IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS research-based mosquito repellant recommendations for increased public safety

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Homemade do-it-yourself remedies found online and circulated on social media should be regarded with cautious skepticism unless there is UF-based research supporting the product, according to researchers at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

For example, there is no scientific evidence that eating garlic, vitamins, onions or any other food will make a person less attractive to host-seeking mosquitoes, UF/IFAS experts said.

UF/IFAS conducts research and extension on mosquito repellents, said Ken Gioeli, program Extension agent for natural resources and the environment for UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County.

(more …)

Plants labeled as ‘pollinator friendly’ attract consumers, UF/IFAS study finds

Topic(s): Agriculture, Economics, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, RECs, Research

Flowers and insects at the student gardens on the University of Florida campus. Butterfly. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

APOPKA, Fla. — If you’re browsing plants in a nursery or home-improvement store, labels such as “pollinator friendly” will likely influence which plants you end up buying, according to a recent study by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.

Postdoctoral research associate Alicia Rihn and assistant professor Hayk Khachatryan co-authored the study, which appears in the journal HortScience. Both Rihn and Khachatryan are researchers in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department at the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education center in Apopka, Florida.

Rihn and Khachatryan wanted to know how labels such as “pollinator friendly” would influence consumer attitudes. “We wondered, which pollinator insect related labels are the most effective and which do consumers prefer?” Khachatryan said. “At the time of our study, these topics had not been addressed.”

The researchers surveyed more than 900 people from across the country who recently bought plants and measured their responses to several pollinator labels.

“When developing these test labels, we wanted a variety of options — some that were pollinator specific (for example, bee attractive, bee friendly, butterfly friendly, etcetera) and others that were more general (for example, pollinator attractive, pollinator friendly, plants for pollinators),” Khachatryan explained. “By covering both levels, we could determine if people were interested in helping pollinators (in general) or just specific types of pollinators (bees versus butterflies).”

The researchers found that people preferred general labels over specific ones, ‘pollinator friendly’ being the most preferred overall.

Given recent media coverage of bee health and population decline, the authors were anticipating more interest in bee-related promotions. However, consumers preferred ‘pollinator friendly’ labels over more specific bee-related labels.

“These results indicate that people want to benefit and attract all types of pollinators, not just insect pollinators,” Khachatryan said. For example, hummingbirds are pollinators but not insects.  A catch-all phrase such as ‘pollinator friendly’ lets retailers promote a plant in terms of its total — rather than specific — benefits to pollinators, he added.

The study suggests that pollinator promotions could help plant nurseries and retailers build consumer satisfaction and trust.

“Providing consumers with a product they support and want to purchase in order to do their part and help the pollinators is one way that companies can better serve their clientele,” Khachatryan noted. “In turn, this has potential to increase the availability of pollinator friendly plants in the landscape and assist in improving pollinator health.”

UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones

-30-

By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307, grenrosa@ufl.edu

Source: Hayk Khachatryan, 407-410-6951 hayk@ufl.edu

Half of South Florida structures at risk of subterranean termite infestation by 2040

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

Nan-Yao Su, a professor of entomology with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, examines a nest of the new Asian termite that is spreading in South Florida -- Friday, April 8, 2004. The pest was found in Key West and Miami a few years ago, and now UF researchers have discovered a well-established population in Riviera Beach, more than 70 miles north of Miami. Su, based at UF’s Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, said he is not sure how much farther north the tropical species can move and survive.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Figure this: Asian and Formosan subterranean termites cause about $32 billion in damage annually, worldwide, when you combine harm to structures and measures to control them. Now, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers predict these pests will dramatically increase their impact in the next two decades in South Florida and possibly across the nation.

In fact, UF/IFAS entomologists estimate subterranean termite activity will expand, meaning half the structures in South Florida will be at risk of infestation by subterranean termites by 2040.

Assistant Researcher Thomas Chouvenc, Distinguished Professor Nan-Yao Su and Professor Rudy Scheffrahn will publish their new study in June in the journal Florida Entomologist.

Six invasive termite species are now established in Florida, and among these, the Formosan subterranean termite, the Asian subterranean termite and the West Indian drywood termite pose particular concern for residents and the pest-control industry because they cause most of the structural damage.

