University of Florida

Research: Information Systems Projects

The following are current CRIS research projects in Information Systems:

Virtual Learning Forests: Developing Collaborative Opportunities In Virtual World Environments For Undergraduate Natural Resource Students

ABE Faculty Participant: Beck, H.

This project will develop, test, and evaluate Virtual Learning Forests, a new instruction delivery system designed to improve the learning of undergraduate natural resource students at universities worldwide. The major problems being addressed are the limitations on field laboratory time for natural resources students due to decreasing education funding, the need to decrease carbon footprints, and the desirability to improve student learning and interest in natural resources by responding to their generational preferences in technology use. The project will develop a prototype Virtual Learning Forest (VLF), a 3D interactive graphical teaching tool for use in online virtual world environments (VWEs) using open source software. The initial VLF will represent a stand of longleaf pine trees in its natural environment, with data and growth models from actual forest stands attached to the trees. This will allow a large number of students to perform sampling and silvicultural exercises online to augment their classroom experience, and to collaborate online in real time. The VLF will be available at any time, without the necessity of travel, and will allow students to become familiar with forest types they are not able to visit.


The goal is to develop a first (beta) version of a 3D Virtual Learning Forest in a virtual world environment (VWE) based on the longleaf pine ecosystem, and to measure how students react to it and how it impacts their learning experience. This will consist of a graphical representation of a stand of trees and associated plants, with rendering done as realistically as the virtual world interface allows, but with priority given to attaching databases to the trees that allow mensuration, sampling, and silvicultural exercises to be simulated by a test group of students.

The anticipated change in education will be to create a new instruction delivery system (the Virtual Learning Forest) that will increase student understanding of tasks they learn in field exercises, broaden their understanding of the need for collaboration with peers, and increase their interest in learning by introducing a new online learning tool that responds to their generational preferences.

Southern Plant Diagnostic Network

ABE Faculty Participant: Beck, H.

Early detection and response to emerging or high-impact plant pests and diseases requires an educated cadre of first detectors, capacity and timely response at the diagnostic laboratory level, and standardized laboratory protocols and practices. This project increases the capacity of field personnel to detect and manage plant problems and diagnostic laboratories to quickly and accurately diagnose plant problems.


The objectives for this project are primarily extension-related, but include some applied research to develop and evaluate new detection, diagnostic, and management methods for plant pathogens and pests of high economic or environmental impact. The primary extension responsibility of this project is facilitation of relationships between university, regulatory, and industry plant pathology and diagnostic programs. The extension portion of this project includes development and distribution of educational and training materials in pest detection and diagnosis, training First Detectors, diagnosticians, Extension faculty, crop care professionals, and others, coordination and leadership of the National Plant Diagnostic Network (NPDN) First Detector training program, coordination and leadership of regional diagnostic data collection, increasing the capacity and capability of the diagnostic laboratories in the Southern Plant Diagnostic Network (SPDN), and facilitate rapid communication and diagnostic response to disease outbreaks.

The research portion of this project is focused on providing applied answers to plant disease problems identified through extension activities. Specific goals of the research program are to investigate new detection and diagnostic methods and management options for emerging or high-risk plant pests and diseases that threaten agriculture and ecosystems in the southern region of the US.

Precision Decision Management For Sustainable Strawberry Production In The Eastern U.S.

ABE Faculty Participant: Fraisse, C.W.

Fungicide application on strawberries in the eastern U.S. is among the most intensive for any fresh-fruit crop, represents a substantial cost to growers, and creates potential environmental and health concerns. AFR and BFR are the major strawberry fruit rot diseases for which fungicides are applied. In the past few years, fungicide prices and application costs have increased dramatically while the market value of strawberries has stagnated. Consequently, profit margins are smaller and strawberry production may soon not be sustainable - particularly in the eastern half of the U.S., where disease favorable climates raise control costs for growers. In addition, emerging resistance to key reduced-risk fungicides threatens disease management success and forces growers to use substantial amounts of broad spectrum fungicides with greater health concerns. The level and frequency of pesticide use on fresh-market strawberries creates potential environmental hazards and risks to consumers. The disease forecast system will provide timely advice on the need for fungicide applications, thereby helping growers to achieve good disease control and protect their profits.


The goal of this project is to develop and implement precision disease management systems for commercial strawberry growers in the eastern half of the U.S. that will reduce the total number of fungicide applications while maintaining excellent disease control and managing emerging or existing fungicide resistance. Specific objectives of this project are to:

  • a) Validate a disease forecast system for timing fungicide applications to control strawberry fruit rots in the Southeast (Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina) and Midwest (Ohio and Iowa); b) expand the web-based disease forecast system for multi-state use and develop an alert system based on email and text messages; and c) assess the system's impact on grower profits.
  • a) Evaluate the use of models to estimate leaf wetness duration (LWD), and b) evaluate seasonal risk forecasts for anthracnose fruit rot and Botrytis fruit rot based on climate scenarios for alternative El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phases.
  • a) Determine baseline sensitivities of B. cinerea and C. acutatum to reduced-risk fungicides and identify discriminatory doses, and b) develop and implement a resistance-monitoring system for precision resistance management.
  • Deliver training workshops and other outreach events to enable growers to utilize the disease-forecast and resistance-management systems.

Food, Feed, Fuel, And Fiber: Security Under A Changing Climate

Investigator: Fraisse, C.W.

Climate changes in response to natural phenomena across a range of time-scales. Evidence suggests that climate is now also changing as a result of human activities, such as emission of greenhouse gases and changing land uses. Effective preparation for possible effects of climate change in the future includes the engagement of resource managers, planners, public works officials, local managers, community development specialists, businesses, residents and property owners. The challenge is to provide these diverse stakeholders with trusted, useful, science-based information so that they in turn can make informed decisions. Under this project we will develop and provide climate information and decision support tools to help agriculture managers better cope with uncertainty and risks associated with climate variability and change.


Our overall goal is to develop and provide climate information and decision support tools to help agriculture, forestry, and water resource managers better cope with uncertainty and risks associated with climate variability and change. Specific objectives include:

  • Enhance the understanding of crop-climate-soil interaction at a regional scale.
  • Application of risk assessment tools, including the existing NC-1018 database, for the crop-climate-soils interface on a regional scale.
  • Enhance the understanding of potential bioenergy production systems.
  • Disseminate the research outcomes on the potential effects of climate variability and climate change effects on crop production resource use and adaptation options to users and stakeholders.

Understanding Climate-Related Risks In Agricultural Systems And Applying Climate Information For Decision Support

Investigators: Jones, J. W.; Fraisse, C. W.; Ingram, K. T.; Boote, K. J.

Climate varies considerably from year to year and this variability has major impacts on agricultural production. Scientists now understand sources of some of the year to year differences in rainfall and now have methods to forecast climate several months in advance. A majority of crop failures in the USA are associated with either drought conditions or excess rainfall. If such conditions could be anticipated ahead of time, farmers may be able to adjust practices to reduce risks to losses or take advantage of anticipated favorable conditions.


The overall purpose of this project is to investigate interactions of climate, crops, and management practices and methods for using climate forecasts for decision support in Florida. Specific objectives include:

  • Develop methods for forecasting agricultural responses to annual climate variability and for quantifying the uncertainties associated with forecasts
  • Identify agricultural management options that reduce risks associated with climate variability for major cropping systems in Florida
  • Develop methods for developing climate and weather information for agricultural system decision support to reduce risks.