Clemson researchers maintain strong footprint in Florida
CLEMSON — The Clemson Tigers will spend only a few days in South Florida to compete in the Orange Bowl, but Clemson University researchers maintain a strong footprint throughout the state via coastal city flood protection, sustainable agriculture and strawberry disease prevention.
Coastal city flood protection
A Clemson researcher and colleagues have developed a new approach for protecting coastal areas from flooding, which could be used to safeguard major metropolitan areas, including Miami.
“Elevation is the key to reliable flood protection. High ground is safe, while low-lying ground will always be vulnerable,” said Lawrence Murdoch, professor in Clemson’s environmental engineering and earth sciences department. “Barriers are currently the only method in routine use for flood protection, but lessons from Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy showed that low-lying regions are devastated when levees fail.”
Murdoch’s concept is called Solid Injection to Raise Ground Elevation (SIRGE). The SIRGE process was evaluated in a peer-reviewed journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society, which found that applications could be feasible in Venice, New Orleans, New York City and other areas prone to flooding.
The novel technique raises elevations by injecting sediment-laden slurry into flat-lying layers at depth beneath the city. The injection process would be repeated to create a network of overlapping layers filled with solid material. Injecting sediment over large lateral distances would cause a lasting surface uplift that is roughly equal to the thickness of injected sediment.
A program of field-testing, theoretical analysis and refinement is required to evaluate whether the technique could be an important contributor to the flood-protection arsenal.
“Most forecasts predict rising sea levels, and the frequency of large storms has increased over the last few decades, so a new method for raising ground elevations without disrupting surface infrastructure could have an important place in safeguarding the cities of the future,” said Murdoch.
A Clemson researcher is working with the Florida Atlantic Growers to create regionally and nationally recognized models for sustainable agriculture through research, teaching and public outreach programs.
“American agriculture is moving toward reduced inputs and lowered costs, more efficient use of resources and less negative impacts on the environment,” said Geoff Zehnder, professor and sustainable agriculture program leader in the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences at Clemson. “And fewer young people choose farming as a profession today.”
The growth of more sustainable farms requires comprehensive training for farmers, researchers and service providers in the principles and practices of sustainable agriculture.
Zehnder said, “Land-grant universities, like Clemson, play an integral role in educating future farmers by developing the capacity to manage and provide services and offer curriculum that focus on sustainability.”
The program provides sustainable agriculture education and outreach programs to Cooperative Extension Service personnel, Natural Resources Conservation Service staff and other agriculture professionals, farmers, and landowners with an interest in sustainable agriculture.
Strawberry disease prevention
Guido Schnabel, a Clemson Extension Service plant pathologist and state specialist for fruit diseases, is participating in a regional project based at the University of Florida to help growers deal with strawberry diseases.
A four-year, $2.9 million USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant supports efforts to forecast outbreaks of two fungal diseases threatening the nation’s $2.1 billion strawberry crop. The funds will help the multi-university team expand its program to fight Anthracnose fruit rot and Botrytis fruit rot.
“We’ve developed a kit that will enable growers to determine the fungicide resistance profile in their respective areas,” Schnabel said. “We collect diseased fruit, conduct a sensitivity test and within three days, using that kit, we can determine what works and what doesn’t. This information allows science-based, location-specific disease management.”
According to the researchers, Florida growers often spray fungicides on their plants weekly as a preventive measure, but with the help of a disease forecast system to predict high risk of infection, the number of total applications can be drastically reduce.
Experiments so far have shown that growers can potentially reduce fungicide use by half without compromising disease control.
Ranked No. 21 among national public universities, Clemson University is a major, land grant, science- and engineering-oriented research university that maintains a strong commitment to teaching and student success. Clemson is an inclusive, student-centered community characterized by high academic standards, a culture of collaboration, school spirit and a competitive drive to excel.