IFAS News

University of Florida

Who’s fooling who? Species communicate, ‘eavesdrop’ and play tricks near infected trees

Topic(s): Citrus, Entomology and Nematology, Pests

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Four species communicate with and sometimes trick each other around a scent produced by greening-infected citrus trees, a new University of Florida study finds.

Communication between species is common but almost always is described between two or three species, said Lukasz Stelinski, associate professor of entomology and nematology at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.

Stelinski wanted know how a fourth species, in this case, a wasp, would vary this interaction ─  a probe that may be one of the few cases where species at four levels of the food chain use one odor to communicate with, and exploit, each other.

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UF/IFAS study: Some consumers confuse ‘local’ with ‘organic’ food

Topic(s): Conservation, Crops, Economics, Environment, Food Safety, Nutrition

OrganicVsLocalStory001 (2)

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With more people buying local and organic food, consumers should know the difference between the two so they recognize what they’re buying, but nearly one in five still confuse the terms, a University of Florida researcher says.

Newly published research, done in partnership with three other universities, aims to help local and organic food producers and sellers target their marketing messages to reinforce or dispel consumers’ perceptions. The organic-food industry has spent millions of dollars building brand awareness, only to see some consumers confuse “organic” food with “local” food products, said Ben Campbell, a University of Connecticut extension economist and the study’s lead author.

Hayk Khachatryan, a UF food and resource economics assistant professor, worked with Campbell and others to survey 2,511 people online in the U.S. and Canada in 2011 and found 17 percent thought the terms were interchangeable, the study said.

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Planning trumps indecision – prepare now for hurricane season, expert says

Topic(s): Disaster Preparedness, Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Waiting too long to make a decision in the face of disaster is in itself a decision – and rarely a good one, a University of Florida expert in community development says.

Michael Spranger, a UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences professor and Extension specialist, says deadly indecision can be trumped by one thing: Planning.

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Growers play vital role in UF/IFAS organic strawberry study

Topic(s): Crops, Cultivars, Economics, IFAS, Pests

Strawberries.  UF/IFAS Photo by Marisol Amador.

This UF/IFAS file photo shows Florida-grown strawberries.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – After the first year of a University of Florida study to try to develop new organic strawberry production systems, growers are playing a critical role in setting priorities for the research project’s future.

The study stemmed from several issues strawberry growers face. Rising costs of production and increased imports of strawberries threaten the sustainability of the Florida strawberry industry, one of two major production regions in the nation. Demand for organic strawberries is growing and brings a price premium for growers who can master the art and science of organic strawberry production.

Organic and conventional growers assessed parts of the first year of research, said Mickie Swisher, associate professor of sustainable agriculture in UF’s Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences and a member of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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A better bedbug trap: Made from household items for about $1

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Household Pests, New Technology, Pests

Benjamin Hottel, a University of Florida doctoral student in entomology, left, and Phil Koehler, an urban entomology professor, demonstrate how to build a do-it-yourself bedbug trap. They created a method for building an inexpensive trap to help those who

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Bug-Trap

This graphic illustrates how you can make the bedbug interceptor trap.

Video available at: http://bit.ly/1vfXPrL.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The contraption seems so simple, yet so clever, like something The Professor might have concocted on “Gilligan’s Island.”

Researchers at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have devised a bedbug trap that can be built with household items. All you need are two disposable plastic containers, masking tape and glue, said Phil Koehler, UF/IFAS urban entomology professor. The traps catch and collect the bugs when they try to travel between people and the places where bedbugs hide, he said.

“This concept of trapping works for places where people sleep and need to be protected at those locations,” Koehler said.

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Floridians remain conflicted on immigration; oppose eligibility for federal education grants

Topic(s): Research, Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Floridians support the children of people who illegally entered the U.S. attending public colleges in their home state at lower, in-state tuition rates.

But that support fades fast when asked whether those students should be eligible for federal education grants, according to a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ survey of Floridians’ attitudes about immigration.

The survey of 503 Florida residents found that 43 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with allowing children of those who entered the U.S. illegally to pay in-state tuition for college, but just 29 percent supported them being eligible for federal grants to help pay for college. And only 35 percent felt those students should be able to compete for public university scholarships.

The UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education, or PIE Center, led the study.

