University of Florida

Students help UF/IFAS professor breed better, tastier peppers

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, Crops, IFAS, Nutrition, Research


Horticulture Professor Balasubramanian Rathinasabapathi (Saba). Experiments, beaker, laboratory.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences students are learning how to breed better peppers under the guidance of Professor Bala Rathinasabapathi.

And by “better,” we mean a more savory taste, among other characteristics. Florida produces $207 million worth of bell peppers annually, according to the Florida Department Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). In fact, as of 2012, Florida ranked second nationally in the value of bell peppers. Improving traits may help the Florida pepper industry grow even larger.

Now, for a new study published in the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science, Rathinasabapathi and his team cross-bred two heirloom varieties of peppers – the Bulgarian Carrot and the Round of Hungary — to come up with more desirable consumer traits.

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UF research facility to donate fresh produce to needy families during Farm to City Week

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Vegetables

2015 Cares dinner and farmer recognition at the North Florida Research and Education Center at Live Oak, Florida on Thursday, November 7th.

JAY, Fla. –The University of Florida’s West Florida Research and Education Center will join forces with the Bay Area Food Bank, Waterfront Rescue Mission and the Guy Thompson Community Center to feed 700 local families during National Farm to City Week, Nov. 20 to 26.

Farm to City Week is a national effort to increase the public’s knowledge and appreciation for agriculture. The week of Thanksgiving, meals will be distributed to 400 needy families in Santa Rosa County and 300 families in Escambia County.

“This food will provide these families with a healthy meal this Thanksgiving holiday,” said Wes Wood, center director of the UF/IFAS West Florida REC. “We want to feed these families and teach folks in our community about the economic, environmental and societal benefits of agriculture.”

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New method may help detect avocado pathogen earlier

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


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)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers have found an algorithm to help them detect laurel wilt, the deadly pathogen that threatens Florida’s $100 million-a-year avocado industry.

Reza Ehsani, an associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, said the algorithm finds laurel wilt-infected avocado trees before symptoms are visible to the naked eye. About 500 growers produce Florida’s avocado crop annually, and more than 98 percent of the fruit is grown in Miami-Dade County. UF scientists estimate laurel wilt could severely reduce the commercial avocado industry if they don’t find control strategies for the pathogen and ambrosia beetles.

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UF/IFAS, Bok Tower Gardens program continues to grow

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Extension, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Vegetables
Caleb Gutierrez, Felipe Garcia, Kyra Pfingston, Alan Soule hold peppers they grew with Roosevelt Academy's agricultural program.

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LAKE WALES, Fla. — At Roosevelt Academy, horticulture teacher Ray Cruze’s class is growing enough vegetables to sell to local restaurants and at a local market, in part thanks to a partnership between Bok Tower Gardens and the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The partnership between the state’s preeminent land-grant university and the historic garden officially launched in January, and now schools are busy planting vegetables after receiving grants, and residents are learning how to organize their own community gardens. (more …)

UF/IFAS study: Strawberry growers must pick, harvest earlier for best profit

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

Strawberry economics 111015 - vance whitaker

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida strawberry growers must produce more fruit earlier in the growing season — in November and December – to keep a competitive advantage in the global market, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

Florida and California combine to produce 99 percent of the United States’ strawberries, and Florida ranks as the biggest producer of winter strawberries, with a value of $366 million annually, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But growers and UF/IFAS researchers are concerned because the industry faces increasing supplies from Mexico and California and volatile market prices. Mexico has emerged as the major competitor for the Florida strawberry industry, the study says. Fresh strawberry imports from Mexico reached 160,000 metric tons – or 360 million pounds — in 2014, while Florida production was about 200 million pounds.

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UF/IFAS researchers get $2 million grant to study organic strawberry production

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


Strawberries.  UF/IFAS Photo by Marisol Amador.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences will address production constraints for organic strawberry producers, thanks to a new $2 million federal grant.

The grant comes from the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) program, which is administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The research focuses on strawberry production systems, rather than just one part of the production process, said Mickie Swisher, associate professor of sustainable agriculture in the UF/IFAS Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences.

“Controlling weeds is a significant cost for all strawberry producers, not just organic producers,” Swisher said. “The project examines the effectiveness of cover crops as a supplementary weed management technique, used in conjunction with plastic mulch.”

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Ft. Pierce Farmer’s Market named one of the best in the country

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Vegetables
Ft. Pierce Farmer’s Market named one of the best in the country. UF/IFAS

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FT. PIERCE, Fla. — Nearly 20 years ago, University of Florida Extension Agent and Master Gardener Anita Neal dreamed of a farmer’s market in downtown Ft. Pierce, overlooking the Indian River. She envisioned a place where residents could buy locally grown fruits and vegetables and talk with experts from UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

That market recently was named one of the five best in the nation by American Farmland Trust’s Farmers’ Market Celebration. (more …)

Hundreds of students will learn what it takes to work in agriculture

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS
A UF/IFAS Extension worker teaches Marion County 4th grade students the ins and outs of irrigation. UF/IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — More than 600 fourth-grade students are ready to learn about science, technology, engineering and math through the eyes of Marion County’s farming community this week during the University of Florida Marion County Extension’s second annual STEM program.

“Agriculture is more than a farmer in overalls,” said Norma Samuel, an Extension agent heading up the program, which runs Thursday and Friday.  “They will be able to see what kinds of careers are available in agriculture.” (more …)

UF/IFAS Gulf Coast REC, Florida Ag Expo to celebrate milestone anniversaries

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

Front entrance of the University of Florida/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida.  UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When growers, Extension agents and scientists gather for the Nov. 4 Florida Ag Expo in Balm, Florida, they’ll celebrate two anniversaries: the 90th year of the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center and the 10th year of the expo.

The Gulf Coast REC serves as an invaluable tool to growers and grower groups, said Tony DiMare, vice president of the DiMare Company and former chairman of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, among other groups. He’s currently chairman of the Florida Tomato Committee.

“Because of the subtropical climate in Florida, which we grow in, and the continual introduction of new pests and diseases, we continue to face many challenges as growers that jeopardize the sustainability of our business and industry,” DiMare said. “Without the research to help identify new pests and diseases, and without furthering the work on the existing problems to help find solutions to minimize or eliminate the issues, we would not be able to stay competitive and survive.

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UF/IFAS researchers seek ways to keep pathogens, pests from traveling with grain

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Environment, Families and Consumers, Finances, Food Safety, IFAS, Pests, Research

Beef cattle grazing in front of a grain silo at the Range Cattle REC in Ona, Florida.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty member says new research can help grain handlers and grain inspectors find key locations for pathogens and pests along rail routes in the United States and Australia.

In a new analysis in the journal BioScience, UF/IFAS researchers evaluated how wheat moved along rail networks in the United States and Australia. Through their analysis, researchers identified U.S. states that are particularly important for sampling and managing insect and fungal problems as they move through the networks, said Karen Garrett, a UF/IFAS plant pathology professor and senior author of the study.

“The movement of pests and pathogens can be especially important when there are quarantines against the movement of particular species, or when pesticide-resistant insects invade new areas and make management more difficult,” said Garrett, who began work earlier this year in the UF/IFAS Institute for Sustainable Food Systems (ISFS).

“This innovative research to understand how effectively the world’s food networks function and how they can be improved addresses one of our core missions for ISFS,” said Jim Anderson, professor of food and resource economics at UF/IFAS, director of the ISFS. “This work can have real impact.”

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