University of Florida
Dr. Keith Ingram

« Back to Faculty Profiles

Keith T. Ingram

E-mail | Website
Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
283 Frazier Rogers Hall , PO Box 110570 Gainesville, FL 32611
352-392-1864 ext. 261

Keith Ingram devoted most of his career to agronomic crops, specifically peanuts. But in recent years, he has taken his skills and insights into the process of research and applied them as research manager for the Southeast Climate Consortium. The SECC is a large and very successful program which brings together researchers from many areas. Their goal is to use the latest science to reduce the risks agricultural producers face from a major source of uncertainty -- climate.

As the total number of people working on this project grew toward its current total of 50 to 60, the SECC's directors saw the need for a full-time research coordinator. Ingram's experience with agronomic crops in the Southeast U.S. and his background in research made him an ideal candidate. Ingrams's background gives him both the practical insight of an agricultural producer and the foresight of a researcher.

The SECC succeeded the Florida Consortium, established in the mid 1990s by workers at the University of Florida, Florida State University, and the University of Miami. The idea they started with is still at the heart of the program: to bring together climate data and crop production histories, climate modeling, and climate forecasting to provide powerful new tools for decision-making in agricultural production. In 2001, the consortium expanded its scope by including Georgia and Alabama and creating Web-based tools which producers can use in their planning. Its decision-making and climate tools are available through the Web site, AgroClimate.org.

Since then, the SECC has added more states and universities. Eight universities in five southeastern states form the core of the SECC. Currently, the SECC includes projects for Florida, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Researchers from another seven universities participate in various roles.

Each university adds special expertise to the SECC. For example, Florida State University workers lead on climate science; University of Florida workers lead in the areas of crop modeling and outreach; University of Miami workers specialize in economics and evaluation; and Clemson University workers focus on water resource management. The group continues to evolve, but in the 15 years of its existence, the SECC has become a world leader in the application of climate science to agriculture.

"Climate" is not something new but not long ago, "climate" was rarely discussed outside of academic circles. Now, it is a major topic of conversation, political commentary, policy debates, and scientific research. At the same time, the scientific study of climate -- climatology -- has made great progress in understanding and predicting the forces that shape climate.

The increased interest in climate and the advances in climate science have created opportunities, and the SECC is taking advantage of these opportunities. Ingram is helping coordinate SECC efforts to expand beyond agriculture and apply its decision-making tools to natural resource sectors. The SECC has begun to adapt the tools it has developed for agriculture for use in forestry and in coastal ecosystems -- two very important areas for the Southeast U.S.

Each expansion of the SECC adds to Ingram's responsibilities in terms of the number of projects he coordinates, the researchers he facilitates, and the grants he follows as they work their way through the drafting, approval, and implementation processes. The success of the SECC lies in the fact that it creates a way to bring what were once the products of many different areas of climate and agricultural research into a single framework. At the same time, the SECC acts as a network for climate researchers, creating a virtual space where they can meet and design projects together.

Ingram and other SECC principals are worling to formalize this networking aspect in the creation of the Florida Climate Institute. Where the SECC focuses on climate tools for the Southeast U.S., the FCI is envisioned as a nationwide networking mechanism for researchers and practitioners with interests in climate and its applications. This means more than climate researchers, it means workers in earth sciences, physical sciences, and social sciences. Policy makers, lawyers, and workers in humanities can all affiliate with the institute. By inviting workers from a wide range of specialites, the workers themselves can work to identify new and fruitful areas of collaboration.

Ingram sees these efforts --- SECC and FCI -- as producing tools and information that will be increasingly useful to agricultural producers, foresters and other natural resource managers, but also by developers, planners, civic leaders, and local government. As an example, he points out the Web site myregion.org, which promotes and facilitates a coordinated approach to planning for Central Florida. Ingram wants to help create the tools that make climate forecasting a part of this kind of integrated regional planning.

Ingram cites water management as an area that needs more research-based support. In Florida, five Water Management Districts manage the water resources for a state where intensive development and fragile natural environments must live side by side. When water is plentiful, the management challenges are lessened, but the periodic droughts that have plagued the Southeast U.S. force managers to make tough decisions. Ingram reviewed drought management plans across several southern states and found a disconnect between formal plans and actual management practices. Ingram believes that the foresight offered by climate forecasting could help close this gap by giving managers the lead time they need to consult with stakeholders and implement more thoughtful plans.

On the more controversial issue of global climate change, Ingram says that people should realize there is more to climate change than greenhouse gases, though that is an important factor. A lot of the information that circulates about climate change is overgeneralized and this has clouded the issue. The appropriate data should be applied at the appropriate scale. Ingram and the SECC are working to develop a more regionalized and localized view. When climate questions are brought down to a more local level, called downscaling, then issues like land use become just as important as greenhouse gas production. This is the value of an integrated approach like the one the SECC is taking. Ingram says that the SECC aims to bring together the kind of information that will allow people to understand the trade-offs and impacts of local decisions on both climate and local resource issues.

 

Coordinator, Southeast Climate Consortium and Associate Research Scientist

Dr. Ingram specializes in rainfed agricultural systems; applications of climate information to agricultural systems; drought resistance in crops; plant root growth and development; controlled environment research systems; international agriculture development.

Research

  • Methods for scaling up and scaling out results of crop simulation models to produce regional agricultural outlooks based on climate forecast data.
  • Systems research to reduce Aspergillus flavus infection and aflatoxin contamination of peanut.

Education

  • Ph.D. Agronomy, minor Botany, University of Florida, 1980
  • M.S. Plant Sciences, University of California, 1976
  • B.S.Psychology (Magna Cum Laude), U. of California, 1974

Professional Experience

  • 2008-Present
    Coordinator, Southeast Climate Consortium and Associate Research Scientist, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
  • 2004 – 2008
    Coordinator, Southeast Climate Consortium and Assistant Research Scientist, UF/IFAS, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
  • 2002 - 2003
    Consulting Scientist, self-employed
  • 1995-2002
    Associate Professor (50% appointment 1995-96; 100% appointment 1997-2002). Research Leader (50% appointment 1995-96) University of Georgia, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences
  • 1993-1995
    Assistant Program Director, University of Georgia, Peanut Collaborative Research Support Program

Awards and Honors

  • M.S. Swaminathan Research Award for Agricul­ture, Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines, 1992
  • Fred H. Hull Agronomy Research and Achieve­ment Award, Univer­sity of Florida, 1981
  • Phi Kappa Phi, 1980
  • Gamma Sigma Delta, 1979
  • Dean's Graduate Research Fellowship, University of Florida, 1976-1980
  • University of California Graduate Council Fellow, 1975-76
  • Phi Beta Kappa, 1974

Other Professional Activities

  • Coordinate collaboration and communications among the six member institutions of the Southeast Climate Consortium (SECC) and serve as liaison among SECC, funding agencies, and other research groups.