IFAS News

University of Florida

Putnam to discuss the 21st Century land-grant mission at UF

Topic(s): Agriculture, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A century and a half ago, the nation was in the midst of unparalleled change and turmoil. The Industrial Revolution had morphed American life at its most fundamental levels, and the Civil War had reduced the U.S. political system to tatters.

With that setting, on July 2, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed what was dubbed the Land Grant Act. The act created funding for a nationwide higher education system-creating a network of colleges rooted in the promise of advancing the country’s agrarian industries. The effort would not only help reunite a shattered nation, it would bolster that union’s new position of world leadership.

Today’s world may seem very different. But from the view afforded by his position in the U.S. House of Representatives, Adam Putnam sees this as a time when the land-grant mission is just as important.

On April 12, Putnam will share that perspective in a lecture entitled “Green-Lighting the 21st Century Land-Grant Mission,” on the University of Florida campus. As part of the York Distinguished Lecturer series, the presentation is free and open to the public.

“Whether you’re looking at the state of Florida, the nation or the world as a whole, we’re going through radical changes that demand responsible action,” said Putnam, who has represented Florida’s 12th congressional district since 2001. “Energy, the environment, water concerns, obesity, starvation-even nutrition, aging and other fundamental health issues-these are global challenges with solutions that will come from our land-grant system.” (more …)

Mosquito research shows ‘your worst enemy could be your best friend’

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Invasive Species

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Your worst enemy can sometimes also be your best friend, according to entomologists from the University of Florida and Illinois State University.

Their research has shown how one mosquito species is being saved by the very predator that usually eats it — and how that helps protect humans from diseases like dengue fever.

In the 1980s the U.S. began importing a large number of used tires from Asia. Water that had collected in these tires carried the larvae and eggs of the Asian tiger mosquito, a pest with a voracious appetite known to carry disease.

This invasive mosquito is more aggressive in its search for food than the more docile native mosquitoes, and theoretically, should have driven the native species to near extinction as it spread, said Phil Lounibos, an entomologist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

However, as the researchers explain in the March issue of the journal Oecologia, the invasive mosquitoes seem to be the preferred meal of the predatory midge, Corethrella appendiculata. The paper is titled, “Your worst enemy could be your best friend: predator contributions to invasion resistance and persistence of natives.” (more …)

Catching spawning Florida bass won’t deplete populations, UF study shows

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Conservation, Economics

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Recent cold weather has delayed largemouth bass spawning, says a University of Florida expert whose research suggests anglers should enjoy the opportunity for easy catches, despite naysayers.

In Florida, the bass usually begin spawning in January or February but this year they started at least a month late, said Mike Allen, a fisheries professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Largemouths are the state’s most popular freshwater game fish. To spawn, male bass make shallow nests in the sand, court females, and then protect the eggs and hatchlings for several weeks.

Males guarding nests are notoriously aggressive, striking anything that moves. The fish are easy to catch, but it’s commonly believed that spawning-season fishing reduces bass populations. Allen’s latest study suggests that notion is rarely true. (more …)

UF researcher: online technology could be a way to help sagging Mexican coffee trade

Topic(s): Agriculture, Economics

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Think of Anthony Rue as a coffee sommelier. His boutique café, Volta, near the University of Florida’s Gainesville campus commonly carries select brews from locations around the globe-with a notable and perhaps surprising exception.

“Mexico might be our closest coffee-producing neighbor, but it has earned something of a bad reputation,” Rue said. “We didn’t carry Mexican coffees until just last season because our suppliers haven’t wanted to deal in it. There has been a lack of transparency in what kind of quality you’re going to get.”

That questionable quality stems from an old-world style of trading among small farmers-one that commonly depends on a risky system of unreliable middlemen referred to as “coyotes.”

There might be a way to dodge these coyotes, however. It’s found in online auctions, a world that eBay enthusiasts in the U.S. have known for years says Charles Moss, a professor of food and resource economics in UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Moss has studied Mexican coffee economics for nearly a decade. (more …)

UF researcher: Florida agriculture took economic hit in 2008, but remains strong

Topic(s): Agriculture, Economics

Florida agriculture survived the first part of the economic downturn fairly well but decreased demand for exports has been a concern, a University of Florida expert says in an annual report.

In the report that looks at 2008 economic data, agriculture and related industries contributed $76.5 billion to the state’s economy, said Alan Hodges, an extension scientist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“Every single sector of the economy has been affected in the recession, there’s just no getting away from that. And agriculture is no exception,” Hodges said. “However, it looks like agriculture has taken less of a hit than some other segments.”

Hodges has been involved in the annual report’s production since 2000.

Economic data compiled by the federal government lags about two years behind, and 2008 is the most recent year for which data available, he said. Economists peg December 2007 as the start of the country’s recession. (more …)

UF/IFAS, Buckeye break ground for biorefinery pilot plant in Perry, Fla.

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biofuels, Conservation, Economics, Green Living, New Technology

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In 2002, the U.S. Department of Energy set a goal that, by 2030, a third of the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels would be replaced by environmentally sound products made from plant material usually discarded as trash.

Today, despite technical hurdles and the worldwide economic recession, representatives from the University of Florida, Buckeye Technologies Inc. and the Florida Legislature broke ground for a facility that could be a significant step toward reaching that goal.

The Stan Mayfield Biorefinery Pilot Plant, slated to be operational in spring 2011, will be operated as a UF/IFAS satellite laboratory facility concentrated on the use of cellulosic biomass to produce ethanol.

“We would not be here today without the exceptional foresight and support of those who realize, even in these trying economic times, how important this work is to our future,” said UF President Bernie Machen, who led the groundbreaking ceremony. (more …)

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