IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS to hold sustainable agriculture network kickoff event

Topic(s): Agriculture, Extension, IFAS

A box of potatoes, tomatoes, and squash farmed in Hastings, Florida as part of an IFAS-sponsored Food Hub.  Photo taken on 06/03/15.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences will be hosting an upcoming sustainable agriculture networking and outreach event on Monday, September 19 from 3:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Frog Song Organics (4317 NE U.S, Highway 301, Hawthorne, FL 32640) and Hawthorne Community Market (7040 U.S. Highway 301, Hawthorne, FL 32640).

To help  promote sustainable  agriculture  in  north central  Florida, UF/IFAS researchers and Extension  agents  have  been exploring  both the needs  of producers in  our region  and possible resources to help meet  those needs. This event, funded in part by a Southern SARE grant, will help them put their ideas into action by bringing north central Florida Extension agents and producers together to network with each other, discuss their needs and share their ideas to promote sustainable agriculture. The event is additionally sponsored by the UF/IFAS Field and Fork program and the UF/IFAS Small Farms team.

Please join us for an evening of on-farm learning, great food, and important discussion about the future of farming in north central Florida and how we can create a vibrant and useful network that will help us both address our challenges and  share opportunities.

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UF/IFAS researchers scramble to find cure for tenacious, costly sugarcane virus

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Departments, Entomology and Nematology, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are working to find a cure or develop resistant varieties for a virus that is attacking sugarcane and sorghum throughout the Everglades agricultural region. Florida produces more than 50 percent of all sugarcane in the United States, making it the largest producer in the nation.

The sugarcane yellow leaf virus was first identified in Hawaii during the 1980s. The virus was found in Florida in 1993, said Philippe Rott, a professor of plant pathology at the UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade, Florida. Symptoms include a yellow stripe down the middle of sugarcane leaves, he said.

“The virus travels down the vascular bundle of the plant and interferes with the movement of nutrients,” Rott said. “This, in turn, stunts the growth of the plant.”

The virus is carried by an aphid, a tiny bug that feeds by sucking sap from plants, said Gregg Nuessly, director of UF/IFAS Everglades REC and a professor of entomology. Nuessly’s and Rott’s research has identified the carrier of the virus, and trials are in progress to see if insecticides are effective at killing the aphid.

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Anita Neal named new district Extension director for South District

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Extension, IFAS, RECs, Research

Anita Neal

BELLE GLADE, Fla. — Anita Neal, a longtime University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension agent, has been named director for UF/IFAS Extension’s south district.

In her new position, Neal oversees the work of 11 UF/IFAS Extension county offices and the Seminole Indian Tribe. She said she is excited about her new role at UF/IFAS.

“Being an Extension district director enables me to help faculty accomplish their goals and be successful,” Neal said. “This position is a vehicle to take their thoughts, ideas and needs to the administration. And, I love helping to find those solutions.”

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‘Nudges’ help students select healthy lunches

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

Kids in a school cafeteria to promote the My Plate and YUM nutrition programs.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With back-to-school season in full swing, imagine this: Your child orders lunch via computer and gets a little message saying he or she needs to add more nutritious food groups. That combination helped some youngsters eat healthier meals, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study showed.

Researchers caution that their findings are not generalizable — given the small sample size — but they say the methods give school lunch programs and parents potential tools to help children eat more nutritious meals at school.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 5 billion school lunches are served daily in the United States. Additionally, although 99.9 percent of American children aged 12 to 18 consume fruits and vegetables daily, less than 1 percent eat the federally recommended amount of those foods. So the UF/IFAS study could show helpful, albeit early, findings.

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UF/IFAS Extension, Hastings farmers explore sweet potatoes as alternative crop

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Extension, IFAS, Pests, Research

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HASTINGS, Fla. — Back in the 1920s, Danny Johns’ great grandfather was the first farmer in the Hastings area to use a tractor instead of a mule. Now, in a region known for producing potatoes for the potato chip industry, Johns, like his ancestor, isn’t afraid of trying something new.

As of this year, Johns is one of a few commercial farmers in Florida who are growing sweet potatoes, a crop not produced in the state since the sweet potato weevil devastated much of the Florida industry for the commercial, orange sweet type in the 1980s.  Now, with the help of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, growers like Johns have the opportunity to diversify their business with this reemerging crop.

