University of Florida

UF research finds that ‘killer’ bees haven’t stung U.S. honey production

Topic(s): Biocontrols, Entomology and Nematology, Invasive Species

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In just a few years after Africanized honey bees were introduced to Brazil in 1956, the aggressive bees had dominated and ruined domestic hives throughout South and Central America. According to University of Florida research, however, the same story isn’t playing out in North America.

According to an economic analysis from UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, since their arrival in the U.S. in October 1990, Africanized honey bees (often called killer bees) haven’t had a substantial economic impact on the honey production of domestic hives-even after spreading throughout 10 states.

The analysis, published online by the journal of Ecological Economics, seems to indicate virtually no hive loss to the bees — any economic loss was likely due to the cost of preventive measures taken by hive keepers to keep the Africanized bees away, said Charles Moss, one of the analysts behind the report and a professor in UF’s department of food and resource economics. (more …)

UF plant geneticist only Florida researcher to receive special DOE funding

Topic(s): Biofuels, New Technology, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida plant geneticist Matias Kirst is the only researcher from the state of Florida to be named a recipient of U.S. Department of Energy special funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Kirst, of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and School of Forest Resources and Conservation, will receive $873,000 over five years to conduct a radically new genetic analysis of poplar trees-an effort that may help harness the trees as a sustainable and economical fuel source.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced earlier this month that 69 recipients had been selected from nearly 1,800 applications nationwide to receive a total of $85 million.

This is the first such funding from the DOE’s Early Career Research Program, a program designed to “bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years.” (more …)

Old-time vegetables offer new opportunities to Florida farmers, UF experts say

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Green Living

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Vegetables of yesteryear may offer Florida farmers a brighter tomorrow, say University of Florida experts who’ll be teaching a workshop on commercial production of trendy “heirloom” varieties this weekend.

These crops are gaining popularity with consumers and restaurants, and often work well for small and medium-sized farms that sell products locally, said Danielle Treadwell, an assistant professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“I work with commercial farms all the time where they want to grow heirloom varieties,” Treadwell said. “A lot of our small farmers are operating out of a different set of cultivars (compared with large farms) because that’s what their customers demand.”

In Florida, where about 90 percent of the state’s 47,000 farms are classified as small by U.S. Department of Agriculture standards, heirloom crops may represent a significant economic opportunity, she said. (more …)

Dead Sea-dwelling microbes reveal roots of protein common to all higher life forms

Topic(s): Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — We have more in common with Dead Sea-dwelling microbes than previously thought. University of Florida researchers have found that one of the most common proteins in complex life forms may have evolved from proteins found in microbes that live in deadly salty environments.

The protein ubiquitin is so-called because it is ubiquitously active in all higher life forms on Earth. The protein is essential to the life cycle of nearly all eukaryotic cells — those that are complex enough to have a nucleus and other membrane-bound structures.

Haloferax volcanii microbes, on the other hand, are unique creatures. One of the most ancient species on the planet, they long ago adapted to conditions far too salty for other organisms — even surviving for thousands of years in dried-out salt lakes.
As they report in the Jan. 7 issue of the journal Nature, researchers for UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have found that two proteins in Haloferax are likely the simple evolutionary precursors of ubiquitin. (more …)

UF research improves production of sea oats essential to dune restoration

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Conservation, Disaster Preparedness, New Technology, Weather


Caption at end of story. Click here for full image.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It might be easy for the casual beachgoer to write off sea oats as mere weeds. However, the lanky grass holds the soil of beach dunes, making it a keystone of the natural barrier between land and water-and University of Florida researchers are using cutting-edge techniques to keep that barrier in place.”The 2004 hurricane season showed us exactly how important it is to have effective ways of rebuilding our coastal dunes,” said Mike Kane, a UF environmental horticulture professor. “Plants are an essential part of that rebuilding.”

The researchers from UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are not only developing new ways to grow the plants under laboratory and greenhouse conditions, but are building a cryogenically stored library of genetically varied sea oats samples.

Four major hurricanes and a tropical storm damaged more than 800 miles of Florida shoreline in 2004, leaving 360 miles of beach critically eroded. Nearly $200 million in state and federal funding was allocated to rebuild.

Planting sea oats along reconstructed beaches isn’t easy or cheap. The 22,000 sea oats plants required to populate one mile of rebuilt beach cost more than $40,000.

One of the biggest hurdles is producing enough plants that will thrive in the area being rebuilt. Many of the natural sea oats populations that serve as seed sources were damaged or destroyed during the 2004-2005 hurricane seasons, leaving researchers looking for ways to produce sea oats other than by seed. (more …)

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