University of Florida

UF discovers house flies carrying five new illness-causing bacteria

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Everyone knows that house flies aren’t welcome around food.

But University of Florida scientists have discovered five new reasons why.

Researchers with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have documented five more bacteria species carried by house flies, and all of them cause illness in humans, ranging from food poisoning to respiratory infections.

In the current issue of Florida Entomologist, the researchers describe collecting house flies near rear entrances and trash bins at four restaurants in Gainesville. About 20 flies from each location were collected in sterile containers and returned to the campus laboratory.

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Participants sign up for real-life Florida ‘FarmVille’

Topic(s): Economics, New Technology

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — FarmVille, Facebook’s most popular game, allows millions to till digital soil and trade products in a virtual market. Now, University of Florida faculty are bringing social networking to real-life agriculture, and they want players.

“Social networking is changing our personal lives and the business world in ways that we could have never predicted a few years ago,” said Allen Wysocki, an associate professor of food and resource economics at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “It only makes sense to bring that to agriculture.”

For the past two years, Wysocki has worked with IFAS faculty and stakeholders across the state to set up a Florida version of the website MarketMaker. The site allows farmers and seafood producers, both large and small, to set up profiles featuring details of their operation such as pictures and maps.

Buyers looking for specific products can use the site to find nearby producers. The site also features extensive demographic information, including listings of potential buyers, allowing farmers to seek out new markets.

The site isn’t just for bulk trading, however. It’s also designed to be accessible for those who just want to find fresh local food. The site even offers recipes that use locally available, in-season foods. (more …)

Florida’s economy could benefit from biomass for electricity, UF researcher says

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Consumers know that buying locally produced food stimulates the local economy, and a University of Florida researcher says the same idea applies when power plants use locally produced wood as fuel.

With state legislators contemplating a move to require that Florida’s electrical utilities use a specific percentage of renewable fuels, the result could be billions for the state’s economy and increased sales of its forest products, said Alan Hodges, an extension economist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Hodges is presenting the findings today at the state’s 2010 Farm to Fuel Summit in Orlando.

“The basic idea is, when you use woody biomass you’re substituting a locally produced resource for an imported resource, which is coal and natural gas, primarily,” Hodges said. “By getting fuel supplies from within the state, that’s money remaining here and it can stimulate further economic activity in the state.”

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Artificial sweetener could help soybean plants resist rust disease, UF researchers say

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Invasive Species

Saccharin, the artificial sweetener used in diet drinks and other consumer products, has an unexpected sweet agricultural benefit: It helps soybean plants ward off a disease that threatens the entire soybean industry, University of Florida researchers say.

If the sugar substitute performs as well in the field as it did in the lab, it may give farmers a cost-effective weapon in the fight against Asian soybean rust, an invasive fungal disease that appeared in the continental U.S. in 2004 and is now a major grower concern.

The 2009 U.S. soybean crop was valued at $31.8 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Florida’s crop was worth $12.3 million.

The study, presented today at the annual meeting of the American Phytopathological Society in Charlotte, N.C., is one example of scientists’ efforts to harness a phenomenon called systemic acquired resistance, said Pratibha Srivastava, a postdoctoral associate with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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