IFAS News

University of Florida

UF students learn how to save environment, lessen wildfires with prescribed burns

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Crops, Departments, Environment, Forestry, IFAS, Pollution, Safety, Weather

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Assistant professor Raelene Crandall walks her 18 students into Austin Cary Forest, part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, where they will set a fire. Crandall and the students stand out in their lemon yellow shirts, forest green pants, leather boots and gloves, and hard hats—all fireproof.

“Wildfire season is starting early this year, because we’re seeing a warmer, drier spring,” said Crandall, who teaches fire ecology in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. “Experts predict an unusually bad wildfire season this year with the dry conditions and prescribed burns may help lower that number.”

The students check the plow line, which is used to contain a fire to a particular area and then start a fire along the edge. They stand back as plants begin to burn and the fire gradually progresses. “If we don’t conduct prescribed burns, we will get larger, often catastrophic fires that threaten families and structures,” Crandall explained.

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UF/IFAS experts help growers ready for tonight’s cold snap

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Plants, Weather

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Growers are bracing for a cold snap tonight that could cost them thousands of dollars in damage. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension agents and researchers are here to help.

A hard freeze warning is in effect from 2 a.m. to 9 a.m. Thursday, March 16 for many counties in North Florida, according to the National Weather Service in Jacksonville. Temperatures are predicted to be 24 to 27 degrees during these hours.

UF/IFAS Extension specialists are available to give growers advice for the cold spell. Find your county’s UF/IFAS Extension specialists by clicking here. Then click on your county.

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Florida peaches pack a punch as a succulent snack

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida peaches make for a succulent snack, say consumers surveyed by a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher.

That’s encouraging news for Florida producers trying to expand their reach, not only in the Sunshine State but nationally, said Joy Rumble, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication.

“I was surprised to see that one of the most common ways people reported eating peaches was as a snack,” Rumble said. “I thought that people would be consuming them as part of a meal such as lunch or in a dish such as cobbler or as a topping, like on yogurt. This finding is encouraging for the Florida peach industry because the Florida peach tends to be smaller than those produced elsewhere. There is an opportunity to position and market the Florida peach as the perfect snack.”

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Learn how to grow plants without soil at hydroponic farming workshop

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

LIVE OAK, Fla. — Do you want to know how to grow plants without soil? More and more, people want to start a hydroponic farming business. To meet that demand, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension will host workshops this month to get you going.

This marks the ninth straight year that Extension faculty at the UF/IFAS Suwanee Valley Agricultural Extension Center will host the workshops. If you are interested, you can attend March 13-14 or March 17-18 at the center, 8202 County Road 417, Live Oak, Florida.

“We had great demand for information coming from growers and potential growers,” said center director and UF/IFAS Extension specialist Bob Hochmuth. “Although many growers are diversifying from traditional farming enterprises, I would say most are not coming from a traditional farming background.”

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Repellant could keep dangerous beetles away from avocado trees

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

Redbay ambrosia beetles.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Using some pleasant-smelling chemicals, avocado growers may soon be able to repel beetles that inject a potentially deadly fungus into their trees, saving fruit and money, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers say.

When they’re infected with the laurel wilt fungus, redbay trees – a close cousin to the avocado — emit methyl salicylate to repel redbay ambrosia beetles, the very beetles that gave the trees the fungus in the first place, scientists say in a newly published study.

Florida avocados bring a $100 million-a-year impact to Florida’s economy, UF/IFAS economists say. They grow almost entirely in southern Miami-Dade County, but growers have battled the laurel wilt fungus, which can kill redbay and avocado trees, since it arrived in Georgia in 2003.

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UF/IFAS West Florida REC offers grits, cornmeal from grain produced on its farm

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Environment, Families and Consumers, Green Living, IFAS, Nutrition, RECs

JAY, Fla. — Do you know where your grits come from? Now, you can buy locally grown grits and cornmeal, and even visit the farm where the corn is grown.

The University of Florida IFAS West Florida Research and Education Center near Jay, Florida, is selling grits and cornmeal from corn grown and ground on its farm. The Gator Grind products are processed at the UF/IFAS West Florida REC and packaged for consumers there.

