IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS event unveils latest turfgrass research

Topic(s): Agriculture, Extension, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Research

Urban development in Florida - coupled with the growth of the nation's largest golf course industry - is driving the huge demand for turfgrass.

JAY, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty will showcase the latest turfgrass research June 15 at the twenty-second annual UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Turfgrass Field Day and Expo.

The UF/IFAS West Florida Research and Education Center will host the field day and expo, which is co-sponsored by the Gulf Coast Golf Course Superintendents Association, said J. Bryan Unruh, professor of environmental horticulture and associate center director of UF/IFAS West Florida Research and Education Center.

Green industry representatives, UF/IFAS Master Gardeners and anyone interested in turfgrass are invited. In past years, the field day and expo has drawn around 300 people from Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, Unruh said.

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Ambrosia beetle spreads dangerous avocado pathogen

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

Jonathan Crane, professor of horticultural sciences, inspecting an avocado tree at the Tropical Research and Education Center.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As the laurel wilt pathogen casts a cloud over the $100-million-a-year Florida avocado industry, University of Florida researchers continue to look for clues to prevent the pathogen from spreading.

The main culprit has been the redbay ambrosia beetle, which has infected millions of native redbay and swampbay trees with the laurel wilt pathogen, but it is rarely seen in commercial avocado orchards.

UF/IFAS scientists now know that several other ambrosia beetles are carrying the laurel wilt pathogen; two native ambrosia beetles are capable of carrying it and transmitting the disease to avocados, said Daniel Carrillo, a UF/IFAS assistant professor in tropical fruit entomology.

Scientists at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida, are focused on understanding and then disrupting the association between these native beetles and laurel wilt, said Carrillo, a faculty member at the Tropical REC. This spring, Carrillo detected an outbreak of another ambrosia beetle, the Tea Shot Hole Borer, which can spread another disease of avocados known as fusarium wilt.

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UF/IFAS study: Wood toxin could harm zoo animals

Topic(s): Environment, IFAS, Research, Soil and Water Science

Arsenic zoos 051216

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When those cute animals gnaw on wood enclosures at a zoo, they may be risking their health by ingesting toxic levels of arsenic, so zoo managers need to pay attention to the potential risk of the wood on zoo animals, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

The wood in question is treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA), which can be toxic.

After visiting a zoo with her family, Julia Gress, a former post-doctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS soil and water sciences department, recognized that animals living in enclosures made from CCA-treated wood might face health risks.

Gress wanted to assess the impact of CCA-treated wood on arsenic exposures in zoo animals. She measured arsenic concentrations in soil from inside enclosures and on wipe samples of CCA-treated wood. Samples were taken from inside 17 wood enclosures, and also included crocodilian eggs, bird feathers, marmoset hair and porcupine quills.

Researchers found arsenic levels in soil that were higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s risk-based level for birds and mammals. As well, arsenic levels in some animal tissues were also higher than those in other studies.  Those findings should encourage zoo managers to limit animal exposure to arsenic found on the wood surface and in nearby soil, Gress said.

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UF/IFAS Bug Week focuses on “Big Money Bugs” that generate economic damages, benefits

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Citrus, Crops, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Families and Consumers, Household Pests, IFAS, Invasive Species, Lawn & Garden, Pests
The invasive Asian citrus psyllid.

The invasive Asian citrus psyllid. UF/IFAS photo by Michael Rogers. Click for high-red image.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Call them Florida’s “Big Money Bugs” – the insects responsible for the greatest economic damages, costs and benefits that arthropods generate in the Sunshine State.

This year, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) focuses on Big Money Bugs for its annual Bug Week, May 21 to 27. The event offers educational outreach for the public while showcasing UF/IFAS’ entomology and nematology program, one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive.

Visit the Bug Week website at http://bugs.ufl.edu for more information, including profiles on six of the state’s most economically significant arthropods. Among these species are the destructive Asian citrus psyllid and Formosan subterranean termite, topics of great concern, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“In recent years, pest insects have had enormous negative impacts on our state,” Payne said. “Bug Week is the perfect opportunity for UF/IFAS to raise awareness about the challenges these pests bring about, in terms of lost agricultural and natural resources production, management costs, and even human and veterinary healthcare issues, in some instances.”

Species profiled on the Bug Week website include:

*The Asian citrus psyllid, which cost the state’s citrus industry $7.8 billion in total economic contributions from crop losses during the 2006-07 through 2012-13 growing seasons;

*The Formosan subterranean termite, the most destructive widespread termite species in Florida;

*Invasive yellow fever and Asian tiger mosquitoes, which are known to transmit viral diseases in Florida and believed to transmit Zika virus in other countries;

*Beneficial honeybees, which help make Florida the nation’s third-largest honey producer as well as a top source of rental honey bee colonies used to pollinate crops. (more …)

UF/IFAS researchers work to combat pasture weed

Topic(s): Agriculture, IFAS, Livestock, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — According to University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers, spiderwort is becoming more common in north Florida, where it has the potential to invade pastures and disrupt hay production.

Professors Jason Ferrell and Brent Sellers, and biological scientist Michael Durham have co-authored a new UF/IFAS Extension document (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ag407) explaining how to control the weed.

Notable for its purple flowers, spiderwort is often seen on roadsides and undisturbed areas, said Ferrell. Though this plant has been in Florida for a long time, “it’s now becoming more common to see it in pasture and feedlot areas. People are starting to wonder what it is and what they need to do about it,” he said.

Cattle will not eat spiderwort. When hay is harvested, any spiderwort that gets into the bales will add extra moisture and spoil the hay, Ferrell added.