In Florida, potatoes grown for the potato chip industry, or “chipping” potatoes, are planted in January or February and harvested in May or June, said Scott Chambers, farm supervisor at the UF/IFAS Hastings Agricultural Extension Center. Table stock potatoes, potatoes sold fresh, are also planted and harvested at these times.

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UF/IFAS Extension program collects mosquito repellent for the homeless

Topic(s): Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS

Skeeter Stop

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BROOKSVILLE, Fla. — Experts agree that one effective way to protect yourself against mosquitoes —and the diseases they can transmit — is to wear mosquito repellent. But for homeless people, getting access to this kind of protection can be difficult.

In response, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science Extension Hernando County has launched Operation Skeeter Stop. Organizers will collect donated containers of mosquito repellent and distribute them to the Hernando County homeless community.

The program is accepting donations until Oct. 31, and staffers hope to collect at least 500 containers of repellent. During this time, the UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/HernandoExt/) will post weekly updates charting the progress toward this goal.

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UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County launches garden, nutrition program at community school

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition

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PENSACOLA, Fla. — As students at C.A. Weis Elementary School return for the new school year, they’ll notice something different about the area next to the outdoor space where physical education classes are usually held. Thanks to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension, students will find a new school garden that offers hands-on learning and strives to be a community gathering place.

“The school used to have a garden, but it fell into disuse, which is when we stepped in,” said Beth Bolles, horticulture agent with UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County, who co-organized outreach at C.A. Weis with Angela Hinkle, a UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County agent who specializes in the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).

The project would not have been possible without the support of the school’s faculty and administration, the organizers said.

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UF/IFAS Extension fills five new positions to tackle water sustainability

Topic(s): Environment, Extension, IFAS

Citra, Pivot irrigation watering fields. UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Though counties and water management districts may operate within set boundaries, water doesn’t stick to a jurisdiction. To address this reality, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension has created five new faculty positions to facilitate partnerships among various stakeholders, including agriculture, state agencies, water management districts and the public.

Each of these new water resource regional specialized agents (RSAs) is assigned to one of the five UF/IFAS Extension districts.

“We are extremely pleased to be able to now have five regional specialized agents geographically dispersed across the state to lead proactive educational programs related to water quality and quantity,” said Nick Place, dean of UF/IFAS Extension. “I envision that these faculty will enable UF/IFAS Extension to lead educational efforts across our rural and urban sectors, which will lead toward implementation of improved best practices. With the ever-increasing pressure on water, these faculty will enable us to take steps across the state that will ensure greater sustainability of our critical water resources.”

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UF Field and Fork invites students to grow their own food, feed others this fall

Topic(s): CALS, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While most people at the University of Florida or in Gainesville are familiar with the UF bat houses across from Lake Alice on Museum Road, for some, those rows of kale or squash growing nearby are a mystery.

Called the Student Gardens, this plot of land is part of the UF Field and Fork Campus Food Program, an interdisciplinary initiative led by the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Each semester, 30 to 50 students volunteer at the garden, working together to grow fresh vegetables while learning sustainable farming practices.

These volunteers get a share of what they grow, and through a partnership with the Alan and Cathy Hitchcock Field and Fork Pantry, which is run by UF Student Affairs, some of the harvest is distributed to those in the UF community facing food insecurity.

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‘Local food opinion leaders’ can help bridge gap between farmers, consumers

Topic(s): Agriculture, Economics, Extension, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, Nutrition

Buying and selling at an outdoor farmers' market

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“GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As consumers increasingly desire local food, opinion leaders can encourage others to eat healthier food and, in doing so, improve the local economy, according to new University of Florida Food and Agricultural Sciences research.

“Opinion leaders” are those who influence others via the respect they earn from those around them, said Alexa Lamm, associate director of the UF Center for Public Issues Education (PIE Center) and the leader of this research.

“Opinion leaders could be critical in bridging the gap between locally grown food and consumers. That’s important because local food sales totaled $6.1 million in 2012, up $1.3 million in four years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But another study showed only 7.8 percent of U.S. farms targeted local consumers.

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