“We grow the corn, harvest it, put in the grain bin, clean it and grind it in a stone grist mill,” said Wes Wood, center director. “Visitors can come out to the UF/IFAS West Florida REC for one of our field days and see how grits and cornmeal are produced.”

Faculty at the UF/IFAS West Florida REC have been researching corn for decades, Wood said. These scientists conduct trials to determine the best corn varieties for the region, along with optimization of management variables such as soil fertility and pest control, he said.

“We conduct research that helps farmers grow the best crop possible under Florida Panhandle conditions,” Wood said.

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New UF/IFAS scientist brings latest technology to battle against invasive species

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Departments, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests

FORT PIERCE, Fla.— Carey Minteer, a research professor with expertise in the use of biological controls to manage invasive plants, has joined the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Florida has the most invasive species in the country, with 28 ports of entry, including seaports, airports and train stations.

Minteer, who is also an expert in geographic information systems, is based at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce, Florida. She is collaborating with professor James Cuda, UF/IFAS Extension agent Ken Gioeli and other scientists to fight the state’s most noxious weeds, including the Brazilian peppertree, one of Florida’s most widespread invasive plants.

“Dr. Minteer has demonstrated effectiveness in investigating the biological control of invasive weeds in the central U.S.A. and Florida,” said Ronald Cave, UF/IFAS Indian River REC interim director. “Her expertise in biological control is strengthened with her knowledge of sophisticated mapping technology for spatial analysis of large infestations, thereby bringing a new dimension of research capability to the laboratory.”

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Kakkar joins UF/IFAS Extension as invasive insect specialist

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, Crops, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests

FORT PIERCE, Fla. – Garima Kakkar is joining the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to help the state fight invasive pests. Kakkar, an expert in invasive insects, is a UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County Multicounty Agent.

Kakkar has a diverse range of experience in managing pest insects, and will now serve growers in the world’s premier citrus production region with the latest research findings. Her most recent assignment was working as a postdoctoral research associate for UF/IFAS, along with both UF and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in studies of an invasive whitefly, thrips vectors and a pepper whitefly.

“Dr. Kakkar has been synergistically blending research and practical information to create effective tools for the citrus and fruit crops industry,” said Ed Skvarch, director of UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County. “She believes that a channelized production system requires an Extension agent who is more than a liaison between different groups, researchers, growers or industry. Her goal is to develop programs that take research to the fields and industry, for the betterment of our agricultural production systems.”

Since taking her new position, Kakkar has focused on worker protection standards training, and she is organizing soil nutrition programs, developed in conjunction with the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, Florida, Skvarch said.

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How about another sweet, juicy strawberry, courtesy of UF/IFAS?

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

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When you bite into a Florida strawberry for Valentine’s Day or National Strawberry Day on Feb. 27, you savor sweetness and juice. That’s what you’ll find in all varieties bred by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers. The latest, ‘Florida Beauty,’ (U.S. PPAF) lives up to the UF/IFAS tradition.

As National Strawberry Day approaches on Feb. 27, we can look forward to even better-tasting fruit from UF/IFAS breeder Vance Whitaker as he tries to help Florida’s $360-million-a-year industry.

‘Florida Beauty,’ a collaboration between UF/IFAS and an Australian scientist, is in its early stages, said Whitaker, an associate professor of horticultural sciences at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida.

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UF/IFAS researcher: Cats, dogs teaming up is best way to keep rodents away

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Cats and dogs may be longtime enemies, but when teamed up, they keep rodents away, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.

That’s good news for farmers trying to keep rodents from eating their crops and for homeowners trying to keep the nuisances at bay and from spoiling food and potentially spreading disease, said Robert McCleery, a UF/IFAS associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation.

McCleery, working as part of an international team of researchers found that the combination of dogs and cats reduced rodents from foraging in and around homes and storage buildings. However, dogs or cats by themselves usually won’t help rid your farm or dwelling of pest rodents.

Not all rodents are pests, McCleery said. For example, scientists consider squirrels, beavers and cotton rats helpful to generally be helpful to the environment. In this study, scientists studied the pest rodent, which lives in your house or eats your crops and is usually not native to the area where it is found, he said.

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