“It’s interesting … the results show Florida residents are interested in children of undocumented immigrants being treated fairly, but not sure they want their children to have to compete with them for grants and scholarships,” said Alexa Lamm, the PIE Center’s associate director. “I wouldn’t say the results were unexpected, but it’s telling.”

Florida legislators this spring approved a bill allowing the children of immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally to pay in-state tuition. Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign the bill.

Much like last year’s immigration survey, Florida residents’ awareness of the E-Verify system remains low, with only 28 percent of respondents able to identify the system now being used by all agencies under the governor’s direction, including the state’s public universities. E-Verify is used to see if potential employees are authorized to work in the United States.

Georgia began requiring businesses to use E-Verify in 2011, and a University of Georgia study later estimated some $75 million in losses to agricultural producers due to shortages in harvesting help. A similar economic loss is projected for Florida should E-Verify use be required of businesses.

After being told of some of the potential challenges E-Verify could pose for the agricultural sector, 62 percent of respondents said Florida should still require agricultural producers to use the system.

The PIE Center’s survey of Floridians’ perceptions on immigration was conducted online in March, said Lamm, an assistant professor in agricultural education and communication.

As in last year’s survey, respondents assigned importance to a number of topics, and immigration came in ninth on a list of 10.  While 89 percent of respondents rated the economy as highly or extremely important, only 62 percent felt as strongly about immigration.

Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, said the results suggest to him that UF/IFAS may need to do more to help raise awareness about immigration issues and how they can affect the state’s agricultural sector and the economy.

“Immigration is a key issue, but it’s especially so in Florida because of its close ties to agriculture,” he said. “And if we’re going to have effective immigration policies, it’s imperative that our state’s residents are well informed on the issue.”

The PIE Center will host a free webinar on public perceptions and knowledge gaps about immigration at 2 p.m. May 21. Register at www.piecenter.com/easy-as-pie/. The survey findings are available at www.piecenter.com/immigration.

Contacts

Writer: Mickie Anderson, mickiea@ufl.edu

Sources: Alexa Lamm, alamm@ufl.edu

Jack Payne, jackpayne@ufl.edu

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UF/IFAS researchers praised for scientific efforts in seventh awards night

Topic(s): Announcements, Honors and Appointments, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — High-quality scientific research was again in the spotlight as the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences held its annual research awards program May 14 at the Harn Museum.

The event brought together dozens of UF/IFAS faculty members, graduate students and stakeholders from around the state.

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UF/IFAS is crawling with excitement as annual Bug Week nears

Topic(s): Announcements, Entomology and Nematology, Household Pests, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests

Bug Week

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is hosting its second annual Bug Week May 19-23 with activities for students, families and bug lovers around the nation.

“The UF Department of Entomology and Nematology is one of the best in the country,” said Ruth Hohl Borger, assistant vice president for UF/IFAS Communications. “Bug Week is a great opportunity for our researchers to excite the imaginations of children – and children at heart – about the bugs that live among us.” (more …)

UF/IFAS researchers start to pinpoint biological control for Brazilian peppertree

Topic(s): Biocontrols, Crops, Entomology and Nematology, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests

 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A South American insect could help control the invasive Brazilian peppertree in places where it supplants critical habitat for many organisms, according to University of Florida and U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists.

Brazilian peppertree has clusters of hundreds of small, red berries, and grows about 10 feet per year, to about 30 feet. It is native to Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. The tree has moved around the world as an ornamental plant and has become invasive in several states and countries, including Florida, Texas and Hawaii as well as Australia, New Zealand and some Caribbean islands.

In Florida, Brazilian peppertree has infested nearly 700,000 acres in the central and southern regions. It has been particularly abundant in the Everglades. In general, the trees take over space where native plants should be. Animals such as white-tailed deer, the Florida panther and migratory birds that depend on native vegetation, such as mangrove, for food and shelter are deprived of that habitat.

“This can have cascading effects through the food chain,” said Bill Overholt, an entomology professor at UF’s Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce.

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UF/IFAS student presents research in Washington, D.C.

Topic(s): Green Living, Pests

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – University of Florida Entomology and Nematology undergraduate student Sabrina White recently participated in the elite two-day “Posters on the Hill” presentation with congressional leaders and staff last week.

White presented findings from her honors thesis work with her faculty mentor, UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ insect physiologist Daniel Hahn, April 29 at the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

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