IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS researcher: Newly-identified fungal pathogens may help control invasive grass

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have found that newly identified fungal pathogens may suppress an aggressive, invasive grass that is spreading throughout the eastern United States.

Luke Flory, an assistant professor of ecology in the agronomy department, and his team visited more than 80 sites in 18 states and conducted a multi-year field experiment. They documented the recent emergence and accumulation over time of new fungal pathogens. Flory’s results also show that the pathogens have the potential to cause declines in populations of the invasive grass, also known as microstegium vimineum.

“Invasive species, in this case an introduced grass, are often successful because they escape their natural enemies. Here, we looked for new enemies in the introduced range—pathogens that might attack the invasive species,” Flory explained. “We found that pathogens are actually reducing the growth and reproduction of the invasive grass. These results are exciting because the invasive grass may not need to be managed by other means.”

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Find out what’s ripe, when to plant with the Florida Fresh app

Topic(s): Announcements, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Vegetables

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Do you want to know if it’s the right time of year to plant a vegetable? Want to buy Florida produce but you don’t know whether it’s in season? UF/IFAS has a new app to guide you.

It’s called the “Florida Fresh” veggie app, and you can now download it for free on your mobile device.

Sydney Park Brown, an associate professor emeritus with the UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology, said the idea for the app emanated from one of the most popular Extension documents ever written: “The Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide.”

It’s pretty simple: You enter your Zip code, and the app tells you what vegetables to plant at that time of year.

“This type of information is really popular, so we thought it would be cool have an app,” said Park Brown. “We see it as useful to gardeners who see vegetable seeds and plants for sale, but don’t know if it’s really the right time to plant them.”

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UF/IFAS to hop into hops varieties for microbreweries

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

Hops photo5 021916 - Deng

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers hope to help farmers hop into the beer business by cultivating hops.

UF/IFAS researchers will work with a $158,000 grant from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services to develop a viable hops crop. Hops, which have a long history of use in Chinese herbal medicine, are currently used to make beer.

What started as a personal experiment turned into a trial of four hops varieties at the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka, Florida, said Brian Pearson, an assistant professor of environmental horticulture at the center. Pearson has been growing hops for two years at his lab.

“I was looking to help homeowners augment what they were growing. It was just a labor of love,” Pearson said. “Then it dawned on me that this might have some serious potential.”

Pearson will work on the hops research project with Zhanao Deng, a principal investigator and professor of environmental horticulture, and Shinsuke Agehara, an assistant professor of horticultural sciences, both with the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida.

“We hope to find out how well these hop varieties can grow in Florida, their yield potential, resistance to downy mildew disease and insect problems,” Deng said.

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Renowned scientists join the UF/IFAS Institute of Sustainable Food Systems

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Departments, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Research, Soil and Water Science

Cheryl_Palmpedrosanchez

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two acclaimed faculty, internationally recognized for their work in tropical agriculture, have joined the faculty at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Pedro Sanchez has been named a professor in the department of soil and water sciences, while Cheryl Palm will be a professor in the department of agricultural and biological engineering. Both will work with the UF/IFAS Institute of Sustainable Food Systems.

“We are excited to welcome Dr. Sanchez and Dr. Palm to UF/IFAS because of the great work we are already doing in tropical agriculture, and Drs. Sanchez and Palm will help grow our programs,” said Jack Payne, senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources at UF. “Both scientists bring a wealth of knowledge and passion for agriculture and its impact on the world. They will complement the work we do at UF/IFAS to improve our local and global communities, and will help position UF as a global leader in tropical agriculture.”

Sanchez and Palm both work at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, which brings together the people and tools needed to address some of the world’s most difficult problems, from climate change and environmental degradation, to poverty, disease and the sustainable use of resources.

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UF/IFAS Extension gives tips to try to avoid Zika virus

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Pests

 

Common Aedes Aegypti mosquito, magnified 2,000 times at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 6/28, prepares to feed on human skin. After 15 years of test on more than 3,900 compounds, Jerry Bulter, professor of entomology, has developed a safe, natural insect repellent that protects people against everything from mosquitoes to ticks and tiny "no-see-ums."  Its the first effective alternative to products containing DEET, the most widely used ingredient in insect repellent now on the market. Butler's new herbal repellent is patented by the UF and licensed to a commercial firm.(AP Photo, Jerry Bulter)

 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With public concern about Zika, UF/IFAS Extension is giving tips on how to avoid contracting the virus.

Although the Zika virus is circulating in Central and South America and the Caribbean, currently, there is no evidence that local populations of Florida mosquitoes are infected. However, we need to be prepared and vigilant in case local transmission occurs, said Jorge Rey, professor and interim director of the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory (FMEL), in Vero Beach Florida.

