University of Florida

UF researcher’s work takes Florida a step closer to disease-resistant grapes

Topic(s): Crops, New Technology, RECs, Research, Uncategorized

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Dennis Gray may not be able to control Florida’s humidity, but he wants to help popular grape varieties shrug off diseases that thrive in muggy weather, and open up new markets for the state’s growers and winemakers.

Gray, a professor with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, is the first researcher to boost fungal-disease resistance in grapes by giving them an extra helping of protective genes that occur naturally in grapes.

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UF researches legal control for contagious, ornamental fish pest

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Extension, Livestock, Pests, Research

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Caption at bottom. Click here for high resolution image.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The lack of legal ways to eliminate fish lice is frustrating for goldfish and koi enthusiasts, but a University of Florida study in the Journal of Aquatic Animal Health reports that a cure is in the works.

Fish lice, which are actually crustaceans, use their mouths to attach to fish and feed on blood and bodily fluids, causing tissue damage, anemia and sometimes fatal wounds.

Lice infestations are a problem for goldfish and koi owners as well as producers in Florida’s approximately $33 million tropical fish industry. A single pet koi can be valued as much as $100,000, depending on color, pattern and size, and products that keep them healthy are in demand.

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IFAS founder E.T. York dies at 88

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, IFAS

E.T. York of Gainesville passed away on Friday, April 15, 2011. He was chancellor emeritus of the State University System and former University of Florida vice president for agriculture and natural resources, executive vice president, and interim president. A native of Mentone, Ala., he was 88.

During his tenure at UF, York created the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, or IFAS, to facilitate closer coordination of the agricultural teaching, research and extension functions. Under IFAS, York mandated a thorough evaluation of the teaching program with a consolidation of numerous courses and curricula, expansion of the graduate program, resulting in an increase in teaching productivity of more than 50 percent in four years, and an enrollment increase of more than 135 percent.

He encouraged a closer coordination of research activities to ensure closer interdepartmental cooperation as well as changes in extension organization and programming, leading to a greater efficiency of operations and the expansion of extension education programs. He built IFAS into a leader among states and nations, an organization replicated many times throughout the U.S. and the world.

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Six IFAS faculty named UF Research Foundation Professors for 2011

Topic(s): Announcements, Honors and Appointments

Six Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty members are among the 33 named UF Research Foundation Professors for 2011-2014.

They are: Rafael Muñoz-Carpena, associate professor in agricultural and biological engineering; Natália Peres, associate professor in plant pathology, Gulf Coast REC; Fred Gmitter, professor in horticultural sciences, Citrus REC; James Marois, professor in plant pathology, North Florida REC; George Casella, distinguished professor in statistics, and James Jawitz, associate professor in soil and water science. (more …)

Jacqueline Burns named UF Citrus Research and Education Center Director

Topic(s): Announcements, Citrus, RECs

Jackie Burns

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Jack Payne, the University of Florida’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, has announced Jacqueline Burns’ appointment as director of the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.

“Jackie Burns is a tremendous leader and a pre-eminent researcher in her own right. I believe very strongly in her leadership abilities and her vision for the Citrus REC,” Payne said. “She knows what the state’s citrus growers need and want and works tirelessly to ensure that our scientists get the most pertinent, valuable information to them.”

Burns has served as the CREC’s interim director since early 2009, following the departure of Harold Browning, who had held the director position since 1997. (more …)

New UF brochure explains owners’ options for unwanted exotic pets

Topic(s): Agriculture, Environment, Invasive Species, Pests

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Pet owners sometimes release unwanted exotic animals into the wild, considering it an act of kindness.

But Florida’s environment and economy pay a hefty price if these creatures thrive and reproduce. Introduced species may eat native animals and plants, damage property, pose human health risks and require costly management efforts. The lionfish, Burmese python and monk parakeet have all made headlines for wreaking havoc, and some of the specimens were probably released by pet owners.

To combat this problem, experts with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have published a free brochure that describes humane, responsible alternatives for people with pets they can’t manage or no longer want.

Titled “Options for Unwanted Exotic Pets,” it’s available online at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw353

“A lot of folks may not be aware that they have options, or that help is available,” said author Steve Johnson, an associate professor in UF’s wildlife ecology and conservation department. “We’re hoping to change that, and we want to remind people that turning pets loose is never acceptable.”

In Florida, releasing non-native animals is prohibited by law, Johnson said. What’s more, it’s inhumane—pets from other parts of the world may die from starvation or exposure in Florida’s outdoors.

The species that become established are the exceptions, he said, though Florida currently hosts breeding populations of about 140 non-native vertebrate species.

The brochure outlines several options for pet owners. They include learning more about caring for the animal, finding a new home for it, returning it to the seller, and contacting government or volunteer agencies.

The brochure also lists several websites that provide geographically indexed directories to pet rescue groups, animal shelters, exotic pet veterinarians, animal sanctuaries that can provide referrals, advice or possibly a new home. It also has a link to listings for “pet amnesty days” where the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission accepts exotic animals and attempts to place them with new owners.

As a preventive measure, the brochure includes a section on the importance of selecting the right pet in the first place, said author Monica McGarrity, a biological scientist who works with Johnson at UF’s Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Plant City. Potential buyers need to understand an animal’s potential lifespan and size, as well as its housing and nutrition requirements, before making a purchase.

Anyone considering an exotic pet should research the animal and consider the decision for at least a day, she said.

“Some of the most problematic situations happen when people make impulse buys,” McGarrity said.

She cites iguanas as a prime example— cute, small and inexpensive as juveniles. But a few years later the reptile may be 3 to 4 feet long and combative when handled if it hasn’t been properly socialized.

“That’s when people start thinking about releasing it,” she said.

Dustin Smith, an assistant curator at Zoo Miami in Miami-Dade County and another author of the brochure, said he knows all too well what happens to those iguanas, not to mention other freed pets. South Florida has the state’s highest concentration of established, non-native animals, many of them familiar sights to residents.

“When the weather’s decent, there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t see an exotic vertebrate,” he said. “Yesterday, I saw two species of parrots.”

For more information on non-native animals and their impact on Florida, visit http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/InvaderUpdater.shtml.

For information about selecting reptiles as pets, visit http://www.uga.edu/separc/BuyersGuide/index.htm.



Writer: Tom Nordlie, 352-273-3567, tnordlie@ufl.edu

Sources: Monica McGarrity, 813-757-2271, monicaem@ufl.edu

Dustin Smith, 305-251-0400, ext. 84957, dustsmi@miamidade.gov

Photo cutline

A captive monk parakeet is shown in this file photo taken at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Florida Field Station in Gainesville. Native to South America, the birds are popular pets and have become established in Florida, where they sometimes build huge nests atop electrical utilities equipment, causing power outages and fires. Experts with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have published a brochure to help pet owners understand their options if they can no longer care for exotic animals, and discourage release of non-native species. Photo by Tyler Jones/University of Florida/IFAS

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