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No browning, maybe less oil with Florida’s Elkton potato

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A new potato variety grown for use as a chip should be more marketable because it averts a process that causes the crop to brown, and may be less oily than current tubers, a University of Florida researcher says.

The Elkton potato does not succumb to internal heat necrosis, said Lincoln Zotarelli, a UF assistant horticultural sciences professor and faculty member at the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The disorder is caused by high temperature and changes to soil moisture and nutrients and leaves the potato brown inside.

UF/IFAS and U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists put Elkton potatoes through 19 trials, from 2003-2013, in Florida.  Numerous trials were also conducted in Maine, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Maryland and Pennsylvania. The trials tested Elkton’s adaptability to soils in the those states and showed the variety exhibits characteristics growers want, said Kathleen Haynes, a research geneticist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Maryland.

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Annual conference to teach farming, livestock, local foods, more

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Economics, IFAS

2011 Small Farms Conference.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – If you’re thinking of starting a small farm or want to know about the latest in local foods, organic and hydroponic production, livestock production, farmers markets and more, you might consider attending the Florida Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference.

Like last year, about 800 people are expected to attend the conference, Aug. 1-2, at Osceola Heritage Park, 1875 Silver Spur Lane in Kissimmee, said Jose Perez, small farms specialty crop statewide program coordinator and the event’s publicity chairman.

Now in its sixth year, the conference is presented by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and Florida A&M University.

Typically, those who attend include small family, transitional, beginning and experienced farmers; allied-industry representatives; educators; researchers; policy makers; small farm commodity associations; foundations and others dedicated to strengthening Florida’s small farm community.

Ed Skvarch, commercial horticulture extension agent in St. Lucie County, said those pondering farming can learn much of its business side at the conference.

“If you’re starting a small farm, I believe it is crucial to have passion, the technical knowledge on how to grow vegetables or raise livestock and a working plan on how to grow the business,” Skvarch said. “Most beginning farmers I work with have the passion and possess some knowledge of growing vegetables; however, what they lack is a plan on how to grow their business. All three are important.”

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Veteran UF/IFAS faculty member wins global biology award

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Conservation, Crops, Environment, IFAS

 Michael Kane award

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A 27-year University of Florida faculty member who recently received a global award for his life’s work in biology credits his colleagues and his students for his success.

Michael Kane, environmental horticulture professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences,was honored in May with the 2014 Society for In Vitro Biology Lifetime Achievement Award. The SIVB fosters information exchange of scientific research on the biology of cells, tissues and organs from both plants and animals.

“My mantra has always been: It’s all about the people,” said Kane, who specializes in micropropagation, the practice of rapidly multiplying stock plant material to produce offspring plants, using modern plant tissue culture methods. “If it wasn’t for several caring professor mentors, I wouldn’t have gone on in graduate school.”

The faculty member nugget could refer to many people, but in this case it pertains partly to Toshio Murashige, a now retired botany professor at the University of California-Riverside, who gave Kane keen advice while he was a young doctoral student at the University of Rhode Island.

Plenty of Kane’s students laud their mentor, years after studying under his tutelage. Ray Gillis, a former graduate student and now laboratory director at Oglesby Plants International, wrote a letter supporting Kane to win the SIVB award.

In some of his early work in the 1980s, Kane studied how tissue-cultured, native plant species could be useful for the ecosystem restoration of phosphate-mined lands, Gillis wrote. Later, he pioneered the development of micropropagation protocols of numerous wetland and dune species indigenous to the eastern United States.

“To his credit, just developing a lab protocol was not deemed sufficient,” Gillis wrote. “He and his graduate students have taken that material generated in the laboratory and conducted extensive field studies to prove that micropropagation research has real-world application.”

Kane’s latest projects, in collaboration with his students, include growing native wetland and coastal dune plants in the lab. Those sea oats are used to preserve dunes on the Florida coast. Some of the plants are also used to preserve wetlands.  He and his students also develop procedures to grow threatened and endangered native orchids.

Kane, who came to UF in 1985 as a postdoctoral researcher and eventually a faculty member, has won numerous accolades at UF and across the country. In 2009 alone, he won the IFAS Award of Excellence for Graduate Research: Best Master’s Thesis Major Adviser, University of Florida Blue Key Distinguished Faculty Award and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Excellence in College and University Teaching in the Food and Agricultural Sciences Award.

An SIVB member for 25 years, Kane accepts praise with a shrug.

“I didn’t even know I was nominated,” he said. Kane paraphrased the famous quote from the movie, “Wayne’s World,” saying, “‘I’m not worthy.’ Given the individual scientists who have received this honor in the past, I’m in rarefied air. My biggest pleasure is to see students and faculty become successful, to see the progress they’ve made.”

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Writer: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Source: Michael Kane, 273-4500, micropro@ufl.edu

Cutline: UF/IFAS environmental horticulture professor Michael Kane works in his lab. Kane was honored in May with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of In Vitro Biology. In Kane’s latest research, he and his staff and students are working on growing native wetland and coastal dune plants in the lab. Those sea oats are used to preserve dunes on the Florida coast. Some of the plants are also used to preserve wetlands. UF/IFAS file photo.

