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IFAS News

University of Florida

Caribbean spiny lobsters create safe havens to avoid disease

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Economics, Environment, IFAS, Research

Donald Behringer (right) shows FAES intern Mike Dickson how to tell when a Caribbean spiny lobster is infected with the lethal PaV1 disease.  2009 Annual Research Report photo by Ian Maguire.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Spiny lobsters practice “behavioral immunity” to create safe havens that prevent them from contracting a lethal disease in the wild, an important finding for the $50 million annual spiny lobster fishery in Florida, according to a new study co-authored by a University of Florida scientist.

UF/IFAS Associate Professor Don Behringer worked with Old Dominion University Professor Mark Butler on the study, published online June 10 in the journal PLOS ONE. In the study, scientists showed how the Caribbean spiny lobster uses a form of behavioral immunity to prevent the spread of the PaV1 virus, which takes a heavy toll on their populations.

“Increased infection risk has long been deemed a cost for the many benefits of being a social animal. However, we have shown that a social marine animal, the spiny lobster, has developed behaviors to reduce disease transmission by avoiding infected individuals,” said Behringer, a UF/IFAS scientist in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation Program in Fisheries and Aquatic Science. “Further, this behavioral immunity keeps potential epidemics of PaV1 from occurring.”

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Recreational fish-catch data can help save money in monitoring invasive largemouth bass

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Economics, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Research

 

In this photo released by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, fisheries ecologist Mike Allen, right, discusses largemouth bass research with graduate student Bobby Harris, at a private pond near Hawthorne, Fla. — Tuesday, March 16, 2010. Harris was about to enter the water in search of nesting bass. Allen recently published a study showing bass populations seldom benefit when lakes are closed to fishing during spawning season. (AP photo/University of Florida/IFAS/Tyler Jones)

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are using data from fishing tournaments to gauge how non-native largemouth bass in Africa are invading lakes and preying on smaller, native fish, a huge cost-saving measure in fisheries management.

Largemouth bass are native to North America, but they have been distributed worldwide for recreational fishing. When they’re in waters outside North America, largemouth bass can cause declines in native fish abundance, disrupting the ecosystem.

UF fisheries and aquatic sciences Professor Micheal Allen and his colleagues at UF/IFAS and in South Africa used existing fish-catch data from bass tournaments in southern Africa, where largemouth bass are non-native and invasive. Scientists examined data from 40 bass tournaments in lakes in Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. They compared that information with 41 bass tournaments in the U.S., where bass are native species, between 2011 and 2014.

They found that angler catch data were similar between southern Africa and the U.S. Their data proves that the number and weight of the fish caught by recreational fishermen can be used to monitor the spread of exotic fish that are commonly caught by anglers.

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UF/IFAS study: Muscadine grape seed oil may help reduce obesity

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Muscadine grape seed oil supplies a form of Vitamin E, giving scientists another clue to reducing obesity, a new University of Florida study shows.

The oil may help mitigate the formation of new fat cells because it produces tocotrienol, an unsaturated form of Vitamin E, said Marty Marshall, a UF professor of food science and human nutrition.

“Thus, consuming foods made with muscadine grape seed oil could curtail weight gain by reducing obesity,” Marshall said.

Muscadine grape seed oil would be a valuable addition to the market of edible oils because it is a unique source of tocotrienol in addition to being a good source of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, Marshall said. In addition, scientists anticipate that muscadine grape seed oils fortified with additional tocotrienol from underutilized muscadine varieties could be developed to help stem obesity.

Before this study, scientists attributed most tocotrienol benefits to red palm and rice bran oil. In fact, recent studies have shown that rice bran oil helps lower cholesterol. With the new findings, muscadine grape seed oil could be considered a superior source of tocotrienol, said Marshall, a faculty member at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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UF/IFAS invasives research facility likely to close

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A valuable UF/IFAS program that helps save the state millions of dollars annually in controlling invasive plants and insects will likely close after a veto by Gov. Rick Scott on Monday.

An approved increase by the Legislature of $180,000 was denied, and the facility also lost all funding. The state-of-the-art lab opened in 2004 at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce with $3.9 million in state funding.

The center will probably close, and 12 positions will be eliminated, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agricultural and natural resources.

The quarantine facility is a highly secure lab where scientists conduct research on biological controls for invasive species. Scientists introduce, evaluate and release biological control agents to try to manage exotic weeds and insect pests in Florida.

Florida has the largest invasive infestations in the nation. Invasive species cost Florida approximately $100 million a year, Payne said. Scientists at the lab helped control the tropical soda apple, an invasive weed, through the release of 250,000 South American beetles. The move saved cattle ranchers about $5.75 million a year, Payne said.

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UF CALS faculty, former students take home NACTA awards

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

NACTA awards 062415 photo

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences faculty and former students won numerous awards recently at the 61st Annual Conference of the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA).

“The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences has a long tradition of excellence in teaching. NACTA provides a forum where our outstanding faculty are recognized for their contributions to teaching and student development,” said college Dean Elaine Turner.

