University of Florida

Predatory mite could put the bite on invasive crop pest, UF researcher says

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Invasive Species, Pests, Vegetables


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 Caption at bottom. Click here for high resolution image.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Chilli thrips sound more like a snack food than an agricultural menace, but these tiny insects threaten many of the Sunshine State’s most important crops — fortunately, University of Florida research shows a predatory mite gobbles them up like popcorn.

On bell pepper plants in greenhouses, the mite consumed enough chilli thrips to keep the population to less than one per leaf, compared with 70 per leaf on control plants. Similar results were obtained with peppers grown outdoors. The study was published this month in the journal Biological Control.

Native to Asia, the invasive pest attacks more than 100 host plants, including corn, citrus, peanuts and tomatoes. Established first in the Caribbean, it spread to Florida in 2005 and then to Texas. Adult chilli thrips are about 1 millimeter long.

According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture estimate, if chilli thrips become more widely established in the U. S., they could cause agricultural losses of almost $4 billion per year.

For greenhouse crops — including bell peppers, strawberries, basil and flowers such as Gerber daisies — the mite could provide a much-needed alternative to pesticides, said Lance Osborne, a professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and an author of the study.

“This mite has a lot of potential for greenhouses, which is where it’s used now,” Osborne said. The mite, which has no common name but is known scientifically as Amblyseius swirskii, is available commercially to manage whiteflies and broad mites.

Because the mite is already approved for use in Florida, growers can try it against chilli thrips, he said. Osborne cautioned that the mite is not likely to be successful on every crop the pest attacks. Researchers were happy to find the mite held up well outdoors on bell peppers. Previous attempts to establish the mite outside on rose bushes have been unsuccessful, he said.

“Maybe there is a plant issue — they prefer peppers, but not roses,” Osborne said.

An upcoming project will investigate the use of peppers as “banker plants” — the mite equivalent of birdhouses, said Cindy McKenzie, a research entomologist with the USDA’s Horticultural Research Laboratory in Fort Pierce.

In the project, ornamental peppers will be planted outdoors among rose bushes, to see if they can harbor mite populations that protect both plant species, said McKenzie, another author of the study. (more …)

UF researchers: Termites aren’t swarming, but that doesn’t mean they’re not munching

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Pests



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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Chew on this: Just because you haven’t seen termite swarms in or around your house, doesn’t mean they’re not busily devouring it.

It’s been about five years since the southeastern U.S. saw a good termite swarm season like those that were once common, University of Florida researchers say. Swarms of termites fly from their nests to mate and start new colonies.

In the last few years, termites have swarmed maybe two or three days, but nothing like the frequent, repeated swarms that used to occur, said Phil Koehler, an urban entomology professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Koehler believes he knows why swarms are scarce. Pest control operators have begun to see wingless, crawling termites. Termites don’t need to fly to mate, so rather than swarming, they’re crawling off by the thousands to form new colonies, he said.

(more …)

Dairy Daze 2009

Topic(s): Agriculture, Stand-Alone Photos


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First-grader Marland Perry reacts to the sensation of suction on his finger as he gets a hands-on look at a milking machine Friday at IFAS’ Dairy Research Unit in Hague. Marland’s Norton Elementary School class and others from several local schools attended Dairy Daze, an educational event that shows youngsters how modern dairy farms operate. UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

UF launches revamped “Bug Club” Web site to help youngsters learn about insects

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, New Technology


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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida children with questions about insects, to complete a project or just satisfy their own curiosity, can find help at a newly redesigned University of Florida Web site that’s literally crawling with answers.

The Florida 4-H Bug Club site, at http://entomology.ifas.ufl.edu/bug_club, has been greatly expanded to provide a wealth of information for youngsters ranging from elementary through high school ages, said Rebecca Baldwin, an assistant extension scientist with the UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“You could spend days going through the information on the site now,” said Baldwin, who helped redesign the site.

Originally designed to help 4-H members participate in entomology competitions, the site now includes a locator map that shows where insects are likely to be found in various landscapes, overviews of 100 common Florida insects, videos demonstrating how to collect and display insects, reviews of field guide books, and an identification key that lets users identify insects by answering questions about their appearance.

(more …)

UF on Discovery’s Science Channel

Topic(s): Landscaping, Stand-Alone Photos, Vegetables


In this photo released from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, environmental horticulture professor David Clark discusses chemicals that contribute to the fragrances of flowers and tastes of fruits and vegetables as a cameraman prepares to shoot video footage, in Clark’s laboratory on the main UF campus in Gainesville – Tuesday, April 7, 2009. Clark was one of several researchers interviewed for an upcoming television program on Discovery’s Science Channel. (AP photo/University of Florida/IFAS/Tyler Jones)

Ropin’ in the Swamp

Topic(s): Livestock, Stand-Alone Photos


In this photo released from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Justin Johnson of Live Oak, Fla., left, and Derrick Davis of Callahan, Fla. rope a steer at the Ropin’ in the Swamp competition at UF’s Horse Teaching Unit in Gainesville — Saturday, March 28, 2009. The annual event involves team roping, where two riders attempt to secure a steer as quickly as possible. (AP photo/University of Florida/IFAS/Thomas Wright)

UF study: Florida land values tumble in 2008; trend expected to continue through 2009

Topic(s): Agriculture, Economics

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Keeping in step with the U.S. economy, Florida land values took a major tumble in 2008, with some areas losing more than half of their 2007 worth.

According to the annual Florida Land Value Survey, conducted by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, rural land and land outside of metropolitan areas — eagerly sought by developers in recent years — is now commonly being offered for sale at a fraction of its cost.

“In some cases, it’s almost like a fire sale,” said Rodney Clouser, the UF professor of food and resource economics who led the survey. Some respondents reported large blocks of land being offered at 20 to 30 percent of their purchase price.

(more …)

UF research helps uncover potential treatment for chronic anemia

Topic(s): Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida research has helped uncover a potential treatment for the type of anemia that commonly exacerbates chronic illnesses such as cancer and AIDS.

In a study published in the April issue of Nature Genetics, researchers describe how a protein typically associated with good joint health could help counter one of the body’s defenses gone awry. (more …)

UF researchers in the midst of state’s largest-ever soil carbon study

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Conservation

In this photo released from the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, soil and water science graduate student Elena Azuaje uses an auger to collect soil samples in the Osceola National Forest -- Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009. Azuaje was part of a team collecting soil samples for researchers to analyze as part of the state's largest-ever soil-carbon study. When completed next year, the study could help Floridians venture into the carbon-credit market, a way for governments, farmers and landowners to earn money while helping reduce harmful greenhouse gases by storing carbon in soils. (AP photo/University of Florida/IFAS/Tyler Jones)

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Three women hop into their truck to begin their workday, and almost immediately begin dishing the dirt.

No, really — actual dirt.  Spodosols, Histosols, Ultisols, you name it, they’ve dug them up, labeled them and ferried them back to their lab at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, where they’re being analyzed for associate professor Sabine Grunwald as part of the state’s largest-ever soil-carbon study.

When completed next year, the study could help Florida venture into the carbon-credit market, a way for governments, farmers and landowners to earn money while helping reduce greenhouse gases by storing carbon in soils. (more …)

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