University of Florida

UF Oyster Recovery Team issues findings: Drought and salinity major issues, not oil

Topic(s): Agriculture, Aquaculture, Conservation, Cultivars, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, New Technology, Pests, Pollution, Research, Weather


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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — There is no evidence that pollutants from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill contributed to the “unprecedented” decline in recent Apalachicola Bay oyster populations, according to a report this week by the University of Florida.

Instead, the report by UF’s Oyster Recovery Team cites drought, insufficient rainfall and increased salinity in the bay as factors contributing to the dramatic drop-off in oyster landings beginning in September 2012 and continuing through the year, said Karl Havens, task force leader and director of Florida Sea Grant.

“There was a whole chain of circumstances that led to this situation, some of which are beyond human control,” Havens said. “Our report makes recommendations for many things that can be done to help the oyster population through management and restoration.”

Havens and other recovery team members discussed the report and findings with a crowd of about 60 residents and seafood workers Wednesday at the Apalachicola Community Center.

The full report and a summary are available at the UF/IFAS Franklin County Extension office or its website, http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu.

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UF wildlife ecology students merge science and art in project with Harn Museum

Topic(s): Uncategorized


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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Art and science aren’t always birds of a feather, but a new University of Florida project has them flocking together.

Students from UF’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences recently worked with UF’s Harn Museum of Art to identify Brazilian birds and plants illustrated by famed naturalist painter Jean-Theodore Descourtilz.

A website detailing their work was launched earlier this year. It can be found here: http://descourtilz.wordpress.com/.

“The museum needed to know the names of the birds and plants depicted, whether they were accurately rendered, and if they were biologically realistic,” said Emilio Bruna, an associate professor in UF’s Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation.

Bruna and John Blake, a professor in the department, co-taught the graduate-level class that led the project. Both are members of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Students in the class, An Introduction to Tropical Ecology and Conservation, examined five prints – each portraying three to five birds and a plant species upon which the birds are perched. And while some of the birds were labeled by Descourtilz, none of the plants had identification.

The students were asked to accurately classify the birds and plants using modern taxonomic nomenclature and to prepare a report that outlined what the birds eat, where they live and in which part of the tropical forest canopy they reside.

Blake said one of the interesting findings from the project was that some of the birds portrayed together are not from the same part of Brazil.

“Some would be from the far corner of the Amazon and others would be from southern Brazil, and yet they’re all posed together on the same plant,” Blake said.

For example, in one print, the scarlet-headed blackbird, sharpbill and the pampas meadowlark are pictured on the same plant. However, the three birds do not share a similar habitat range and would not likely be found together.

On the same print, the birds sit on a ficus branch. And while the sharpbill may eat the plant’s fruit, the other three birds pictured eat mainly insects.

Bruna said he suspects that rather than being drawn from nature, the prints were drawn from memory or from museum specimens.

The artwork is part of Harn’s growing natural history collection of about 400 prints from the 16th to the 19th century by European and American artists that depict birds, rocks, mammals, plants, shells and more from Asia, the Americas and Europe.

Eric Segal, the museum’s education curator of academic programs, said once information is obtained about artwork, it is kept for later use when writing wall labels or essays.

“It’s very powerful information for us,” Segal said. “Everything that the students have done for this project is really useful and will come back again when those prints are shown.”

These works arrived at the museum in 2010 as part of an acquisition program initiated with generous loans from Graham Arader, a prominent dealer whose specialties include natural history prints.

They are from Descourtilz’s four-part book of 164 species of Brazilian birds titled “Ornithologie brésilienne ou Histoire des Oiseaux du Brésil, Remarquables par leur Plumage, leur Chant ou leurs Habitudes,” published between 1852 and 1856.

Descourtilz produced them through chromolithography, a process by which an image is drawn in reverse onto stone using special markers, ink is applied to the image and then paper is placed firmly against the stone using a press to make a print. The prints were then hand colored.

The Harn’s work with CALS is part of a larger effort to continue to weave the museum into the academic fabric of UF, Segal said.

“The museum is a world-class art museum, but it’s also a resource for the university,” he said. “We have a long history of working with a wide range of disciplines across campus.”



Writer: Robert H. Wells, 352-273-3569; rhwells@ufl.edu

Sources: Emilio Bruna, 352-846-0634; embruna@ufl.edu

John Blake, 352-846-0591; john.blake@ufl.edu

Eric Segal, 352-392-9826, ext. 2115; esegal@harn.ufl.edu

By Robert H. Wells, 352-273-3569; rhwells@ufl.edu

Photo cutline:

Emilio Bruna, an associate professor in the University of Florida department of wildlife ecology and conservation; Leah Henderson, a graduate student in UF’s department of anthropology; John Blake, a professor in the department of wildlife and ecology and conservation; and Eric Segal, education curator of academic programs for UF’s Harn Museum of Art, are pictured in front of natural history prints by artist Jean-Theodore Descourtilz. Graduate students in a class led by Bruna and Blake, both members of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, recently worked to identify birds and plants pictured in the prints. UF/IFAS photo by Tyler L. Jones.


