IFAS News

University of Florida

UF researchers develop plant-based technology that helps biofuels, may fight cancer

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biofuels, Conservation, Environment, Green Living, IFAS, New Technology, Research

Lignin nanotubes

Image of synthesized lignin nanotubes

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For the first time, University of Florida researchers have developed plant-based technology that could reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and may also help treat cancer.

Known as lignin nanotubes, these cylindrical containers are smaller than viruses and tiny enough to travel through the body, carrying cancer patients’ medicine. They can be created in biorefineries from lignin, a plant substance that is a byproduct of bioethanol production.

Bioethanol is a renewable alternative to fossil fuel created by fermenting sugar — such as that from sugarcane and sweet sorghum juices, stalks and stems.

“We’re looking at biomedical applications whereby these nanotubes are injected in the body,” said Wilfred Vermerris, an associate professor in UF’s agronomy department and Genetics Institute who was part of the team that developed the nanotubes. The team’s work is described in a March issue of the journal Nanotechnology.

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Citrus greening bacterium may “ring the dinner bell” to attract insect

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, Crops, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests

Cutline at bottom. Click here for high-resolution image.

The bacterium responsible for citrus greening causes infected trees to give off a scent that rings the dinner bell for the disease-carrying insect, University of Florida researchers say.

This finding might distress growers, but it could enable scientists to better monitor the insect and maybe cut the chances healthy trees become infected.

The study was published online March 22 by the journal PLoS Pathogens. The article, which is open access, is at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1002610

Greening-infected citrus trees emit a fragrant chemical called methyl salicylate, said study author Lukasz Stelinski, an assistant professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Citrus trees release the same chemical, in the same amount, when under attack by the Asian citrus psyllid, the insect that transmits the bacterium.

When the pests encounter a faint whiff of methyl salicylate they interpret it to mean that other psyllids have found a good place to feed, and hurry to join the banquet. One experiment in the study showed that psyllids were more likely to land on infected citrus trees than healthy ones.

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UF dairy farm to host open house March 24, public invited

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, IFAS, Livestock, Research

Cutline at bottom. Click here for high resolution image.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — North Florida residents are invited to tour a working dairy farm and learn about University of Florida research at Family Day at the Dairy Farm, held 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 24 at UF’s dairy farm in Hague.

The free event, sponsored by UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences with support from Florida Dairy Farmers, includes an opportunity to watch cows being milked and fed, visit free-stall barns, pet a calf, see farm equipment, sample dairy products and talk with UF scientists about ongoing research to improve cow health and milk production.

Organizers hope to give visitors a better understanding of dairy production and the importance of agriculture to Florida’s economy, said Albert De Vries, an associate professor with UF’s animal sciences department.

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UF research begins to unlock ‘formulas’ for taste, aroma appeal of tangerines

Topic(s): Citrus, Cultivars, RECs, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers are working to speed up their ability to create new tangerine varieties by pinpointing the compounds that make them taste and smell the way they do.

In the last decade, Florida fresh citrus growers have lost valuable ground to producers in California and Spain who’ve enjoyed success with seedless Clementine varieties, such as the “California Cutie.” Grown in Florida, the same varieties have more seeds than consumers like.

But UF researchers at the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences believe their work is laying the foundation for Florida citrus producers to regain that lost ground. (more …)

UF School of Forest Resources and Conservation celebrates 75th anniversary

Topic(s): Announcements

Click here for high-resolution image.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation will mark its 75th anniversary and celebrate its achievements with a weekend of activities March 23-24.

Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, said the SFRC’s contributions to Florida’s economy and environment have been monumental.

“Florida’s quality of life is completely intertwined with its natural resources, and forests not only provide the basis for our lumber and pulpwood industries, they also produce oxygen, filter water and provide wildlife habitat,” Payne said. “For three-quarters of a century, the SFRC has been working to keep our forests healthy and productive. They have more than succeeded.”

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UF/IFAS center’s research looks at agricultural messages that pack the most punch

Topic(s): Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Showing the kinds of words that appeal — and those that don’t — in agricultural messages, research by the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education (PIE Center) recently debuted in a national academic journal.

Led by doctoral student Joy Goodwin, the PIE Center’s agricultural message testing project appears in the current issue of the Journal of Applied Communications.

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Sugarcane expert Rob Gilbert named director of UF Everglades research center

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, IFAS, RECs, Vegetables

Click here for high resolution image.

Sugarcane expert Rob Gilbert has been appointed director of the University of Florida’s Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade by Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. The appointment is effective March 16.

Gilbert, an agronomy professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, has been interim director of the Belle Glade center since October 2010.

“Rob is a prolific researcher and a longtime member of the EREC faculty,” Payne said. “He’s earned the confidence of his colleagues as well as the producers and local residents we serve. I’m certain he’ll take the center to new levels of achievement.”

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New UF-created virtual lawn tool lets users test water-saving systems

Topic(s): Green Living, Lawn & Garden, New Technology, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida homeowners can now test different water-saving lawn irrigation systems by using a free web application recently released by the University of Florida.

The interactive lawn irrigation tool creates a virtual lawn so users can test the results of different irrigation systems without having to actually install one.

The tool came is available at http://fawn.ifas.ufl.edu/tools/interactive_irrigation_tool/. (more …)

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