IFAS News

University of Florida

New method could quash squash pests

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

Dr. Oscar Liburd conducts research on the management of thrips in blueberries.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida grows more zucchini squash than anywhere else in America – to the tune of $70 million a year. To help improve production, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are developing a method to keep squash pests at bay.

For a newly published study, Janine Spies, a post-doctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS entomology department, simultaneously planted buckwheat with squash and found the method kept pests away while retaining yields at current levels. Furthermore, she and her colleagues manipulated how they planted buckwheat and squash.

“Pests like whiteflies and aphids transmit viruses to squash and can significantly reduce yield, and the money we make on squash,” Spies said. “This is why it is important to reduce the number of whiteflies and aphids that land on squash and to prevent the transmission of viruses.”

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Florida Youth Institute lets high schoolers explore a future in agricultural and life sciences

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As 22 high schoolers step onto the manicured turf of Florida Field, Jason Kruse, associate professor of environmental horticulture, explains how maintaining a football field involves more than fertilizer and regular mowing. Rather, he says, it’s research from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences that keeps the field green for fans and safe for athletes.

This lesson is just one of several activities that comprise the Florida Youth Institute (FYI), a week-long summer program sponsored by the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the World Food Prize Foundation.  The program gives rising juniors and seniors a chance to explore emerging issues in agriculture, life sciences and natural resources while also giving them a taste of college life.

“FYI was created with an overall goal of engaging youth with issues in agricultural and natural resource sciences that affect Florida, the U.S. and world food security,” said Elaine Turner, dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “Ultimately, we hope to grow the talent pipeline by connecting students to academic programs in CALS that will prepare them for careers in agricultural and natural resource sciences.”

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UF/IFAS-developed web tool saves money for strawberry growers in several states

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

Strawberry forecasting feature photos for the 2010 IFAS Annual Research Report.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A UF/IFAS-developed web tool – which has been shown to save Florida strawberry growers $1.7 million a year – is now being used in several other states, including Maryland, Georgia, South Carolina and California.

Florida’s strawberry crop is worth $300 million a year. It’s also important to the national economy. For example, in 2014, the United States produced 3 billion pounds of strawberries, valued at nearly $2.9 billion, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Florida ranks second to California in strawberry production.

While gaining a foothold in other states, the tool is getting more useful, thanks to work by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers. Scientists have found a promising model to simulate leaf wetness in plants of strawberries.

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Celebrate Florida agriculture and natural resources, cheer on the Florida Gators Oct. 15

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

Spectators and fans in the stands of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium during a UF football game.  Photo taken 11-07-15

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Farmers, ranchers, landscapers – and everyone in between – are invited to celebrate Agriculture and Gardening Day at the University of Florida’s homecoming football game, Oct. 15, 2016.

UF Athletics and the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are hosting the event and offering discounted tickets to anyone connected to agriculture in the state, including their families and friends.

“Florida’s agricultural, natural resources and related food industries add $140 billion to our economy and employ nearly 300,000 people,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “The industry is second only to tourism in Florida, and this is a great way to honor and recognize those who work so hard to put food on our tables and plants and flowers in our yards.”

The Gators are playing the University of Missouri Tigers, and tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis, with limited seating available in the upper south end zone for $35 and the upper north end zone for $20.

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UF/IFAS scientist digging into artichokes as alternative crop

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

Artichokes 071416

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While California grows 99 percent of the nation’s artichokes, the edible plant high in antioxidants might get a chance to grow in the Sunshine State, if a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher gets good results from his field trials.

Artichokes flourish in a cool environment, so a warm winter might present an obstacle for Florida growers. Artichokes generally require at least 250 cumulative hours below 50 degrees for bud formation. Therefore, flowering must be artificially induced to produce artichokes in Florida.

Shinsuke Agehara, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of horticultural sciences, thinks he can overcome those barriers. Based at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida, Agehara recently received a nearly $90,000 federal grant to study how to establish an artichoke system for Florida growers.

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UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County 4-H team headed to national forestry competition

Topic(s): 4-H, Agriculture, Extension, Families and Consumers, Forestry

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AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Henry Keating, 15, and Cayla and Jeremy Smith, 15 and 17, can tell a fir tree from a spruce — no small feat for three kids who grew up in St. Johns County, Florida, where firs and spruces don’t grow.

As part of the UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County 4-H forestry team, it’s been several years since these three could walk into a forest and simply see “trees.” Instead, they see features such as leaf shape and branching pattern, clues to the trees’ species. For example, “spruces have rounder needles, while firs have flatter ones,” said Jeremy.

