Pigweed, pictured here, poses one of Florida’s biggest weed-management challenges. UF/IFAS photo by Thomas Wright
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Integrated weed management, or IWM, is a management option for crop producers who want to fight weeds using every available technology; it involves three activities – scouting, prevention and control – coordinated to discourage weeds from growing in the first place.
Producers have been slow to adopt IWM, but a team of scientists with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences say it can be a sustainable, affordable choice.
In fact, the team publishes so much research on the subject that they earned UF several top five results in a recent study that assessed the productivity of weed science teams worldwide.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new era began for the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation April 6 as ground was broken for the Austin Cary Forest Learning Center, a 7,800-square-foot education and outreach complex in the heart of the UF-owned forest northeast of Gainesville.
The learning center will succeed and surpass the Austin Cary Forest Conference Center, destroyed by fire in July 2011. Fundraising and recovery efforts began immediately after the fire, and at the groundbreaking event, UF Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources Jack Payne expressed awe at their rapid progress.
“I never thought we’d be here two years later,” said Payne, who noted the importance of forest products to the state’s economy — $15 billion and 90,000 jobs. Speaking to a crowd of about 400 supporters, he discussed the Austin Cary Forest’s role as an essential link between natural resources and agriculture, and the role that pine trees may play in providing more of the world’s biofuel and fiber needs.
Construction for the learning center is slated to begin immediately and should be completed in less than one year, SFRC Director Tim White told attendees. The learning center will greatly enhance the school’s ability to provide distance education from Austin Cary Forest and accommodate large in-person events there, he said.
“This is a community resource, not an SFRC resource,” White said. “Tell people we want it to be used.”
UF/IFAS file photo of Austin Cary Forest palmetto and pine, by Dawn McKinstry
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — This spring, the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation has two reasons to celebrate:
One is the annual SFRC Spring Celebration on April 5-6. Here, alumni and friends of the School reconnect, recreate and learn about SFRC’s latest achievements.
The other reason: This year’s celebration includes a special milestone — groundbreaking for the new Austin Cary Forest Learning Center at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 6.
Dignitaries speaking at the groundbreaking include UF President Bernie Machen and UF Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources Jack Payne.
“This groundbreaking marks a huge step forward for the School of Forest Resources and Conservation,” Payne said. “Thousands will benefit from activities on-site at the new Learning Center, and many programs taught here will be offered via distance education to audiences statewide and beyond.”
The 7,800 square-foot building will facilitate education and outreach events at Austin Cary Forest. It’s larger and better-equipped than the conference center it replaces, said Tim White, director of the School. That facility fell victim to a fire in July 2011.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Crops aren’t just for food, fiber and fuel. Researchers at the University of Florida are making new industrial applications possible for them as well.
They’ve developed a method to turn sugarcane bagasse — the crushed-stalk waste product of sugar production — into succinic acid that can be used to make pharmaceuticals, protective coatings and compostable bags.
Baskets of okra offered for sale at a farmers’ market. UF/IFAS photo by Tyler L. Jones
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Floridians are buying more food grown locally or regionally and retail sales are higher here than in other states, according to a University of Florida study.
It showed local food represents about 20 percent of all Florida food purchased for at-home consumption, except restaurant take-out food, said Alan Hodges, an Extension scientist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
The study was based on a statewide consumer survey. Prior estimates from other states had local food accounting for about 5 percent of all food sales, he said.
“We are doing relatively better in Florida, in moving toward food self-sufficiency,” Hodges said. “I can only attribute that to the favorable year-round growing conditions we have for fruits and vegetables.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences recently completed the state’s largest-ever study of landscape turfgrass and fertilizer use, and new online videos will help homeowners and lawn-care professionals understand the findings.
The eight-year, $4.2 million study was funded by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to determine the effectiveness of current UF/IFAS fertilizer recommendations, which have been in use since about 2000, said John Hayes, UF/IFAS dean for research. Florida has more than 5 million acres of home and commercial turf.
“This work is an important body of information generated here to address important questions about nutrient management,” Hayes said. “We’re proud to communicate our findings and we hope they will play a substantial role in helping residents, industry personnel and policymakers protect water quality.”
Three hours of technical presentations from a Jan. 15 live symposium are available at http://tinyurl.com/be2la7q and a three-minute video aimed at educating the public has been posted at http://tinyurl.com/ajy4ytr.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The state’s biggest educational event for honey bee hobbyists, professionals and anyone interested in honey bees — Bee College — is back for a sixth year, University of Florida officials announced this week.
UF’s Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory has organized and hosted the event since 2008. This year’s event will be held at the UF Whitney Marine Laboratory in Marineland, Fla., March 8-9.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Some teenagers want a car; Tiffy Murrow wants to feed the world.
The Fort White High School junior has spent almost two years learning to farm fish, with help from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and her school’s agriculture adviser, Wayne Oelfke.
Murrow started with glass aquaria and tropical fish, then she graduated to a 750-gallon tank housed in an equipment building on the school campus. It holds 140 tilapia destined for a soup kitchen in nearby Lake City when they reach optimum size, about one pound.
But this project is about more than fish.
Soon, Murrow and collaborator Kaila Cheney, a FWHS sophomore, will begin growing vegetables on floating platforms in another part of the system, a shallow pool where water circulates. The crops may include cucumber, tomato, lettuce and basil. With roots dangling in the water, the plants will draw moisture and nutrients from the pool, reducing the need for fertilizer and helping maintain the ammonia and nitrogen levels tilapia need to stay healthy.
The technology is called aquaponics, a sustainable method for raising food where farmland is scarce. Increasingly common in Third World countries, aquaponics is still a novel concept to many Americans. But in Fort White, Murrow has plans to spread the word by holding open house events and encouraging others to investigate aquaponics as a possible project, hobby or business opportunity.
“We want to see if we can make a difference,” Murrow said. “This is a model showing how you can grow a large amount of food in a small amount of space. We want to set up the same kind of thing with fish ponds and incorporate it into Third World countries.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Consumed by 3 billion people, rice is arguably the world’s most important food staple, and one reason for its popularity is that rice can be grown under flooded conditions that suppress weeds, making cultivation easier.
In some parts of the world, water is in short supply, but farmers often devote what they can to rice farming, because the crop is so important. However, research has led to a simple but profound solution that requires less water – growing rice in fields, a practice called aerobic rice production.
The practice relies on rainfall plus limited irrigation to meet the plants’ moisture needs. It requires about 40 percent less water than paddy-grown rice, according to a University of Florida study in the current issue of Agronomy Journal.
Aerobic rice production is gaining popularity in India and Southeast Asia, particularly in drought-stricken or upland areas, said Rao Mylavarapu, a professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and one of the study’s authors.
Nan-Yao Su, right, is congratulated by Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. Click here for high-res image.
Clyde Fraisse, right, is congratulated by Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. Click here for high-res image.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Termite control pioneer Nan-Yao Su and climate expert Clyde Fraisse of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences were honored for their international work this week, receiving a pair of annual awards.
Su, an entomology professor at the Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, received the International Fellow Award; Fraisse, an associate professor with the agricultural and biological engineering department in Gainesville, received the UF/IFAS International Achievement Award.
Both were recognized Thursday at a meeting of top UF/IFAS administrators. Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, and Walter Bowen, director of UF/IFAS International Programs, formally presented the awards.