Faculty: Juan Carlos Diaz-Perez
Posted: August 29, 2014 10:47 AM
In one of the top vegetable-producing states in the country, Juan Carlos Diaz-Perez, a University of Georgia vegetable horticulturist, works to find a balance between productivity and sustainability in Georgia's vegetable crops.
South Georgia's mild winters mean the region can produce vegetables year-round. According to the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, Georgia ranks among the top four states in fresh market vegetable production and value. Georgia is home to more than 20
different vegetable crops.
"With so many vegetables in Georgia, we have the opportunity to work with different types of crops, and each vegetable offers some kind of a challenge," Diaz-Perez said.
Diaz-Perez studies different vegetable production practices in conventional and organic production systems. He looks for ways to improve yield and quality while remaining economically and environmentally viable. In one of his ongoing research trials, Diaz-Perez is examining pepper production at different levels of shading. His research has shown that shading increases fruit yields and reduces incidences of some pests and diseases in bell pepper production.
"I tend to look for production practices that help the growers be more efficient and environmentally sustainable in the use of their resources, like water and fertilizers," Diaz-Perez said. "I also work on ways to improve the quality of the soil by using cover crops and compost."
Ultimately, healthy soil allows for the growth of healthy crops.
Diaz-Perez has conducted research on plasticulture techniques, such as the use of plastic mulch and how it affects soil temperature as well as other environmental variables that influence vegetable production.
Diaz-Perez, a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, was destined for a career as a vegetable scientist.
"I love vegetables," Diaz-Perez said. "I grew them as a child in my family garden and love to eat them. They provide multiple health benefits and add variety to our diet. I am convinced that the secret for a long and healthy life lies in consuming vegetables and fruits. We are what we eat."
After earning his bachelor's degree in Mexico, Diaz-Perez began working for the Mexican government as an Extension agent by promoting the garden production of vegetables and fruit trees in Mexico City. He furthered his education by moving to California to earn his master's and doctorate degrees. In 1994, he moved back to Mexico, where he conducted research on the post-harvest physiology of vegetables and tropical fruits as well as plasticulture techniques.
In 1998, Diaz-Perez made the transition to UGA.
"I thought that coming here would really help me continue expanding my professional development, and I think I was right," Diaz-Perez said. "For me, it was really interesting to have the opportunity to be in a place like Tifton, with its location and importance in vegetable production."
While Diaz-Perez's appointment at UGA is mostly research at 92 percent, the remaining eight percent consists of instruction. He enjoys his time teaching vegetable production and physiology courses.
"I enjoy sharing my experiences and what I have learned over time," Diaz-Perez said. "I see teaching as a two-way approach. The students also teach me with their own experiences or by providing feedback to me from something they did in class. We all learn from each other."