NACTA Educator Awards went to:

  • Jane Bachelor, a senior lecturer in food and resource economics at the Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce.
  • Kate Fletcher, a lecturer in family, youth and community sciences.
  • Muthusami Kumaran, an assistant professor in family, youth and community sciences.
  • Bob McCleery, an associate professor in wildlife ecology and conservation.
  • Karla Shelnutt, an associate professor in family, youth and community sciences.

The NACTA Teaching Scholar Award went to Nicole Stedman, an associate professor of agricultural education and communication.

Recent doctoral graduate Cathy DiBenedetto won the NACTA Graduate Student Teaching Award for her work in agricultural education and communication.

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UF/IFAS to host Bee Research Symposium on July 15-16

Topic(s): Agriculture, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, IFAS

Honey bees crawling across a bee hive during a Bee College demonstration on grafting. Bees, beekeeping, pollinators, entomology. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is hosting the state’s first ever Bee Research Symposium, on July 15 and 16 at the Austin Cary Memorial Forest Conference Center. Symposium organizers are looking for research papers to discuss.

The meeting will bring together bee researchers and enthusiasts from across the region to discuss topics related to the study of bees, including honey bee colony losses, Africanized honey bees, pollination and native bee contributions to Florida agriculture. (more …)

UF/IFAS Fort Pierce quarantine facility successfully battles invasive species

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Conservation, Crops, Economics, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs, Research

Bill Overholt and Jim Cuda.  Innovation Awards Portrait.  UF/IFAS File Photo.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida officials expressed thanks Monday for the $180,000 increase in the state budget that’s slated for the quarantine research facility at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce.

With the additional funding, scientists will be able to expand foreign exploration to identify new candidate biological control agents of Florida’s worst invasive plants and insects, and support intensified laboratory studies that are required to ensure agents are safe for release, said Bill Overholt, a UF/IFAS entomology professor who works at the quarantine facility.

With biological control such as one bug eating another, scientists and growers can use a sustainable, cost-effective solution to manage invasive plant and insect problems.

“The facility needs an increase in the amount of operating funds in order to reach its full potential,” said Mary Ann Gosa-Hooks, director of UF/IFAS Government Affairs. “We can do so much more, but with costs continuing to increase, while the facility continues to function on the same budget since 2004, activities are somewhat limited.”

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UF/IFAS researchers to testify before Congress about GMOs

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Cultivars, Environment, IFAS, New Technology

Kevin Folta.  UF/IFAS File Photo.

Kevin Folta

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two UF/IFAS graduate students will advise a congressional committee as lawmakers question them about biotechnology and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Chris Barbey and Alejandra Abril Guevara, doctoral students in Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology, will head to Washington D.C. with UF/IFAS horticultural sciences Professor Kevin Folta to answer questions from the U.S. House Science Committee at a June 25 hearing. Folta said there is no set agenda for the discussions, but he expects the researchers to field many questions relating to the GMO regulatory processes, food labeling and product safety.

“It is great that this committee is consulting with scientists that understand the evidence, and hopefully evidence will help them devise new policy,” Folta said.

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UF/IFAS study shows how much water is needed to grow castor

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Environment, IFAS, Research, Weather

Castor - Rowland - 060815

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida scientists have discovered how much water castor needs in order to grow in North Florida, a key finding in their efforts to determine the feasibility of producing castor in Florida for the first time since 1972.

Castor, grown in Florida during World War II and currently being considered as a component for military jet fuel, contains the toxin ricin. So scientists next must develop a ricin-free cultivar, said Diane Rowland, a professor in agronomy and advisor for the lead author, graduate student David Campbell.

Scientists measure what’s known as “evapotranspiration” – or how much water leaves the plant and its surrounding soil – to get what’s called a “crop coefficient.” A crop coefficient tells scientists and growers the relative water use of the crop in comparison to what’s called a “standard crop evapotranspiration.” That standard comes often comes in the form of grass grown under optimal conditions. Florida growers can obtain site-specific standard evapotranspiration from the Florida Automated Weather Network, or FAWN (http://fawn.ifas.ufl.edu/).

“FAWN provides standard evapotranspiration data for more than 40 locations in the state of Florida already. Thus, one thing we need to provide to prospective castor growers is a crop coefficient for castor,” said Chaein Na, a postdoctoral scientist on the study. A grower can determine crop water use by multiplying the appropriate crop coefficient with the standard evapotranspiration to estimate daily, weekly, monthly or seasonal water requirements for the crop.

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Barn owls threatened by Africanized bees in South Florida

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs
Richard Raid and a barn owl in Belle Glade. Keywords: sugar cane, bio pest control, South Florida, agriculture, bird, wildlife. Photo by Eric Zamora UF/IFAS

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Belle Glade, Fla. — Throughout the past two decades, University of Florida researcher Richard Raid has seen barn owl populations in the Everglades Agricultural Area, centered around Belle Glade, expand from mere dozens to more than 400 nesting pairs.

But these beneficial raptors, currently listed as a threatened species, are now being threatened by Africanized honey bees.  Swarming as frequently as eight times per year, the invasive bees have been taking over nesting boxes Raid and students have built for the owls, using them as hives, and displacing or even killing the desired raptors. (more …)

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