Faculty Research New Agricultural Research Center Debuts at UCF The Materials Innovation for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA) is a recently established research center with the goal of combating crop disease and feeding the world’s growing population. MISA Chair Dr. Swadeshmukul Santra, along with Co-Chair Dr. Laurene Tetard, debuted the effort, the University of Central Florida’s ﬁrst agriculture-related research center, in October at a two-day research symposium which brought representatives from universities, government, national laboratories, regulatory agencies, farming and the agrochemical industry to UCF. The program originated from a partnership between universities, growers, industry, and regulatory agencies and is envisioned as a global platform for the exchange of ideas and skills. Representatives from MISA including NSTC faculty and students recently attended The Florida Ag Expo which is a day-long event offering Florida fruit and vegetable growers the latest information on cutting edge agricultural production trends and techniques. “Our world is facing unprecedented challenges with the rising human population that demands doubling of food production levels by 2050,” Santra said. “To achieve higher production levels, technological advancements are warranted to protect crops against emerging threats, particularly microbial-origin diseases. There is no better time than now to secure our future while minimizing negative impact on the environment.” Dr. Santra’s visionary goals for MISA include coordinating interdisciplinary research efforts, improving academic and public education on agricultural diseases, and developing practical and economically feasible technology for protecting the sustainability of the agriculture industry.
Santra and his team were awarded a $1.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture last year for the development of technology using nanoparticles to combat the same disease as well as a $477,000 grant to develop a method of combatting a bacterium that attacks tomatoes and other crops. Zinkicide, the bactericide invented by Santra, was one of three ﬁnalists in the 2016 Agrow Awards’ Best Formulation Innovation category where it was awarded the title “Highly Commended”. UCF was the only university among the ﬁnalists in 15 categories, ranking among industry giants Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Crop Protection, and BASF. Santra’s nanopotion is designed to kill the bacteria which causes the greening disease ofﬁcially known as Huánglóngbìng (literally “Yellow Dragon Disease”) or HLB. The bacteria, which are carried by small insects that feed on the leaves and stems of infected trees, destroys fruit production and eventually kills the tree. Zinkicide works without harming the tree. It is designed to break down as a micronutrient and be metabolized by the plant after the bacteria are destroyed. In April, the USDA awarded the University of Florida a $4.6 million grant to test the effectiveness of Santra’s Zinkicide. UCF received $1.4 million of the grant to conduct speciﬁc research on the formulation and application.
Arkadiy Lyakh Creates Most Efficient Quantum Cascade Laser Ever A team of produced designed. Pranalytic,
UCF researchers led by Arkadiy Lyakh of NSTC has the most efﬁcient quantum cascade laser ever Lyakh came to UCF in September 2015 from Inc., a California-based tech company.
Lyakh’s lab has developed a process for creating Quantum cascade lasers, or QCLs which offer the advantages of higher power output and a wide range of infrared wavelengths than traditional lasers. They can also be used at room temperature without the need for bulky cooling systems. However, comparable to traditional lasers, QCLs are typically difﬁcult and costly to produce. The new method developed at UCF uses a much simpler design from a production standpoint.
Representatives from MISA at the Florida Ag Expo on November 2, 2016
Battling Agricultural Diseases Brings Grants and Award Recognition for UCF and Dr. Swadeshmukul Santra Swadeshmukul Santra and his team were awarded a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop a solution to citrus greening, which threatens to devastate Florida’s $11 billion citrus industry. The effort to halt the spread of citrus greening is facing increasing urgency among growers who are reeling over recent predictions of a 26 percent decline in Florida’s orange crop for the 2016-17 season. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also recognized the University of Central Florida as a “Center for Excellence” which recognizes the university’s capability and effectiveness as a research institution.
Swadeshmukul Santra, left, with U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, right.
Chanda and Team Win Prestigious Award Dr. Debashis Chanda and graduate student Daniel Franklin won the Displaying Futures Award 2016 in Frankfurt, Germany. The prize comes with $50,000 in research funding and a long term nurturing from Germany-based company Merck which hosted the event.