UF Plant Diagnostic Center to host ribbon-cutting on April 25

Topic(s): Uncategorized

Plant Diagnostic Center

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Plant Diagnostic Center, one of the top facilities of its kind, is a front-line defender against invading pathogens that threaten plants in Florida and around the nation.

The Gainesville-based center, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 25 to celebrate its new headquarters, which opened in January.

The ceremony will begin at 1:30 p.m. with speeches by Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources; Mike Irey, director of research for sugar cane and citrus for U.S. Sugar Corp. and Southern Gardens Citrus in Clewiston; and Rosemary Loria, a professor and the chair of the UF/IFAS plant pathology department— followed by tours of the facility and teaching gardens. The building, No. 1291, is located at 2570 Hull Road, directly behind Fifield Hall. Those interested in attending should RSVP to Lauretta Rahmes at lrahmes1@ufl.edu or 352-273-4635.

The center’s job is to diagnose submitted commercial, homeowner and extension plant disease samples from turf, ornamentals, fruits, vegetables and other plants. It’s a service of UF/IFAS Extension and is overseen by the UF/IFAS plant pathology department. More than 2,500 samples pass through the center annually.

“There is a huge benefit to Florida agriculture to have a reliable laboratory to send samples to,” Loria said. “For a grower, getting an accurate and timely diagnosis and disease control recommendation can mean the difference between losing the crop and being able to sell it.”

Florida’s agricultural industry contributes more than $100 billion to the state’s economy each year.

Carrie Harmon, director of the center, said the service gives growers access to proven disease-management strategies.

“We’re an extension laboratory, and field-tested, Florida research is going into our management recommendations, so we know that those things work,” she said.

The center is part of the Florida Plant Diagnostic Network that includes diagnostic laboratories at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm and the Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead.

UF/IFAS’ plant diagnostic network is one of the top in the country because of its direct linkage with the department’s large number of plant pathology experts who specialize in areas that range from tropical ornamentals and fruits to row crops, tomatoes, strawberries and watermelons.

The center also houses the Rapid Turfgrass Diagnostic Service, which provides a fast turnaround for disease diagnosis in high-value turfgrass.

Additionally, it is one of the few plant diagnostic labs in the country that has a containment facility that can process highly regulated samples infected with pathogens considered a threat if released, as well as a molecular lab that allows for cutting-edge research and DNA diagnosis.

And since most of the plants that come into the U.S. are imported through Miami, the UF plant disease labs are often the first places that detect new diseases and threats, Loria said.

“With the volume and the opportunity to bring pathogens and pests right from field situations through the airport and into the country, we need to be among the best to keep agriculture as safe as possible,” she said.

Harmon has conducted training programs in the Caribbean and in Central and South America so diagnosticians there can detect and treat the latest plant diseases before they can reach the U.S.

The new building is 6,000 square feet —1,000 more than the previous —and features a larger classroom for professional training as well as a work room for students in the UF/IFAS doctor of plant medicine program, who often work in the clinic.

For more on the center: http://plantpath.ifas.ufl.edu/clinic/.



Writer:  Robert H. Wells, 352-273-3569; rhwells@ufl.edu

Sources: Rosemary Loria, 352-273-4634; rloria@ufl.edu

Carrie Harmon, 352-273-4645; clharmon@ufl.edu

Photo cutline:

Anne Vitoreli (front), laboratory manager, and lab assistants John Bonkowski and Chris Kerr, work in the new University of Florida Extension Plant Diagnostic Center. The center is part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and serves the state and region by diagnosing commercial, homeowner and extension plant disease samples submitted to the laboratory for turf, ornamentals, fruits and vegetables and other plants. The new center, which is one of the top facilities of its kind, opened in January 2013. UF/IFAS photo by Marisol Amador.












Local residents can give up exotic animals at UF pet amnesty event April 16

Topic(s): Announcements, Conservation, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species

Tree frog

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Exotic pets can be fun, but if animals become too big, too costly or too difficult to manage, the enjoyment may disappear and owners may start looking for ways to make the animals do the same.

Unfortunately, some of these pet owners turn their critters loose in the wild – that’s one reason Florida has more invasive reptile and amphibian species than any other place on Earth. In fact, the Sunshine State is now home to so many Burmese pythons that earlier this year officials held a competition to capture and remove the huge constrictors, which are blamed for decimating native wildlife.

To discourage future releases of unwanted pets, the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has partnered with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to present the area’s first Exotic Pet Amnesty Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16.

The event is free and open to the public. Animals will be accepted with no questions asked at the Straughn IFAS Extension Professional Development Center, 2142 Shealy Drive, just off S.W. 16th Ave. near the UF College of Veterinary Medicine.

Simultaneously, there will be an educational display on the J. Wayne Reitz Student Union colonnade.

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Study: UF/IFAS weed science program ranks high for research publishing

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Environment, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Invasive Species, New Technology, Research


Pigweed, pictured here, poses one of Florida’s biggest weed-management challenges. UF/IFAS photo by Thomas Wright

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Integrated weed management, or IWM, is a management option for crop producers who want to fight weeds using every available technology; it involves three activities – scouting, prevention and control – coordinated to discourage weeds from growing in the first place.

