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University of Florida

UF/IFAS researchers earn $11M in federal grants to study specialty crops

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers will work to improve avocado production, develop turfgrass with improved drought responses and combat a bacterial disease riddling tomatoes, working with $11 million in recently awarded federal grants.

The grants were announced Oct. 5 by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Randy Ploetz, a plant pathology professor at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida, will use $3.4 million to study how to stem the impact of laurel wilt on avocados. Kevin Kenworthy, an associate professor of agronomy, received $4.4 million to study drought resistance in certain turf grasses, and Gary Vallad, an associate professor of plant pathology at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida, will use $3.4 million to improve the management of a bacterial disease that plagues tomato production.

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New UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station in Cedar Key to expand opportunities

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Jack Payne, University of Florida senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, has a vision for Florida’s Nature Coast region: to support and expand the world-class research conducted by UF scientists while supporting the communities and helping to conserve the region’s rich resources.

With that in mind, the UF Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences has created the Nature Coast Biological Station, to be housed in Cedar Key. The station is a site to help enhance conservation and improve management of natural resources up and down the Gulf Coast — from Hernando to Wakulla County, Payne said.

“UF/IFAS has had a longtime presence in Cedar Key and has a history of doing important work in these communities,” Payne said. “We helped establish the clam industry, and now, 70 percent of clams sold in the state come from that region.”

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Sumter County Extension helps implement SNAP/EBT at farmer’s market, spreads the word

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Making it easier for residents to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables and increase Florida farmer’s profits is the win-win result of a partnership between the University of Florida/IFAS Extension Sumter County Office and the Sumter County Farmer’s Market.

The team launched a successful campaign to accept SNAP/EBT, also known as food stamps, which allows SNAP recipients to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at the Sumter County Farmer’s Market.

The program has been successful for shoppers and vendors, said Martha Maddox, Sumter County, Family and Consumer Science Agent.  “Residents have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, along with healthier food choices,” she said.  “While at the same time we are promoting buying local produce and increasing the farmers’ revenue.  It’s a great program all the way around for everyone involved.”

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Everglades REC is unveiling a new and improved soil testing lab

Topic(s): Agriculture, IFAS, RECs

BELLE GLADE, Fla. — For decades, whenever farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area needed help figuring out what fertilizers to use in their fields, they turned to the University of Florida’s Everglades Research and Education Center for soil testing and lab work.

The building that houses the EREC’s soil testing laboratory was built at the height of the Vietnam War and originally housed the facility’s library.  More than 15 years ago, it was turned into the lab and, this month, an expansion and improvements are being unveiled.

An open house of the updated facility is scheduled for Thursday, October 22 at 3 p.m. (more …)

Pioneering UF/IFAS cattle scientist recognized at World Dairy Expo

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Livestock, Nutrition

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida emeritus graduate research professor in the Department of Animal Sciences was recognized last week at the 2015 World Dairy Expo for his decades of work in cattle reproduction.

Virtus Nutrition honored several researchers, including William Thatcher, as the company launched the Fatty Acid Forum Legacy Series at the expo in Madison, Wisconsin. Virtus showcased the significance of dairy research and the scientists who pioneered numerous dairy cattle nutrition breakthroughs. Some of the scientists’ findings serve as resources for nutritionists and producers now and for future generations.

Thatcher, an active emeritus UF/IFAS faculty member, is considered one of the world’s leading experts in animal reproduction. He played a key role in establishing links between the intake of fatty acids by dairy cows and their effects on improving reproduction.

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UF/IFAS helping teachers with creative biology lessons

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Need a creative way to teach students about Florida’s ecosystems?  How about tracking the journey of an invasive plant or putting together a puzzle of freshwater plants?  The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has you covered.

Fun lessons are available through The Florida Invasive Plant Education Initiative, a partnership between the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. (more …)

Strategies to keep pollutants out of your neighborhood storm water pond

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Pollution

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Many people live in subdivisions with storm water ponds, which collect water from the neighborhood and help keep pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides and pet waste from getting into the broader environment. Now, UF/IFAS researchers and Extension faculty have devised strategies to help homeowners limit their pollution contribution.

Before they crafted the strategies, outlined in a new Extension document, “Strategies to Encourage Adoption of Storm Water Pond Best Management Practices (BMPs) by Homeowners,” http://bit.ly/1M6SBrU,

UF/IFAS research and Extension faculty surveyed a large planned community in Manatee County, Florida. Among other things, they found that nearly half the homeowners either didn’t know what storm water runoff was or did not know where storm water runoff goes.

Paul Monaghan, an associate professor of agricultural education and communication and a co-author of the document, said the survey result is fairly typical of homeowners across Florida and elsewhere.

“They see the curb and gutter, and they think the water is going to be treated at a plant,” Monaghan said. “They don’t really know their water runs off into the storm water pond. It’s all accumulating. It matters what you do and what your neighbors do. If we can get homeowners to understand that and know it has an effect, we will be taking a step in the right direction.”

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Florida Sea Grant agent launches program to assess microplastic in state’s coastal waters

Topic(s): Announcements, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Pollution, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As a Florida Sea Grant  agent with the University of Florida’s Extension program, Maia McGuire has spent years educating Floridians about how plastic garbage can kill large animals such as turtles and sea birds if they eat discarded plastic items or become ensnared by them.

Now, McGuire is trying to raise awareness about microplastic, a much smaller form of seaborne garbage that threatens much smaller marine animals. Measuring 5 millimeters or less, smaller than the width of a pencil eraser, these fragments end up in coastal waters when large plastic items such as food packages break apart, or small particles such as plastic microbeads from personal-care products are washed out to sea.

To raise awareness about microplastic among Floridians, McGuire and a team of colleagues have just launched the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project, or FMAP, a one-year project funded by a $17,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program. The FMAP program aims to use a vigorous citizen-science training effort to draw attention to the problem and educate citizens on ways of reducing their potential contributions of microplastic to the environment.

One important facet of the project’s citizen-science effort is an informal microplastic assessment that will be conducted at 200 to 300 sites along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Volunteers will take water samples, then filter and analyze the samples to determine how much microplastic is present. The results will be posted on a Google Maps database, accessible through the FMAP website, http://www.plasticaware.org. (more …)

UF/IFAS can help with all your grass needs

Topic(s): Agriculture, Cultivars, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, RECs

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Are you interested in learning about new advances in nematode control?  Would you like to get a glimpse at the new turfgrass cultivars that are being developed?  The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has all your answers at its annual Central Florida Turfgrass Field Day, being held tomorrow at the Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra. (more …)

UF/IFAS to host renowned scientist for York-Malone Lecture on Nov. 2

Topic(s): Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Are vaccines safe? Is climate change real? As the keynote speaker for the 2015 York-Malone Distinguished Lecture, Naomi Oreskes, a renowned researcher who investigated decades of documents proving misrepresentation of truth to the American public, will explain why we should trust science in a world that is skeptical.

The lecture, “Should We Trust Science: Perspectives from the History and Philosophy of Science,” will be held at 3 p.m., Nov. 2 at the University of Florida Auditorium, 333 Newell Drive. The event is free and open to the public. A book signing with the author will take place at 2 p.m. in the University Auditorium lobby.

“Dr. Oreskes is a distinguished scholar and a courageous defender of science,” said UF President Kent Fuchs. “We are pleased to host her on our campus.”

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