(more …)

UF/IFAS event unveils latest turfgrass research

Topic(s): Agriculture, Extension, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Research

Urban development in Florida - coupled with the growth of the nation's largest golf course industry - is driving the huge demand for turfgrass.

JAY, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty will showcase the latest turfgrass research June 15 at the twenty-second annual UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Turfgrass Field Day and Expo.

The UF/IFAS West Florida Research and Education Center will host the field day and expo, which is co-sponsored by the Gulf Coast Golf Course Superintendents Association, said J. Bryan Unruh, professor of environmental horticulture and associate center director of UF/IFAS West Florida Research and Education Center.

Green industry representatives, UF/IFAS Master Gardeners and anyone interested in turfgrass are invited. In past years, the field day and expo has drawn around 300 people from Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, Unruh said.

(more …)

Ambrosia beetle spreads dangerous avocado pathogen

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

Jonathan Crane, professor of horticultural sciences, inspecting an avocado tree at the Tropical Research and Education Center.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As the laurel wilt pathogen casts a cloud over the $100-million-a-year Florida avocado industry, University of Florida researchers continue to look for clues to prevent the pathogen from spreading.

The main culprit has been the redbay ambrosia beetle, which has infected millions of native redbay and swampbay trees with the laurel wilt pathogen, but it is rarely seen in commercial avocado orchards.

UF/IFAS scientists now know that several other ambrosia beetles are carrying the laurel wilt pathogen; two native ambrosia beetles are capable of carrying it and transmitting the disease to avocados, said Daniel Carrillo, a UF/IFAS assistant professor in tropical fruit entomology.

Scientists at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida, are focused on understanding and then disrupting the association between these native beetles and laurel wilt, said Carrillo, a faculty member at the Tropical REC. This spring, Carrillo detected an outbreak of another ambrosia beetle, the Tea Shot Hole Borer, which can spread another disease of avocados known as fusarium wilt.

(more …)

UF/IFAS study: Wood toxin could harm zoo animals

Topic(s): Environment, IFAS, Research, Soil and Water Science

Arsenic zoos 051216

Please see caption below story

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When those cute animals gnaw on wood enclosures at a zoo, they may be risking their health by ingesting toxic levels of arsenic, so zoo managers need to pay attention to the potential risk of the wood on zoo animals, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

The wood in question is treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA), which can be toxic.

After visiting a zoo with her family, Julia Gress, a former post-doctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS soil and water sciences department, recognized that animals living in enclosures made from CCA-treated wood might face health risks.

Gress wanted to assess the impact of CCA-treated wood on arsenic exposures in zoo animals. She measured arsenic concentrations in soil from inside enclosures and on wipe samples of CCA-treated wood. Samples were taken from inside 17 wood enclosures, and also included crocodilian eggs, bird feathers, marmoset hair and porcupine quills.

Researchers found arsenic levels in soil that were higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s risk-based level for birds and mammals. As well, arsenic levels in some animal tissues were also higher than those in other studies.  Those findings should encourage zoo managers to limit animal exposure to arsenic found on the wood surface and in nearby soil, Gress said.

(more …)

UF/IFAS Bug Week focuses on “Big Money Bugs” that generate economic damages, benefits

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Citrus, Crops, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Families and Consumers, Household Pests, IFAS, Invasive Species, Lawn & Garden, Pests
The invasive Asian citrus psyllid.

The invasive Asian citrus psyllid. UF/IFAS photo by Michael Rogers. Click for high-red image.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Call them Florida’s “Big Money Bugs” – the insects responsible for the greatest economic damages, costs and benefits that arthropods generate in the Sunshine State.

This year, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) focuses on Big Money Bugs for its annual Bug Week, May 21 to 27. The event offers educational outreach for the public while showcasing UF/IFAS’ entomology and nematology program, one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive.

Visit the Bug Week website at http://bugs.ufl.edu for more information, including profiles on six of the state’s most economically significant arthropods. Among these species are the destructive Asian citrus psyllid and Formosan subterranean termite, topics of great concern, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“In recent years, pest insects have had enormous negative impacts on our state,” Payne said. “Bug Week is the perfect opportunity for UF/IFAS to raise awareness about the challenges these pests bring about, in terms of lost agricultural and natural resources production, management costs, and even human and veterinary healthcare issues, in some instances.”

