Sea-level rise is already causing problems in Florida. “Blue sky flooding” has put Miami roads two feet under seawater on days with no rain. Miami Beach is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on infrastructure, hoping to buy time. Tourists and retirees on or near the coasts from Cedar Key to Matanzas are now noticing impacts. How, where, and when will the waters rise? How will ecosystems and human infrastructure change, and how can people living on or near the coasts in Florida best react to adapt to those changes? How much time do we have, and what can we do now to prepare for the future? In this video, Greg Kiker, an agricultural engineer with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Research, discusses the problem of rising sea levels rise and the development of computer models that simulate sea-level rise over the next several decades to help Floridians and visitors answer the vital questions and plan for the future.
Coastal residential development around the Matanzas inlet. UF/IFAS Photo by Lyon Duong
Farmer Danny Johns, great-grandson of the first tractor farmer in Hastings, is not one to shy away from new things. In 2016, relying on research from UF/IFAS researchers like assistant professor of horticulture and Extension specialist Guodong “David” Liu, and with help from UF/IFAS Extension agents like Bonnie Wells of St. Johns County, Johns and other farmers began growing sweet potatoes commercially, something farmers in Florida haven’t tried since the 1980s, when sweet potato weevils devastated the industry. It’s a strategy that could reap big benefits: sweet potatoes are planted after the growing season for table and potato chip potatoes is over, and Florida’s warm climate means the crop will be ready for market before other states. With Liu and his team testing ways to boost the quality of the new crop, Wells visiting the farms every week to make sure the weevils stay gone, and other UF/IFAS researchers and extension agents scouting out new markets and developing new varieties (one is purple and packed with healthy antioxidants), Johns and other Hastings potato farmers are poised to get a jump on the season and potentially dig up profits.
Photo: Sweet potatoes growing on Blue Sky Farms in Hastings, FL. Photo by Danielle Johns.