In the video below, Stephen Raid, a staff member at the Everglades Research and Education Center (EREC) in Belle Glade, introduces 5- to 6-week-old barn-owl chicks to about 30 students at the April 6 open house. Note the dead rats and other critters that the chicks’ parents have delivered. / All photos by J.D. Vivian except as noted

Editor’s note: This is the third and final installment of Florida Food & Farm’s stories on EREC’s open house. The 800-acre EREC is part of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). For more information, visit

Ann Hartman, an agricultural assistant at EREC, explains how downy mildew harms basil (infected plant at center, bottom). About 30 students from Glades Central High and Glades Day schools, both in Belle Glade, attended the April 6 event. A total of about 200 people attended the open house, held once every two years. Its theme was “The Value of Science.”


Downy mildew, which apparently arrived in Florida from Italy in 2007, makes the basil look unappetizing and thus unmarketable. According to the University of Maryland’s website, “It is safe to eat leaves from infected plants — the disease does not harm people” ( Nevertheless, due to infected basil’s appearance, there can be a tremendous reduction in the amount of marketable basil that a crop produces, Hartman told the students.


EREC researchers are working on new varieties of basil that resist downy mildew, but progress is slow. “It takes 10 years to develop a new variety,” Ann Hartman told the students. This is an uninfected plant.


Everglades Research and Education Center _ Stink Bugs

Stink-bugs — the Everglades Agricultural Area, better known as “the Glades,” has three types — damage rice kernels. Ronald Cherry, a professor of entomology at EREC, is studying how to thwart stink-bugs and other pests that target rice. He explained to attendees at the open house, as he showed this photo, “This is what we call ‘cosmetic entomology’; the rice is not bad, but no one is going to buy it.” / Courtesy of Ronald Cherry


Everglades Research and Education Center _ Ag-ucation Program

Doing research on aggressive Africanized honeybees requires protection. Here, an unidentified EREC researcher explains his outfit to a student in the Belle Glade facility’s Ag-ucation Program last summer.


EREC staff members, such as Richard Raid, a professor of plant pathology at EREC, rarely wear a suit and tie. Raid, shown in a sugar-cane field, also oversees the University of Florida’s Barn Owl Program, which is based at the Belle Glade facility. / Courtesy of EREC