Producers have been slow to adopt IWM, but a team of scientists with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences say it can be a sustainable, affordable choice.

In fact, the team publishes so much research on the subject that they earned UF several top five results in a recent study that assessed the productivity of weed science teams worldwide.

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UF breaks ground for new 7,800-square-foot Austin Cary Forest Learning Center

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Conservation, Crops, Environment, Extension, Forestry, Green Living, IFAS

AC Learning Center small

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new era began for the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation April 6 as ground was broken for the Austin Cary Forest Learning Center, a 7,800-square-foot education and outreach complex in the heart of the UF-owned forest northeast of Gainesville.

The learning center will succeed and surpass the Austin Cary Forest Conference Center, destroyed by fire in July 2011. Fundraising and recovery efforts began immediately after the fire, and at the groundbreaking event, UF Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources Jack Payne expressed awe at their rapid progress.

“I never thought we’d be here two years later,” said Payne, who noted the importance of forest products to the state’s economy — $15 billion and 90,000 jobs. Speaking to a crowd of about 400 supporters, he discussed the Austin Cary Forest’s role as an essential link between natural resources and agriculture, and the role that pine trees may play in providing more of the world’s biofuel and fiber needs.

Construction for the learning center is slated to begin immediately and should be completed in less than one year, SFRC Director Tim White told attendees. The learning center will greatly enhance the school’s ability to provide distance education from Austin Cary Forest and accommodate large in-person events there, he said.

“This is a community resource, not an SFRC resource,” White said. “Tell people we want it to be used.”

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UF entomologist Roxanne Connelly leads American Mosquito Control Association

Topic(s): Announcements, Conservation, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Families and Consumers, Green Living, Household Pests, IFAS, Invasive Species

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When questions arise about mosquito control, University of Florida entomologist Roxanne Connelly is one of the state’s most sought-after experts. Now, that expertise has earned her the presidency of a national organization.

Connelly, an associate professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, was inducted Feb. 27 as president of the American Mosquito Control Association at the association’s annual meeting in Atlantic City, N.J. She’ll serve a one-year term.

“I’m very pleased about it,” Connelly said in a March interview. “Holding this position is really an honor for me because I was elected to it.”

The election happened at the 2010 AMCA annual meeting, where members voted Connelly to a four-year leadership stint. In 2011 she began by serving a one-year term as vice president, then another year as president-elect, and now president. In 2014 she’ll become immediate past president.

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UF School of Forest Resources and Conservation sets Spring Celebration for April 5-6

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, Biofuels, CALS, Conservation, Crops, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, Forestry, IFAS, Invasive Species, New Technology, Research

Austin Cary Memorial Forest. UF/IFAS Photo by Dawn McKinstry.

UF/IFAS file photo of Austin Cary Forest palmetto and pine, by Dawn McKinstry

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — This spring, the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation has two reasons to celebrate:

One is the annual SFRC Spring Celebration on April 5-6. Here, alumni and friends of the School reconnect, recreate and learn about SFRC’s latest achievements.

The other reason: This year’s celebration includes a special milestone — groundbreaking for the new Austin Cary Forest Learning Center at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 6.

Dignitaries speaking at the groundbreaking include UF President Bernie Machen and UF Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources Jack Payne.

“This groundbreaking marks a huge step forward for the School of Forest Resources and Conservation,” Payne said. “Thousands will benefit from activities on-site at the new Learning Center, and many programs taught here will be offered via distance education to audiences statewide and beyond.”

The 7,800 square-foot building will facilitate education and outreach events at Austin Cary Forest. It’s larger and better-equipped than the conference center it replaces, said Tim White, director of the School. That facility fell victim to a fire in July 2011.

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UF researchers improve process to create renewable chemicals from plants

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biofuels, Crops, IFAS, New Technology, Research

Xuan Wang and Lonnie Ingram

Click here for high resolution photo. Caption at bottom.

Related video.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Crops aren’t just for food, fiber and fuel. Researchers at the University of Florida are making new industrial applications possible for them as well.

They’ve developed a method to turn sugarcane bagasse — the crushed-stalk waste product of sugar production — into succinic acid that can be used to make pharmaceuticals, protective coatings and compostable bags.

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Local food makes up 20 percent of Florida’s eat-at-home market, UF study shows

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Research


Baskets of okra offered for sale at a farmers’ market. UF/IFAS photo by Tyler L. Jones

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Floridians are buying more food grown locally or regionally and retail sales are higher here than in other states, according to a University of Florida study.

It showed local food represents about 20 percent of all Florida food purchased for at-home consumption, except restaurant take-out food, said Alan Hodges, an Extension scientist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The study was based on a statewide consumer survey. Prior estimates from other states had local food accounting for about 5 percent of all food sales, he said.

“We are doing relatively better in Florida, in moving toward food self-sufficiency,” Hodges said. “I can only attribute that to the favorable year-round growing conditions we have for fruits and vegetables.”

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