Species profiled on the Bug Week website include:

*The Asian citrus psyllid, which cost the state’s citrus industry $7.8 billion in total economic contributions from crop losses during the 2006-07 through 2012-13 growing seasons;

*The Formosan subterranean termite, the most destructive widespread termite species in Florida;

*Invasive yellow fever and Asian tiger mosquitoes, which are known to transmit viral diseases in Florida and believed to transmit Zika virus in other countries;

*Beneficial honeybees, which help make Florida the nation’s third-largest honey producer as well as a top source of rental honey bee colonies used to pollinate crops. (more …)

UF/IFAS researchers work to combat pasture weed

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

20160419_110820

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — According to University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers, spiderwort is becoming more common in north Florida, where it has the potential to invade pastures and disrupt hay production.

Professors Jason Ferrell and Brent Sellers, and biological scientist Michael Durham have co-authored a new UF/IFAS Extension document (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ag407) explaining how to control the weed.

Notable for its purple flowers, spiderwort is often seen on roadsides and undisturbed areas, said Ferrell. Though this plant has been in Florida for a long time, “it’s now becoming more common to see it in pasture and feedlot areas. People are starting to wonder what it is and what they need to do about it,” he said.

Cattle will not eat spiderwort. When hay is harvested, any spiderwort that gets into the bales will add extra moisture and spoil the hay, Ferrell added.

When people started calling in and asking how to get rid of spiderwort on their properties, Ferrell and Sellers set up an experiment to find out how best to control it.

They found that the most effective chemical treatment controlled spiderwort for four to six weeks, after which the plants reappeared. Though they did not discover a treatment that completely eliminated the weed, they recommend that producers use this four- to six-week period to harvest their hay.

According to Sellers, spiderwort is more of an issue in north Florida and is less common in the south.

The best way to get rid of the plant is to remove it by hand, Ferrell said. However, “that is a very difficult, tedious process,” especially when one stand of spiderwort contains hundreds of plants, he said.

UF/IFAS Agronomy Photo by Michael Durham

-30-

By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307, grenrosa@ufl.edu

Sources: Jason Ferrell, 352-392-7512, jferrell@ufl.edu

Brent Sellers, 863-735-1314 ext. 207, sellersb@ufl.edu

Yara International pledges $100,000 in scholarships to UF/IFAS students

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, CALS, IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Yara International has pledged $100,000 in scholarships to students in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Florida to study agriculture.

The five-year grant, called the Yara Crop Innovation Scholarship, will be split evenly between undergraduate and graduate students in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

“One exciting aspect of this gift is the focus on undergraduate student research,” said UF/IFAS CALS Dean Elaine Turner. “In order for students to develop a love for research, they must be engaged early in their academic careers. Yara’s gift will open doors for students to pursue their science passions.”

Yara understands the important role played by agricultural research, said UF/IFAS Research Dean Jackie Burns. “Yara’s gift demonstrates they understand the larger picture, that we must invest in both research as well as future scientists,” Burns said. “Through their generosity, Yara is setting a strong example for other industry groups who wish to impact the next generation of agricultural researchers.”

According to Yara president and CEO, Svein Tore Holsether, innovation and collaboration have been two key themes throughout the company’s history. “By launching these scholarships, we are not only supporting local students, but it is a good way of working closely together with academia and farmers on           topics that really matter—and that contribute to increasing our shared global knowledge,” he said.

-30-

By: Beverly James, 352-273-3566, beverlymjames@ufl.edu

Source: Christy Chiarelli, 352-273-0353, ccw@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS study: Nutrition labels may lead to buying more raw seafood

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Research

Grouper and assorted seafood fillets on display at a store in case. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

Please see caption below story

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If grocers put nutrition labels on packages of raw fish — a good nutrient source for cardiovascular health — parents may be more likely to buy the fish, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

Xiang Bi, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food and resource economics, worked with her colleagues to survey 1,000 people online to gauge consumer reactions to raw fish with nutrition labels. Until 2012, federal rules only required nutrition labels on processed and commercial foods. That year, the federal government started requiring raw meat and poultry products to carry nutrition information on their labels. 

In the new study, researchers focused on three types of information: nutrition, health and a combination of nutrition and health. By putting the same nutrition label on raw seafood packages as consumers can find on raw packages of meat, consumers are more willing to buy the raw seafood, the study found. This finding may interest the seafood industry, grocers and policy makers, the study says.

(more …)

Back to Top