University of Florida

Establishing healthy shrubs not the water-consuming task many think, UF research shows

Topic(s): Extension, Florida Friendly, Green Living, Lawn & Garden

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Good news for your utility bills and the environment: New University of Florida research shows that landscape shrubs need much less water to establish healthy roots than you might expect.

“We finally have our irrigation recommendations for establishing shrubs backed up with science. We need less irrigation than many people think,” said Ed Gilman, a UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences environmental horticulture professor who led the research study.

The six-year study’s objective was to determine how best to irrigate shrubs during “establishment” — the 20- to 28-week period when shrubs’ roots grow until the plant can survive without irrigation.

The research examined irrigation frequency and volume on the quality, survival and growth rates of three-gallon, container-grown shrubs. Plants were examined in Fort Lauderdale, Balm, Apopka and Citra, locations that span three water management districts in Florida and have varied growing conditions.

Some of the state’s most popular ornamental shrubs were evaluated, including both native and non-native species, such as yaupon holly and gardenia.

“One of the results that we noted was that there are no differences between native and non-native species for amount of water required for establishment, “Gilman said. “This often surprises people, but it emphasizes that the Florida-friendly principle — right plant, right place — is worth following.”

Florida-friendly gardening means planting that accounts for site conditions, maintenance needs and local climate. Such landscapes may use both native and non-native plants, as long as the non-native plants aren’t an invasive species. (more …)

House-infesting brown dog tick becoming resistant to common pesticides, UF experts say

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Household Pests, Pests


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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It’s bad enough that the Southeast is bedeviled by a tick that doesn’t mind taking up residence inside homes.

But now researchers say they believe the brown dog tick has developed resistance to the treatments most commonly used to fight it.

University of Florida researchers Phil Kaufman and Faith Oi will work with USDA tick expert Robert Miller to test the ticks’ resistance to permethrin, a chemical found in many pesticides and repellents, and fipronil, found in Frontline. Both are sold in pet stores.

A $171,000 grant from the USDA’s Southern Region Integrated Pest Management Center will support the researchers’ three-year study. When it ends, they hope to know the tick’s level of resistance to both chemicals and to have an array of materials aimed at teaching the public how best to guard against infestations and what to do if they face one.

The brown dog tick has been invading homes across the Southeast for years, Kaufman said, but its resistance to chemical foes seems to have been building the last five to eight years. This study will be the first to document the ticks’ resistance in the U.S. (more …)

Statewide study shows algae toxin a minor threat, say UF experts

Topic(s): Environment, Pollution


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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A toxin produced by freshwater algae has garnered plenty of media coverage in recent years, but a new University of Florida study shows there’s little cause for concern about its presence in Florida lakes.

Researchers analyzed water taken from 187 lakes in 38 counties during a one-year period, and found that almost three-quarters of the samples had no detectable levels of the chemical microcystin. Only 7 percent of the samples exceeded the World Health Organization guidelines for drinking water, which is one microgram of microcystin per liter.

The results should reassure swimmers, boaters and anglers, said Dan Canfield, a professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and an author of the study, published in the current issue of Lake and Reservoir Management. (more …)

New water-depth evaluation system will aid Everglades research, UF study shows

Topic(s): Environment, Research


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Multimedia available: http://news.ufl.edu/2009/09/17/eden-multimedia/

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When scientists discuss Everglades restoration, one phrase pops up again and again — “getting the water right.”

It refers to the importance of water depth — making sure the proper areas are dry or marshy or submerged. For decades, experts had to take their own water-depth measurements or get data from multiple agencies.

In March 2005, things got easier. A modeling system called the Everglades Depth Estimation Network, or EDEN, went online. Developed by the U.S. Geological Survey working with the University of Florida and Florida Atlantic University, the system provides daily estimates of water depth and other information for most of the Everglades.

Now, a UF study verifies that EDEN’s estimates are accurate.

As reported in the current issue of Ecohydrology, researchers with UF, FAU, the University of Connecticut and the South Florida Natural Resources Center took water-depth measurements at 24 locations and compared them with EDEN’s estimates. Most estimates matched the measurements within 2 inches.

Frank Mazzotti, an associate professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, says now that the system has been verified, he hopes it will gain popularity with scientists who assess the progress of Everglades restoration efforts, which aim to restore natural water flow throughout the region and support populations of indigenous animals and plants.

“We’ve never had a tool like this,” said Mazzotti, one of the study authors. “The idea is to make it freely available.”

Already, experts with UF and other Florida institutions have used EDEN to investigate populations of wading birds, invasive plants, fish and amphibians.

The system uses more than 200 monitoring stations throughout the Everglades that measure water depth. That information, along with geographic data, is then interpreted by computer software. The system generates water-depth estimates for the entire freshwater portion of the greater Everglades, broken down into quadrants measuring about 1,300 feet by 1,300 feet. (more …)

UF, Old Dominion launch project to restore sponges in barren parts of Florida Bay

Topic(s): Agriculture, Aquaculture, Environment



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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Marine sponges may not look like apartment buildings, but to shrimps, juvenile lobsters and other animals in Florida Bay, the puffy filter-feeders provide one of the few safe places to live.

In 2007, harmful algae blooms killed sponges in large tracts of the shallow lagoon, where fresh water draining from the Everglades meets the Gulf of Mexico. University of Florida and Old Dominion University researchers are trying to restore the invertebrates by slicing up healthy sponges, then planting the cuttings in affected areas to grow and reproduce.

The results of the study will lay the groundwork for larger restoration efforts that would boost populations of economically important seafood species that depend on sponges, help the state’s commercial sponge industry and improve water quality, said Don Behringer, a research assistant professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. (more …)

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