Keating and the Smiths won this year’s Florida 4-H state forestry competition and are now headed to the National 4-H Forestry Invitational in Jackson’s Mill, West Virginia. The competition is set for July 31 to Aug. 4.

The St. Johns team will compete with other 4-H teams from across the country, demonstrating mastery of various skills, such as estimating the amount of timber in a tree and planning the development of forested land. They will also need to identify 81 tree species, including fir and spruce, nearly twice the number of trees they had to know at the state level.

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UF/IFAS researcher: Taller, thinner crop beds save money, water, other resources

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

Environmental portrait of Sanjay Shukla working with raised plant beds at the SWFREC on May 21, 2015.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Looking out over thousands of acres of tomatoes, Miguel Talavera, director of East Coast growing operations at Pacific Tomato Grower, Ltd., marvels at the narrow lanes of fruit that are thriving in the hot Florida sun. Talavera credits increase in yield and a decrease in the use of fumigants to a collaboration with researchers and Extension faculty at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Three years ago, Talavera began working with Sanjay Shukla, a professor in the agricultural and biological engineering department based at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, Florida. Shukla was researching what he calls “compact bed geometry,” which is used in plasticulture. Plasticulture – the use of plastic in agriculture – is used globally to produce high-value vegetable (e.g. tomato, pepper, eggplant) and some fruit crops.

The crops are grown on raised soils beds that are covered with plastic. The plastic mulch protects the crops from pests including weeds, provides a warmer soil environment and protects the fertilizer from being washed away, Shukla said. The end result is a high yield and consistent fruit quality, he said.

The plants are watered though plastic drip tubes which also carries fertilizer with them. Fumigants are mixed in the soil bed to protect the crop from disease, Shukla said. And, the wider the bed, the more the fumigant is needed, he added.

Instead of planting crops on beds that were normally 6 to 8 inches high and about 3 feet across, Shukla planted them 10 inches to a foot high and 1 ½ to 2 feet across. The crops were more narrow and higher.

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UF/IFAS researchers to present findings on critical ecosystem habitats at international conference

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Conservation, Environment, Green Living, IFAS, Research, Soil and Water Science

Mangrove tunnels at Weedon Island Preserve in Pinellas County, Florida.

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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Two University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers will be among those presenting new data at a conference addressing mangrove ecosystems, which are critical for many things, including seafood habitat and erosion prevention.

Todd Osborne and Rupesh Bhomia, both with the UF/IFAS soil and water sciences department, will make presentations at the Mangrove Macrobenthos Meeting in St. Augustine, Florida, July 18 to July 22. This is the fourth meeting of these global mangrove experts and the first time it’s being held in the United States.

“We chose to have it in St. Augustine because we felt a lot of the mangrove research community would appreciate seeing this area of expansion of mangroves into the marshy habitats,” said Osborne, an assistant professor who works at UF’s Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience in St. Augustine, and a co-host of the conference.

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UF CALS students, faculty shine at annual teaching conference

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, Honors and Appointments, IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences students and faculty were recognized for their outstanding teaching and research at the 62nd annual North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) conference in June.

More than 25 UF CALS faculty, staff and graduate students attended the meeting, said CALS Dean Elaine Turner. CALS is part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Many UF CALS faculty and students contributed to the NACTA program with posters, oral presentations and workshops.

“The NACTA annual conference is a showcase for innovation and excellence in teaching and learning,” Turner said. “I am so proud of the UF/IFAS faculty and CALS graduate students who were recognized with teaching, leadership and scholarship awards this year. The constant pursuit of excellence in teaching is a key part of what makes CALS such a great academic home for students.”

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UF/IFAS Extension shows horse owners that the grass can be greener

Topic(s): Agriculture, Extension, IFAS, Landscaping, Livestock

before and after pasture LARGE

AUGUSTINE, Fla. — When Diane Musil put in three acres of grazing pasture for her horses five years ago, she had more grass than she could mow. But over time, weeds began to take over, and bald patches appeared. The pasture was not the lush, green plot it used to be.

Unsure of how to deal with the problem, Musil decided to pull out all the weeds by hand — backbreaking work. “I hand-weeded all three acres,” she said. “It took me six weeks.”

Musil knew she needed expert help, so she signed up for the weed management seminar offered by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension St. Johns County. There she learned how to properly use chemical treatments to target weeds choking out her pasture. This gave her the confidence to buy a sprayer and start applying the treatments herself.

A few weeks later, Tim Wilson, director of UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County, stopped by to see how her pasture was progressing. Soil samples revealed that the grass was under-fertilized, so he walked Musil through the process of adding nutrients to the soil.

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