UF/IFAS study: Model may help growers mitigate costly droughts

Topic(s): Crops, Economics, New Technology, Weather

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida-created model may help growers plant at optimal times and avoid crop-destroying drought, which can cost millions of dollars in a given year, according to one of the tool’s creators.

If growers know when their crops need the most water, they can plant accordingly, said Keith Ingram, an associate scientist in UF’s agricultural and biological engineering department, part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Although forecasts indicate a drought’s likelihood, they aren’t perfect, Ingram said. But they can help a farmer decide whether to plant a crop earlier or later than usual so drought is less likely to occur when the crop is most sensitive to drought, Ingram said.

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UF/IFAS-tested treatment retains avocado taste, smell while keeping it fresh

Topic(s): Crops, Economics, Nutrition

Avocados growing on a tree.  Avocado fruit.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new liquid treatment may keep a Florida avocado hybrid fresh longer, a finding that could expand the avocado’s marketability, a University of Florida study shows.

Former UF doctoral student Marcio Eduardo Canto Pereira used ethylene as well as liquid and gaseous forms of 1-methylcycloprene on Booth 7 avocados, a combination of West Indian and Guatemalan varieties. Ethylene is a natural plant hormone produced by fruits and can be applied to speed the ripening process ─ as is done commonly with bananas and tomatoes ─ while 1-methylcycloprene slows the process.

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Perennial corn crops? It could happen with new plant-breeding tool developed at UF/IFAS  

Topic(s): Crops, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Since the first plant genome sequence was obtained for the plant Arabidopsis in 2000, scientists have gene-sequenced everything from cannabis to castor bean.

University of Florida scientists were part of a research team that this week unveiled a new tool that will help all plant scientists label (“annotate” in researcher parlance) genes far more quickly and accurately and is expected to give a big boost to traditional and nontraditional plant breeders.

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UF/IFAS helps create genome database to aid fruit growers, scientists

Topic(s): Citrus, Crops, New Technology

GAINESVILLE, Fla. –Scientists and growers can use a new genome database developed in part by University of Florida researchers to help make fruit trees more disease- and pest-resistant and enhance crop quality.

Researchers who study citrus, rosaceae and vaccinium crops will be the primary users of the portal, said Mercy Olmstead, assistant professor of horticultural sciences at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, but agricultural producers will also reap the benefits.

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UF/IFAS finding could help farmers stop potato, tomato disease

Topic(s): Crops, Economics, Pests

potato famine photo

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida scientist has pinpointed Mexico as the origin of the pathogen that caused the 1840s Irish Potato Famine, a finding that may help researchers solve the $6 billion-a-year disease that continues to evolve and torment potato and tomato growers around the world.

A disease called “late blight” killed most of Ireland’s potatoes, while today it costs Florida tomato farmers millions each year in lost yield, unmarketable crop and control expenses.

For more than a century, scientists thought the pathogen that caused late blight originated in Mexico. But a 2007 study contradicted earlier findings, concluding it came from the South American Andes.

UF plant pathology assistant professor Erica Goss wanted to clear up the confusion and after analyzing sequenced genes from four strains of the pathogen, found ancestral relationships among them that point to Mexico as the origin.

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UF/IFAS study: Some consumers confuse ‘local’ with ‘organic’ food

Topic(s): Conservation, Crops, Economics, Environment, Food Safety, Nutrition

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With more people buying local and organic food, consumers should know the difference between the two so they recognize what they’re buying, but nearly one in five still confuse the terms, a University of Florida researcher says.

Newly published research, done in partnership with three other universities, aims to help local and organic food producers and sellers target their marketing messages to reinforce or dispel consumers’ perceptions. The organic-food industry has spent millions of dollars building brand awareness, only to see some consumers confuse “organic” food with “local” food products, said Ben Campbell, a University of Connecticut extension economist and the study’s lead author.

Hayk Khachatryan, a UF food and resource economics assistant professor, worked with Campbell and others to survey 2,511 people online in the U.S. and Canada in 2011 and found 17 percent thought the terms were interchangeable, the study said.

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Growers play vital role in UF/IFAS organic strawberry study

Topic(s): Crops, Cultivars, Economics, IFAS, Pests

Strawberries.  UF/IFAS Photo by Marisol Amador.

This UF/IFAS file photo shows Florida-grown strawberries.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – After the first year of a University of Florida study to try to develop new organic strawberry production systems, growers are playing a critical role in setting priorities for the research project’s future.

The study stemmed from several issues strawberry growers face. Rising costs of production and increased imports of strawberries threaten the sustainability of the Florida strawberry industry, one of two major production regions in the nation. Demand for organic strawberries is growing and brings a price premium for growers who can master the art and science of organic strawberry production.

Organic and conventional growers assessed parts of the first year of research, said Mickie Swisher, associate professor of sustainable agriculture in UF’s Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences and a member of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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