Roxanne Connelly, an Extension medical entomology specialist with FMEL, part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, says:

 

  • People need to do all they can to manage the mosquitoes most likely to be involved in Zika virus transmission in Florida if the virus shows up in local mosquitoes. These mosquitoes are among those known as “container mosquitoes” specifically, the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, and the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus.
  • Initial measures include getting rid of containers in your yard or outside your business, because they collect water and become perfect habitats for immature stages of these mosquito species. These include tires, wheel barrows, potted plants that sit on saucers, cans, bottles and more. You should inspect your yard weekly to make sure you don’t have any containers. Bromeliad plants and bird baths also can house container mosquitoes, Connelly said. For these types of mosquito habitats, they can be flushed with clean water weekly, or can be treated with mosquito-specific Bti granules (Mosquito Dunks or Mosquito Bits).
  • Inspect windows and doors for hole and tears and repair them to exclude mosquitoes.
  • Mosquito repellents should be used when people plan to be outdoors at the time mosquitoes are biting. The longest lasting repellents contain DEET and picaridin. Whatever type of repellant you use, read the label to make sure you’re putting on a product registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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UF/IFAS Extension agent inducted into prestigious leadership program

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Extension, Honors and Appointments, IFAS
Eugene McAvoy. County Extension Director and Extension Agent IV, MS. Vegetable/Ornamental Horticulture. Hendry Co. Email: gmcavoy@ufl.edu

Eugene McAvoy. County Extension Director and Extension Agent IV, MS. Vegetable/Ornamental Horticulture.

GAINESVILLE, Fla.— University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Agent Euguene “Gene” McAvoy was inducted into the Syngenta Resistance Fighter Leadership Program on Feb. 11 for his extensive work in protecting Florida crops from pesticides.

McAvoy’s expertise is in pesticide resistance management and he is being recognized by Syngenta Resistance Fighter Leadership Program, which was formed to honor those who help growers manage resistance. As a new inductee, McAvoy will have the opportunity to expand his resistance knowledge to others outside of UF/IFAS Extension. Being inducted into Syngenta Resistance Fighter Leadership Program is a validation McAvoy said.

“It makes me feel good to be recognized by my peers.” McAvoy said. “It calls attention to the clientele, the growers that I work with, that I am doing something beneficial for them.”

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UF/IFAS officials credit teamwork for victory over invasive Oriental fruit fly; end of quarantine means return to business as usual for Miami-Dade County growers

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Female Oriental fruit fly. Click on image for high-res version. Cutline at bottom.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The lifting of an agricultural quarantine in Miami-Dade County on Feb. 13 signaled victory over the invasive Oriental fruit fly and a return to business as usual for growers within a 99 square-mile area that includes vegetable farms, nurseries, packing houses, residential neighborhoods and much of the state’s commercial tropical fruit acreage.

Officials with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences credit the success story to determination and teamwork by a partnership of growers, landscapers, homeowners, government officials and agency personnel, and UF/IFAS Extension faculty.

“Our personnel played a vital role in bringing the quarantine to a quick ending, by facilitating clear communication between producers and agency personnel,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “The good guys won, and we’re proud that we helped make it happen.”

Numerous UF/IFAS Extension faculty took part in a statewide effort known as the Oriental Fruit Fly Eradication Program, or OFF Program, he said. Funded and overseen by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the OFF Program also included representatives of the FDACS Division of Plant Industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection — Plant Protection Quarantine, the Miami-Dade County Agricultural Manager’s office, Miami-Dade County officials and growers’ organizations.

“Our faculty helped growers and regulators understand each other’s point of view,” Payne said. “Both sides were very motivated and once they recognized the need for cooperation, it wasn’t difficult to build consensus on a science-based plan to eradicate the fly.” Continue reading

National Strawberry Day: Time to Recognize UF/IFAS Breeding Program

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Nutrition, RECs, Research

Strawberry economics 111015 - vance whitaker

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As National Strawberry Day approaches on Feb. 27, you can bite into a Florida strawberry, and you might taste the tang of the fruits bred through the combined efforts of University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.

Vance Whitaker, a UF/IFAS associate professor of horticultural sciences, continues his quest to breed the latest and greatest strawberry cultivar. But like all UF/IFAS scientists, Whitaker knows it takes a team to breed cultivars.

Among those who regularly help him, Whitaker credits Natalia Peres, a UF/IFAS associate professor of plant pathology, and Charles Sims, a professor of food science and human nutrition, with helping him breed better strawberries. Whitaker works with Peres to screen advanced breeding selections for disease resistance.

Sims conducts taste panels from his Gainesville lab, and the results give Whitaker tools to produce strawberries with the qualities consumers desire most – taste, smell and fruit appearance and texture.

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UF/IFAS offers high schoolers a week of college life

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A select group of high schools students will try out college life at the University of Florida and learn how agriculture and the life sciences affect their communities and the world.

The UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences has teamed up with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to offer the Florida Youth Institute (FYI), a one-week residential summer program offered from July 10 to 15. The program will expose students entering their junior or senior year to issues in agriculture, life sciences and natural resources.

“Students will also have an opportunity to explore current issues in agriculture and natural resources through hands-on activities and interaction with faculty, staff and students,” said CALS Dean Elaine Turner. “We also plan to stimulate thinking about how what is happening in Florida relates to the larger, global community. Through FYI, we hope students return to their high schools with new ideas for science fair projects, community service activities, and possibly a future direction for their academic studies.”

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UF/IFAS offers high schoolers a week of college life

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A select group of high schools students will try out college life at the University of Florida and learn how agriculture and the life sciences affect their communities and the world.

The UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences has teamed up with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to offer the Florida Youth Institute (FYI), a one-week residential summer program offered from July 10 to 15. The program will expose students entering their junior or senior year to issues in agriculture, life sciences and natural resources.

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