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IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS research finds ways to save water, strawberries and money during cold temps

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

Organic strawberry e-book Javier L. - Jan28,2014 - Citra - Focus grup assessment - Open field (45)-X2

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s strawberry producers must protect their multimillion-dollar annual crop from freeze damage. Traditional methods involve constant spraying of water during a cold snap. Growers are looking for ways to use less water, yet produce the same amount of crop.

New University of Florida research shows growers can keep using both their current sprinkler spacing and low pressure or enhanced real-time irrigation control to save water – and they can produce the same strawberry crop yield during mild freezes.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Michael Dukes, a UF/IFAS professor of agricultural and biological engineering and the lead author on the study. The improvement? An automated control treatment that used real-time dew point measurements – rather than temperatures — to turn the system on and off, he said.

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UF/IFAS researchers use pigs to root out problem weeds

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Environment, Green Living, IFAS, Livestock, Research, Vegetables
Professor of Agronomy and Weed Science Greg MacDonald with his pigs.

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CITRA, Fla. — Sometimes, the old-fashioned ways are the best ways.

Back before chemical pesticides and herbicides, farmers had to come up with ways to kill the weeds that took over their fields. One method used “back in the day” was letting pigs loose in fields that were not being used for crops for a season and allowing the pigs to do what they do naturally: dig up the roots of weeds and  fertilize the land.

In the last year, Greg MacDonald, a weed science researcher with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, decided to give the method a try to combat nutsedge, a weed that looks like grass and is so resilient it can sprout up through plastic row-crop coverings and even the plastic lining of above-ground pools. (more …)

Specialty Crop Conference slated for Aug. 15 in Jacksonville

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

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The First Coast Specialty Crop Conference, created by UF/IFAS, comes to Jacksonville on Aug. 15, the first of five new regional conferences in 2015 and 2016 across the state.

The conference has evolved from an annual statewide event that began in 2009 in Kissimmee to more targeted, regional conferences across the state. A team of UF/IFAS Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Extension agents and other stakeholders created the conference series, said Danielle Treadwell, a UF/IFAS associate professor in horticultural sciences.

Experts at the program at the Student Union Building of the University of North Florida will address concerns of Northeast Florida farmers, providing them with multiple learning and networking opportunities.

Whether you are interested in improving your farming skills by enhancing your soils and pest management, obtaining practical knowledge for postharvest practices, or diversifying your farm through cut-flower production, mushrooms or microgreens, this is a great place and time to learn.

(more …)

Shining a red light to slow downy mildew on basil

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

Basil Downy Mildew symptoms 072115

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Basil can add a little zest to any meal. But downy mildew disease threatens the herb’s very existence.

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are trying to manage the disease with little or no spraying.

For his latest experiments, Shouan Zhang, a UF/IFAS plant pathology associate professor at the Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, inoculated basil plants with the downy mildew pathogen. The scientist then put the plants under red lights in a greenhouse and found the process is slowing down the disease’s growth.

Jaimin Patel, a postdoctoral research associate for Zhang, said they put one set of plants on a bench in the dark for 12 hours, starting at 8 p.m. each day. Another set of plants was placed under red lights for the same time period. The downy mildew appeared on plants in the dark six days after inoculation, while no symptoms showed up on the plants that were under the red lights, Patel said. They repeated the experiment and found the disease symptoms five days after inoculation on the plants placed in the dark – and still, little to no symptoms of the downy mildew was found on the basil plants exposed to the red lights.

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Updated Florida Citrus Rootstock Selection Guide available

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, Crops, Extension, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

ROOTSTOCK guide 071415

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The 3rd edition of the Florida Citrus Rootstock Selection Guide is now available. The updated guide is a convenient, easy-to-use reference to 20 characteristics of 45 rootstocks. It highlights 21 recently released rootstocks, some of which show reduced citrus greening incidence in early field trials.

Of the 45 rootstocks, 12 are time-honored commercial ones, 12 are minor commercial ones that are less frequently used but may have been prominent once. The third group is the most recently released rootstocks for which there is limited commercial experience, but are increasingly being used in the Florida citrus industry.

The revised guide is important because rootstocks basically provide the root system of a citrus tree and influence many traits of the whole plant. When a Valencia orange or Marsh grapefruit is grafted to the rootstock seedling, such things as tree size, fruit quantity and quality are usually improved by the rootstock.

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Laurel wilt disease likely to increase Florida avocado prices

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

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)

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Growers in Florida’s $100 million-a-year avocado industry could see a rise in the price of avocados in the short term due to a reduction in domestic production, because of the deadly Laurel Wilt pathogen, a new University of Florida study shows.

But any noticeable price increase probably wouldn’t last because increased imports from the Dominican Republic are likely to temper any price increases.

Edward Evans, a UF/IFAS associate professor in food and resource economics, is quick to note, however, that he conducted his study before the recent discovery of a medfly outbreak in the Dominican Republic. The outbreak led the U.S. Department of Agriculture to restrict imports of green-skin avocados from that country. This avocado is similar to the type produced in the Sunshine State.

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UF/IFAS researcher growing 1,500 types of peanuts as part of the USDA’s Genetic Resources Unit

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Cultivars, IFAS, Research
Greg MacDonald, a weed scientist and agronomist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, worked in Haiti this summer to help bring peanut research to local farmers.

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The germplasm peanut field at the University of Florida’s Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra. Photo UF/IFAS

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CITRA, Fla. — Stretching out in a North Central Florida field, under the scorching summer sun, lies row upon row of lush, green peanut plants – with more than 1,500 kinds growing at the University of Florida’s Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra. The crop is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s germplasm network to maintain and research different types of one of the world’s most popular and nutritional legumes.

“Nobody had done a side-by-side study of yield, grade, biochemical components and genetic background of these peanut varieties,” said Greg MacDonald, a weed scientist and agronomist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, who oversees the project.  “We put together this study and we’re now able to determine those things for each plant line.”

On Thursday, more than 50 national and international peanut scientists and researchers will tour the fields and review the varieties to determine if there are any they would like to try in their areas. For instance, if someone from an African country only gets three months of rain, that grower would need a peanut plant that can survive and make a harvestable crop with a limited amount of rain. (more …)

UF CALS courses, majors evolve to meet changing demands

Topic(s): Agriculture, Aquaculture, CALS, Citrus, Crops, Economics, Environment, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, Nutrition

Classroom, students, learning, auditorium.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As the University of Florida prepares to embark on the 2015-16 academic year, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences offers several courses and majors that reflect how the institution adapts to industry and stakeholder needs.

The courses and majors aren’t brand new for this fall. They evolved during the past few years. But they reflect the growing menu of courses and majors offered to the more than 3,700 undergraduate students expected to enroll at UF CALS this fall.

Just to name a few of the relatively new majors and course offerings, UF CALS offers a major in marine sciences that leads to a bachelor’s degree, a new undergraduate certificate titled “Challenge 2050: Global Leadership and Change” from the Challenge 2050 Project and three new majors offered in the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department that were previously specializations under one major – Food Science and Human Nutrition.

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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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