By Clint Thompson
Mathews Paret’s appointment as the new head of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) plant pathology department starts on Sept. 15.
It is a critical time for Paret to take over the department considering the plethora of plant diseases that specialty crop growers must manage every year in Florida.
“It’s a department that has a broad reach on a wide variety of crops,” said Rob Gilbert, interim senior vice president at UF/IFAS. “Unfortunately, there’s always a lot to do, whether it’s on HLB or laurel wilt. We stick out like a sore thumb for invasive species that come into the United States. There are always new threats that are coming in. This plant pathology department is very well integrated into our plant breeding and other programs and other commodities that we work with throughout the state.”
“We’re very excited to have Mathews Paret joining us.”
Paret will not have to move far, having been a faculty member in the department since 2009. He is currently based at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, Florida, where he directs the center’s Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic.
Paret will lead the department of more than 30 faculty members based on the University of Florida’s Gainesville campus and at research and education centers across the state. He said in a prior story on SCI that a strong engagement approach that supports the needs of Florida stakeholders both nationally and internationally is key to his vision as head of the department. Gilbert agrees.
“This is where our interaction with stakeholders is very important. They’re out in the field. They will see this new disease or a new race of an existing disease that pops up, which is a major issue. They’ll let us know if we can pivot. Then there’s some diseases that have been here a while, and we know they’re always going to be a concern,” Paret said. “The pathologists work with our plant breeders to screen for resistance of those diseases on an annual basis. We have the capacity to work across different diseases and crops that we have, but it’s always an interesting and challenging task to deal with new ones that we get.”