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UF/IFAS: Dr. Flavia Zambon to Join Indian River Research and Education Center Citrus Research Team

 Flavia Zambon
Flavia Zambon
 Dr. Flavia Zambon
Dr. Flavia Zambon

Fort Pierce - Thursday May 11, 2023: The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAR) has chosen Flavia Zambon to lead a citrus research team at the
Indian River Research and Education Center (IRREC) in Fort Pierce.

Dr. Zambon will will join the citrus research team as an Assistant Professor of Production Horticulture. A native of Brazil's famous citrus production region in São Paulo State, she has spent much of her career here in Florida's citrus region and is well known by many growers.

Zambon holds a Ph.D. in Horticultural Sciences from the University of Florida, with field and laboratory research at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, Florida. She earned two bachelor's degrees: the first in agronomic engineering, and a second, in agriculture, both from the University of São Paulo Luiz de Queiroz, College of Agriculture, in Brazil. Zambon is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, and English languages.

IRREC Director Ronald Cave said Zambon is the strongest candidate for the position owing to her many years of experience with citrus research in all of Florida's citrus production regions.

"The most compelling point about Dr. Zambon’s selection for the citrus and tree crops position is that she knows the growers in the state's citrus industry and has built a good relationship with them through her previous employment with IRREC for the MAC project," said Cave.

Part of Zambon's work will include efforts to collaborate statewide with professional growers, research, and Extension faculty to explore alternative crops that could provide economic opportunities in the Indian River production region.

One of the growers Zambon has worked closely with is Peter Spyke, an IRREC advisory committee member and a local heritage citrus grower.

"We are very pleased to hear that Dr. Flavia Zambon will fill the horticulturist position at IRREC," said Spyke. "IRREC is currently involved with two extensive citrus experiments --- rootstock trials in the Millennium Block and the grapefruit "MAC" projects, the latter consisting of over 30 different grower field trials."

Data collection and analysis from the two citrus research projects require serious commitment, said Spyke. The MAC project aim is to identify possible tolerance for HLB with more than 12,000 new tree plantings distributed on 84 acres in groves owned by 16 participating growers.

"Dr. Zambon has been involved with the trials in the past and has repeatedly proven that she will be where she needs to be when she needs to be there," said Spyke. "We are fortunate to have a scientist who has proven herself in our projects, and I have every confidence that she will continue to provide the leadership necessary to help IRREC continue to be successful in the future."

"Upon my return to the University of Florida, I plan to keep the variety trials at the Millennium Block and the former MAC project running," said Zambon. "Both projects are vital for the industry and our citrus growers, as well as the development of visual disease detection workshops for the fieldworkers."

As part of her role, concomitantly with the MAC project, Zambon grafted grapefruit and mandarin trees with infected HLB buds and quantified the gene expression before visual symptoms appeared. Trees under attack by citrus greening showed distinct responses to defend themselves from the pathogen. To assess the trees' conditions and reactions, Zambon said she evaluated ten different genes. The gene expression demonstrated unparalleled energy metabolism and carbohydrate levels inside the leaves, where the disease becomes most notably visible, said Zambon.

"In terms of research, I want to keep exploring the effect of micronutrients in the hormonal profile of citrus and develop alternatives to detect pre-symptomatic trees through carbohydrate partitioning quantification," said Zambon.

The Indian River Research and Education Center is in the Indian River District, a central-east coastal stretch from Mims in Brevard County to north Palm Beach County, known for its peerless grapefruit exported to points as far away as Southeast Asia.

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the U.F. College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.

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