanut facility. After the storm, they moved out hundreds of tons of seed peanuts to preserve their quality.
At the Beef Unit and overall animal operation at Marianna, miles of electric fencing fell victim to numerous trees blown down on them, which makes it tough to keep the cows in their pastures, said Jerry Fankhauser, assistant director of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station. The bull test station is also challenged the bulls can’t be put back into their designated paddocks.
These losses likely will impact current and future field research, in addition to planned research efforts in early 2019, Fankhauser and Aiken said.
Aiken said he hopes to meet with center faculty Thursday or Friday to get a full report on the damage to each of their research projects.
“Growing seasons are messed up for everybody,” he said.
NFREC’s Quincy facility also sustained damage to greenhouses and a shed in addition to tree limbs on the ground.
Aiken credits his faculty and staff for coming through a rough situation with their heads held high, the release said. After NFREC staff got past their personal hardships, employees did their part to return the center to a sense of normalcy.
Five employees from the farm crew at the UF/IFAS West Florida REC in Jay helped clear trees from fence lines and replaced fences that were destroyed. Two farm crew members from the Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona, Florida, helped replace fences.
The North Florida REC-Suwannee Valley provided labor and equipment, as well. Electricians and other staffers from the Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra and the UF campus in Gainesville have helped get generator power and assisted with overall cleanup, according to the release.
“It is amazing how much progress was made in just a few days with the outside assistance we received,” Aiken said. “Last Monday, the job looked almost too overwhelming for there to be an end; however, on Friday, there was enough progress made to make the faculty and staff see some distant light."