University of Florida

Students help UF/IFAS professor breed better, tastier peppers

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, Crops, IFAS, Nutrition, Research


Horticulture Professor Balasubramanian Rathinasabapathi (Saba). Experiments, beaker, laboratory.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences students are learning how to breed better peppers under the guidance of Professor Bala Rathinasabapathi.

And by “better,” we mean a more savory taste, among other characteristics. Florida produces $207 million worth of bell peppers annually, according to the Florida Department Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). In fact, as of 2012, Florida ranked second nationally in the value of bell peppers. Improving traits may help the Florida pepper industry grow even larger.

Now, for a new study published in the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science, Rathinasabapathi and his team cross-bred two heirloom varieties of peppers – the Bulgarian Carrot and the Round of Hungary — to come up with more desirable consumer traits.

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Hulcr selected to win UF/IFAS’ Richard L. Jones research award

Topic(s): Announcements, Biocontrols, Conservation, Environment, IFAS, Pests, Research

Jiri Hulcr mug

Jiri Hulcr

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A UF/IFAS forest entomologist who – among other activities – is working to help stop pests that sicken trees, has been selected to receive the Richard L. Jones Award for promising research at UF/IFAS.

The 2016 award goes to Jiri Hulcr. It is presented by the UF/IFAS dean for research and director of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station to an outstanding early career scientist. Like previous winners, Hulcr will receive the award at the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station Annual Awards Reception in May 2016.

The recipient gets a one-time $2,500 annual salary supplement and a $2,500 grant to support his or her research.

Hulcr, an assistant professor with a dual appointment in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation and the Department of Entomology and Nematology, joined UF/IFAS in 2012.

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UF/IFAS experts predict food trends for 2016

Topic(s): Agriculture, Extension, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, Nutrition, RECs, Research


Lunch, carrots, watermelon, and salad sit on a table cloth with a picnic basket.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As 2015 starts to wind down, world-renowned food scientists at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are already predicting trends for 2016. As they do, here are some hints as to what you can expect see in grocery stores and on your dinner table:

Total sensory foods – Smart food manufacturers now appreciate that flavor and aroma alone are not enough for many consumers, and that visual and textural stimuli are also important to the consumer. Foods incorporating innovative approaches to a blending of sensory attributes will likely win the consumers’ dollar. Scientific studies show that people shown a picture of a high-calorie food, such as pizza or pastry before experiencing an unfamiliar taste will find that taste more enjoyable than if they were shown a picture of a low-calorie food, such as watermelon or green beans. Thus, the appearance of a food is a critical part of the eating experience. Doug Archer, 352-392-1784, dlarcher@ufl.edu.

Decline of grilling – Grilling has been the go-to way of cooking red meats and poultry, but newly re-kindled concerns about the safety of red meats and meats and poultry cooked in conditions that may char or add smoke may cause consumers to return to recipes that call for baking in the good old oven. A contributor to this trend is the explosion of recipe sharing on social media for mixed meat and vegetable meals prepared easily in the oven. Doug Archer, 352-392-1784, dlarcher@ufl.edu.

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UF research facility to donate fresh produce to needy families during Farm to City Week

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Vegetables

2015 Cares dinner and farmer recognition at the North Florida Research and Education Center at Live Oak, Florida on Thursday, November 7th.

JAY, Fla. –The University of Florida’s West Florida Research and Education Center will join forces with the Bay Area Food Bank, Waterfront Rescue Mission and the Guy Thompson Community Center to feed 700 local families during National Farm to City Week, Nov. 20 to 26.

Farm to City Week is a national effort to increase the public’s knowledge and appreciation for agriculture. The week of Thanksgiving, meals will be distributed to 400 needy families in Santa Rosa County and 300 families in Escambia County.

“This food will provide these families with a healthy meal this Thanksgiving holiday,” said Wes Wood, center director of the UF/IFAS West Florida REC. “We want to feed these families and teach folks in our community about the economic, environmental and societal benefits of agriculture.”

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UF/IFAS and a Sumter County church are helping locals dig in the dirt

Topic(s): Agriculture, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Nutrition, Vegetables
More than 40 gardeners currently have plots in the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and United Church of Christ’s Community Garden.

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OXFORD, Fla. — Maureen McCoy has always gardened and enjoys knowing where her food comes from and exactly what is used to grow it. And that’s why she signed up for a plot in the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and United Church of Christ’s Community Garden.

“There are no words for the peace of watering your garden and gathering the bounty you have grown,” said McCoy.

