Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Another One: A Look Back At 2015

By Michael Gutierrez

The end of the year affords a great opportunity to reflect on and assess the work of the past twelve months. For me and the Dukes research group, 2015 was all about initiating new projects and watching others come to fruition. Follow along as I review our year in water research.

When you receive an invitation to discuss your work and agenda for the year before a national audience, you take it. That's what Miami-Dade's Urban Conservation Unit (UCU) and I did in January, collaborating on national twitter discussion #landscapechat - explaining the water challenges we face in Florida and highlighting the work we do to promote sustainability. Relive the discussion here.

A January 2015 promotional short 

Water Quality to the Fore
The SVAEC project (named after the Suwannee Valley County research center where it is based) started early in 2015 and continued throughout the year. SVAEC is a three year nutrient management study in corn and peanut cultivation that encompasses water sampling from drainage lysimeters, soil core sampling and plant tissue sampling to determine how nutrients from fertilizer move in the growing area. 
Installing a drainage lysimeter in Live Oak: like this, but 72 times!
We tested lysimeter designs on campus in early spring and by May were installing 72 drainage lysimeters in the ground in Live Oak. Planning for the second year of SVAEC begins in January, you can learn more about the project through the short video below.

Celebrating Rain
As a content creator, I never miss an opportunity to showcase people in the world of water that I admire. Cynthia Barnett is one of those people. In January, Ms. Barnett returned to UF as a Hearst Visiting Professional to teach Environmental Journalism and was kind enough to let me sit in on the lecture portion of the course. 

Cynthia Barnett at the Gainesville release event for Rain: A Natural and Cultural History
Ms. Barnett was also game to sit down with graduate student Mackenzie Boyer and discuss teaching as well as a new book set to release in April. For me, listening to and learning from an author like Cynthia Barnett, who is doing some of the finest water writing around, was a highlight of 2015. You can listen to the IrriGator interview here, as well as an extended public radio interview on Rain: A Natural and Cultural History here.

From Homestead to Gainesville
The renowned team of UF water researchers based in Gainesville grew in 2015 with the addition of Dr. Kati Migliccio. Previously based at UF’s Tropical REC, this summer Dr. Migliaccio relocated to Gainesville and soon began work on North Florida trials for the successful smart irrigation turf app. Located at research plots on campus, the tests are comparing smart turf app water savings with that of many widely available weather-based timers and soil moisture sensors. 
Dr. Migliaccio has helped develop a number of irrigation apps for smart devices. Learn more about current testing in the short video above and check back with IrriGator in 2016 as these app products continue to improve and the focus of Dr. Migliaccio’s North Florida water research expands.

July is smart irrigation month. This year I helped push the message of wise outdoor water use on two fronts: showcasing experts locally and nationally. For IrriGator I produced videos with UF experts about four aspects of water-efficient irrigation. For the UCU I collaborated on a longer production collecting insights from industry professionals across the country defining the smart irrigation concept. See the four micro-videos here and the longer piece below.

July also marked an important milestone in the Orange County Smart Irrigation Study that the Dukes group helps manage. Following three years of research and data collection, the county began the process of developing policy around the water saving potential of smart irrigation devices. Learn more about how UF research helps promote water saving through technology here.

Faculty Fellow Award
This fall Dr. Michael Dukes was awarded the UF Water Institute’s Faculty Fellow Award for achievements in interdisciplinary water research and education. 

Congratulations Dr. Dukes!
Listen to a portion of Dr. Dukes’ acceptance speech here, and if you’re in Gainesville in January, be sure to attend his Water Institute Distinguished Scholar Presentation: Using Research to Inform Extension for Real World Water Conservation.
The Oklahoma/Miami-Dade Connection
Much of the irrigation technology and maintenance fundamentals that I know I learned while working in South Florida, and the group I’ve worked the closest with while there has been Miami-Dade’s UCU team. So few were more pleased than I this fall when they finally filled their long vacant team leader position with Extension Agent Morgan Hopkins.
At the time of this writing, Ms. Hopkins is four months on the job and doing very well. In fact, look for her to showcase some of the tangible water savings the UCU generates in Miami-Dade this spring at UF’s Water Institute Symposium.

