GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Use your imagination to hop aboard ‘Ole Red’ and ‘Bobby Boat’ for a tour of Florida’s aquaculture and seafood industries, part of the 14th annual Florida Agriculture Literacy Day on Tuesday, May 2.
To celebrate, participants from many sectors of Florida’s agriculture sector, including employees and volunteers from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, will read to elementary schoolchildren in their classrooms.
They’ll read the book, “Drive Through Florida: Aquaculture and Seafood,” which features the animated red truck ‘Ole Red’ and his new friend, ‘Bobby Boat.’ Participants are encouraged to read the book ahead of time to familiarize themselves with the content before their classroom readings.
“Ag Literacy day is a great opportunity for students to learn about something they may not see in their daily lessons,” said Becky Sponholtz, executive director of Florida Agriculture in the Classroom. “Students enjoy the interaction with industry representatives, who often take the reading day as a chance to further engage students with hands-on examples of their commodities. Last year, volunteers across the state brought samples of Florida vegetables for students to taste and feel. This year some students may get to see and touch an alligator.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With Valentine’s Day around the corner, you might be thinking about revving things up by eating a few oysters. We’ve all heard that oysters are aphrodisiacs, but researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences say there’s more to the story.
“Oysters might be perceived as an aphrodisiac because they have a high proportion of glycogen, a form of stored carbohydrate that can give you energy,” said Peter Frederick, a research professor with the UF/IFAS department of wildlife ecology and conservation.
Leslie Sturmer, a regional UF/IFAS Extension agent specializing in molluscan shellfish aquaculture, says the high nutritional content of oysters helps people feel good, hence the reputation for being an aphrodisiac. “Oysters have a high zinc content, have very little fat and are full of essential vitamins and minerals,” she said. “So, consumers who eat oysters regularly may attribute extra energy to the oysters.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In less than 30 years, 3,000-year-old oyster reefs off Florida’s Big Bend coastline have declined by 88 percent, according to University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.
For residents who depend on the fishing grounds and other coastal resources protected by these reefs, it’s a worrying trend.
Now, thanks to an award of up to $8.3 million from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, a UF/IFAS research team will work to restore these shrinking oyster reefs and help coastal ecosystems — and economies — become more resilient in the face of climate change and rising tides.
“This grant is one more way UF/IFAS can help foster sustainable communities and ecosystems on the Nature Coast,” said Jack Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “This work also dovetails with efforts by our state and local partners to conserve land and water resources in our coastal areas,” he said.
PENSACOLA, Fla. — The morning of Aug. 6, snorkelers began combing the waters of Big Lagoon, an inlet southwest of Pensacola, in search of scallops. The week before, another group had done the same at various points along the Santa Rosa Sound. However, neither was interested in harvesting the shellfish, a pastime now prohibited due to the decline in scallop populations off Florida’s Gulf Coast over the last few decades.
These snorkelers are volunteer citizen scientists in the Great Scallop Search, a program co-sponsored by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension, Florida Sea Grant, the U.S. National Park Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
The volunteers’ task was to count and record the scallops they found on the sea floor. “This data will go to FWC and help officials understand the scallop population in the Pensacola Bay system,” said Rick O’Connor, Sea Grant agent with UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County and co-organizer of the program.
“Knowing how many scallops are there will inform any future efforts by FWC to reseed the area and try to bring the population back,” O’Connor said.
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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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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Of all the invasive plants in Florida’s waterways, hydrilla costs the most to contain — $66 million over a seven-year period, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.
But UF/IFAS researchers are finding new ways to use less chemical treatment, and thus less money, to manage hydrilla.
From 2008 to 2015, state and federal water resource managers spent about $125 million to control invasive aquatic plants, according to an April Extension document co-written by Lyn Gettys, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agronomy and aquatic weed specialist. You can find the document here: http://bit.ly/28UsGoh.
Of that $125 million, about $66 million goes to control hydrilla, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
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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.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Faculty, administrators and friends of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences now know even more about the fine foods and beverages produces by UF/IFAS faculty after the annual May 9 Flavors of Florida event.
Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, commended faculty and thanked friends for attending.
“Flavors of Florida is a chance for UF/IFAS to showcase the many fine foods and beverages developed by our world-renowned scientists to not only make food tastier and more nutritious but to help growers sell more food at the grocery store,” Payne said. “And with the help of our many friends around Florida, we can continue the laboratory and field research necessary to continue producing these incredible foods.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Whether it’s hybrid termites, grain pathogens, mosquito mating or something in between, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are studying important topics and helping to solve global issues.
The UF/IFAS Research Dean’s Office recently recognized more than two dozen UF/IFAS faculty members for their impactful research, and Dean for Research Jackie Burns said she could not be more proud of the scientists.
“We recognize that these research articles are examples of the many published by UF/IFAS that are highly impactful and help reach solutions to worldwide issues including food shortages, nutrition, diseases and economic development,” Burns said. “Our faculty perform top-quality, globally-recognized scientific work, and we’re proud to recognize them.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When you eat a shrimp, you probably want it to be juicy. That’s why University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are trying to find alternatives to phosphates to lock in that texture and savory flavor.
Normally, phosphate or table salt is used to retain moisture in meat and seafood, said Paul Sarnoski, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food science and human nutrition. But adding salt to the food puts more salt in a person’s diet, and that’s unhealthy, Sarnoski said. Additionally, phosphates are relatively expensive, he said.
In a study recently published in the Journal of Food Science, Sarnoski and his UF/IFAS colleagues found that phosphate alternatives such as polysaccharides – a type of carbohydrate often used as a food additive – can help retain water in shrimp. UF/IFAS scientists tested the shrimp using phosphates and polysaccharides. They boiled, froze and dried the crustaceans to see how much water the shrimp lost.