IFAS News

University of Florida

UF releases first citrus cultivar; Sugar Belle packs a tasty punch

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, Cultivars, Extension, Nutrition, RECs

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Sugar Belle-a bold mandarin orange hybrid that ripens in time for the winter holiday market-will be the first University of Florida-created citrus variety intended for commercial production.

The mandarin hybrid-a mix of the sweet Clementine and the colorful, bell-shaped Minneola-has a rich taste and strong aroma, said UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences plant breeder Fred Gmitter.

The new sweet-tart fruit may be best described as a mandarin with a tangy punch.

“Many old-timers in citrus have said this is the best-tasting citrus they’ve ever had,” Gmitter said.

The fruit, which has a patent pending and is also known as LB8-9, has been in the works since 1985.

(more …)

UF professor flies high in the small world of owl-pellet gathering

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Household Pests

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Dissecting owl pellets and reconstructing animal skeletons inside can be a gruesomely great educational experience for youngsters – so much so, that demand for owl pellets has spawned a cottage industry.

In Florida, one of the main suppliers is Richard Raid, a professor with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Owls can’t chew, so they rip prey apart with their beaks and swallow it in big chunks. The pellets are blobs of undigested fur and bones the birds regurgitate after a meal.

Raid gathers 3,000 to 5,000 pellets each year from farms in the Everglades Agricultural Area. He leads workshops at schools, clubs and museums where he shows children how to carefully pick apart the pellets, identify the creatures inside, and arrange the bones into complete skeletons.

The experience may sound cringe-inducing, but it teaches children about biology and predator-prey relationships, says Raid, a plant pathologist at UF’s Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade. (more …)

Goodbye “R” rule? Oyster pathogen test may help make shellfish safer

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Food Safety, New Technology, Research, Uncategorized

Oyster Research

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The oyster lover’s axiom of edibility — that this shellfish is safest to eat in any month with an “r” in it — may soon become somewhat of a culinary anachronism, thanks to a new food-safety test developed with help from the University of Florida.

Oysters are typically considered safest to eat in cooler months (September through April) because the shellfish-infecting bacteria in the genus Vibrio flourish best in warm temperatures.

Even in the “r” months, slurping an oyster opens some people to infection from these bacteria, which can cause fever, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea and has even led to finger amputation when it’s given a chance to penetrate a cut or skin lesion.

However, a new quick and inexpensive diagnostic test developed by DuPont Qualicon and refined by UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences could make weeding out pathogen-loaded oysters much more practical and efficient. Oysters are a $14 million industry in the Sunshine State, according to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

(more …)

NSF awards $1.4 million to UF, other institutions to study disease threatening lobsters

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Biocontrols, Conservation, Food Safety

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The Caribbean spiny lobster is one of Florida’s top commercial seafood species, with an annual $27 million harvest — but a recently discovered virus is killing the crustaceans and threatening the industry.

Now, scientists with the University of Florida and several other institutions have been awarded a three-year, $1.4 million National Science Foundation grant to research transmission of the virus, known as PaV1.

The research should answer many lingering questions about the spread and geographic distribution of the pathogen, and could lead to management strategies and new methods for identifying infected lobsters, said Don Behringer, an assistant professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

One of the main issues to be investigated: whether the virus is dispersed long distances by lobster larvae, which float hundreds of miles during their first months. Infected spiny lobsters have been found in far-flung places, including the Florida Keys and parts of Mexico, Belize and St. Croix. (more …)

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