Closing Big
Late fall is conference season for us and this year we were able to attend and present at both WaterSmart Innovations and the Irrigation Show and Education Conference.
I was especially honored to have been invited to collaborate with IA/ASABE during the conference in November on content highlighting the good work of extraordinary researcher Dr. Terry Howell and the E3 Irrigation Program, which annually sponsors students and instructors to attend the event.

Looking Ahead
We’re starting 2016 at full speed. For the Dukes team, SVAEC planning begins in early January, followed by a contractor training on soil moisture sensor use and installation with Tampa Bay Water in February, and the Water Institute Symposium soon after. Check this space for on-going developments! 
In Miami-Dade, the UCU and I already have a slate of three videos in the can awaiting release, and as the work of promoting and educating about conservation and sustainability continues, there will certainly be plans for more. Follow them on Twitter, FaceBook or Instagram and stay tuned!

Monday, December 21, 2015

On the Pathway to Landscaping Success with Miami’s DJ Khaled

By Michael Gutierrez (Miami-Dade U.C.U. partner)

If you’re attuned to pop culture and on social media you know about DJ Khaled – Miami radio personality turned music mogul turned Snapchat phenomena. Every day on his Snapchat account Mr. Khaled offers motivational insights and positive messages like only he can – in the elevator, over breakfast, in the shower, on a jet ski and in the garden.

DJ Khaled: a snap sampling
Just Know
The garden gleanings are what I’m going to focus on here. Averaging two million views per snap, DJ Khaled is easily South Florida’s most prominent landscaping advocate! Mr. Khaled keeps flowers, bamboo, and bromeliads in the backyard - all under the watchful eye of a now famous lion statue. Amidst the bamboo vibes and lion order, there are additional lessons to be learned about good landscape management from DJ Khaled. Here are the top five I’ve gathered this fall.

The Keys
  • "A good sprinkler system is important."
Even in tropical South Florida, supplementing rainfall with irrigation is sometimes necessary. The keys to success: hydrozone your system so turf zones are watered separate from ornamental zones, and if you don’t have a smart irrigation controller, be sure to have a functional rain sensor installed so there is no watering during rain events.
  • "Every day I water my plants. It's a vibe."
The truth is that manually watering your plants is as water efficient as you can get. Why? Because you only water when it's necessary. Further, if you love colorful flowers that require plenty of water, watering these manually while the automated irrigation takes care of the grass will also save water. Conservation is a vibe.

  • "Some days the grass is going to be brown. Don't panic."
Your turf will sometimes develop hot spots (brown areas). This can be indicative of poor irrigation system design, a break or leak somewhere in the zone affecting coverage, or pests/disease. But as DJ Khaled says, don’t panic. Resist the urge to increase the irrigation run time or add chemicals to your turf until you know the cause. Why? Over-watering can promote fungus and over-treating can result in chemicals leaching or running off. The key to success: wet-check your system regularly to stay on top of bad coverage and breaks before hot spots develop.
  • "It rained yesterday so I'm not watering today."
Only irrigate when it's necessary. Smart irrigation controllers, soil moisture sensors and rain sensors can help you eliminate unnecessary watering.
  • "Fruit trees are a vibe."
Recently DJ Khaled planted an orange tree and a star fruit tree in his garden, and there are plans to add a lemon tree and mango tree as well. Why are fruit trees a key to success? They offer shade, attract wildlife to your yard, and will eventually provide delicious edible fruit.

Coming soon: a lemon and mango tree (via Snapchat)
Cloth Talk
Landscaping and landscape maintenance are important industries in South Florida. Miami-Dade's Urban Conservation Unit exists to help promote sustainable landscape practices and facilitate efficient outdoor water use for both residential and commercial properties. In this Herculean undertaking, we’re happy to count DJ Khaled as an ally.

Add DJ Khaled on Snapchat: djkhaled305