When people started calling in and asking how to get rid of spiderwort on their properties, Ferrell and Sellers set up an experiment to find out how best to control it.

They found that the most effective chemical treatment controlled spiderwort for four to six weeks, after which the plants reappeared. Though they did not discover a treatment that completely eliminated the weed, they recommend that producers use this four- to six-week period to harvest their hay.

According to Sellers, spiderwort is more of an issue in north Florida and is less common in the south.

The best way to get rid of the plant is to remove it by hand, Ferrell said. However, “that is a very difficult, tedious process,” especially when one stand of spiderwort contains hundreds of plants, he said.

UF/IFAS Agronomy Photo by Michael Durham

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By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307, grenrosa@ufl.edu

Sources: Jason Ferrell, 352-392-7512, jferrell@ufl.edu

Brent Sellers, 863-735-1314 ext. 207, sellersb@ufl.edu

Yara International pledges $100,000 in scholarships to UF/IFAS students

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, CALS, IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Yara International has pledged $100,000 in scholarships to students in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Florida to study agriculture.

The five-year grant, called the Yara Crop Innovation Scholarship, will be split evenly between undergraduate and graduate students in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

“One exciting aspect of this gift is the focus on undergraduate student research,” said UF/IFAS CALS Dean Elaine Turner. “In order for students to develop a love for research, they must be engaged early in their academic careers. Yara’s gift will open doors for students to pursue their science passions.”

Yara understands the important role played by agricultural research, said UF/IFAS Research Dean Jackie Burns. “Yara’s gift demonstrates they understand the larger picture, that we must invest in both research as well as future scientists,” Burns said. “Through their generosity, Yara is setting a strong example for other industry groups who wish to impact the next generation of agricultural researchers.”

According to Yara president and CEO, Svein Tore Holsether, innovation and collaboration have been two key themes throughout the company’s history. “By launching these scholarships, we are not only supporting local students, but it is a good way of working closely together with academia and farmers on           topics that really matter—and that contribute to increasing our shared global knowledge,” he said.

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By: Beverly James, 352-273-3566, beverlymjames@ufl.edu

Source: Christy Chiarelli, 352-273-0353, ccw@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS study: Nutrition labels may lead to buying more raw seafood

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Research

Grouper and assorted seafood fillets on display at a store in case. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If grocers put nutrition labels on packages of raw fish — a good nutrient source for cardiovascular health — parents may be more likely to buy the fish, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

Xiang Bi, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food and resource economics, worked with her colleagues to survey 1,000 people online to gauge consumer reactions to raw fish with nutrition labels. Until 2012, federal rules only required nutrition labels on processed and commercial foods. That year, the federal government started requiring raw meat and poultry products to carry nutrition information on their labels. 

In the new study, researchers focused on three types of information: nutrition, health and a combination of nutrition and health. By putting the same nutrition label on raw seafood packages as consumers can find on raw packages of meat, consumers are more willing to buy the raw seafood, the study found. This finding may interest the seafood industry, grocers and policy makers, the study says.

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As backyard poultry takes off, UF/IFAS Extension teaches residents how to care for their flocks

Topic(s): Agriculture, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Livestock

Chickens

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension has become the go-to educational resource for Duval County residents who want to raise chickens in their own backyards.

When Jacksonville passed an ordinance in 2015 allowing hens on residential properties, city officials wanted to make sure that people understood the basics of backyard poultry before they were issued a permit, said UF/IFAS Extension Duval County agent Andy Toelle.

The city approached UF/IFAS Extension Duval County to create an educational program that would prepare prospective chicken owners. Residents must take the UF/IFAS Extension Duval County Backyard Poultry Seminar to get the certificate needed for the permit.

Toelle, UF/IFAS Extension Duval County agent Terra Freeman and UF/IFAS Extension Baker County director and poultry expert Mike Davis lead the seminar. They take pride in being the principal source of poultry education in the area. “We get calls every day about this program,” Freeman said.

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UF/IFAS study: More sea turtles survive with less beach debris

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, IFAS, RECs, Research

 

Sea turtle swimming through the water.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Conventional wisdom says removing beach debris helps sea turtles nest; now, as sea-turtle nesting season gets underway, a new University of Florida study proves it. In the study, clearing the beach of flotsam and jetsam increased the number of nests by as much as 200 percent, while leaving the detritus decreased the number by nearly 50 percent.

Sea turtles in Florida are classified as either endangered or threatened, depending on the species. Restoring their nesting habitats is critical to keeping them alive, said Ikuko Fujisaki, an assistant research professor of wildlife ecology and conservation with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

With humans encroaching on their natural habitat, sea turtles face an uphill climb to stay alive, said Fujisaki, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center. Sea turtles spend most of their lives in the sea, but they rely on sandy beaches to reproduce.

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UF/IFAS short course cultivates relationships millions of years in the making

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Environment, Extension, Green Living, IFAS, New Technology, Research

Mycorrhiziae under a microscope

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Not all fungal infections are bad for plants—in fact, some of them are critical for plant survival, according University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.

The UF/IFAS Applications and Analyses of Mycorrhizal Associations course teaches participants how to harness the power of these beneficial fungi. Andy Ogram, professor of soil and water sciences, and Abid Al Agely, senior biological scientist, co-founded the course.

Mycorrhizal fungi live in the soil and have a symbiotic relationship with plants. “The fungi actually function like part of the root systems,” and can be cooperative with 90 percent of plants, said Ogram. This mutually beneficial relationship is called a mycorrhizal association and is technically an infection, though a positive one.

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