More than 40 gardeners currently have plots in the church’s raised-beds on four acres of land that was once a pasture.  It cost UF/IFAS and the church about $5,000 to build the beds out of pressure-treated 2x6s and 4x4s and install irrigation from the church’s well.  Mulch for pathways was donated by Sumter County.  In addition, leftover soil was donated by Speedling in Bushnell. (more …)

New method may help detect avocado pathogen earlier

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Environment, IFAS, New Technology, Pests


In this photo released by the University of FloridaÕs Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, agricultural economist Edward ÒGillyÓ Evans, left, and tropical fruit expert Jonathan Crane examine avocados in a research grove at UFÕs Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead Ð Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009. The pair helped write a paper on the potential economic impact of laurel wilt, a disease threatening FloridaÕs avocado crop. If the disease reaches Miami-Dade County, it could destroy half the crop and cost the state $27 million. (AP photo/University of Florida/IFAS/Thomas Wright)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers have found an algorithm to help them detect laurel wilt, the deadly pathogen that threatens Florida’s $100 million-a-year avocado industry.

Reza Ehsani, an associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, said the algorithm finds laurel wilt-infected avocado trees before symptoms are visible to the naked eye. About 500 growers produce Florida’s avocado crop annually, and more than 98 percent of the fruit is grown in Miami-Dade County. UF scientists estimate laurel wilt could severely reduce the commercial avocado industry if they don’t find control strategies for the pathogen and ambrosia beetles.

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UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station receives grant to study popular spotted seatrout fishery

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Aquaculture, IFAS, Research

CEDAR KEY, Fla. — The University of Florida’s new Nature Coast Biological Station will receive a grant to evaluate the spotted seatrout fishery in the Big Bend region. The grant, for $20,000, is provided by The Conservation Fund, a national organization that funds conservation projects that improve local businesses.

The grant is one of five projects from the Conservation Fund that support the priorities of Florida’s four Big Bend counties—Dixie, Jefferson, Levy and Taylor. The region will receive more than $85,000 through the Big Bend Seed Grant program and leverage an additional $240,000 in impact.

The project at the Nature Coast Biological Station, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, will assess tagging effectiveness for spotted seatrout, and include an angler survey and workshop to evaluate angler satisfaction with the current management of the fishery. The study will include cooperation from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the group plans to tag fish around Cedar Key and Steinhatchee.

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UF/IFAS gives back at Thanksgiving

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For some, Thanksgiving means more than gobbling turkey and watching football. It’s the season of giving thanks and giving back to the community.

Many faculty, staff and students at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences go the extra mile to help others during the holiday.

Here are some examples:

  • The UF Field and Fork Food Pantry opened in August and offers members of the UF community healthy, nutritious food free of charge to anyone with a valid UF ID. In support of the pantry, the J. Wayne Reitz Union will serve as a donation location through Nov. 23. To donate food, go to the Reitz Union’s 1st floor Information Desk near the Career Resource Center. Acceptable donations include non-perishables such as canned vegetables, canned/dried fruits, soups, peanut butter and hot or cold breakfast cereals. All food drive proceeds will benefit both the Field and Fork Food Pantry and the Bread of the Mighty Food Bank. Contact Kevin Florez at KevinF@union.ufl.edu. The pantry is at 564 Newell Drive, just south of the Marston Science Library and behind the McCarty D and Food Science and Human Nutrition buildings on the UF campus in Gainesville.

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UF/IFAS, Bok Tower Gardens program continues to grow

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Extension, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Vegetables
Caleb Gutierrez, Felipe Garcia, Kyra Pfingston, Alan Soule hold peppers they grew with Roosevelt Academy's agricultural program.

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LAKE WALES, Fla. — At Roosevelt Academy, horticulture teacher Ray Cruze’s class is growing enough vegetables to sell to local restaurants and at a local market, in part thanks to a partnership between Bok Tower Gardens and the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The partnership between the state’s preeminent land-grant university and the historic garden officially launched in January, and now schools are busy planting vegetables after receiving grants, and residents are learning how to organize their own community gardens. (more …)

UF/IFAS study: Strawberry growers must pick, harvest earlier for best profit

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

Strawberry economics 111015 - vance whitaker

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida strawberry growers must produce more fruit earlier in the growing season — in November and December – to keep a competitive advantage in the global market, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

Florida and California combine to produce 99 percent of the United States’ strawberries, and Florida ranks as the biggest producer of winter strawberries, with a value of $366 million annually, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But growers and UF/IFAS researchers are concerned because the industry faces increasing supplies from Mexico and California and volatile market prices. Mexico has emerged as the major competitor for the Florida strawberry industry, the study says. Fresh strawberry imports from Mexico reached 160,000 metric tons – or 360 million pounds — in 2014, while Florida production was about 200 million pounds.

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