IFAS News

University of Florida

UF survey shows most Floridians want to know more about genetically modified foods

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, New Technology, Nutrition, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While almost half of Floridians acknowledge buying genetically modified foods, a recent survey by the Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Florida reveals that most people want to know much more about those foods.

“The study shows that Floridians believe they don’t know much about genetically modified foods and their benefits,” said Joy Rumble, assistant professor in agricultural education and communication at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “Many people are favorable to supporting research, and they think it’s essential that government support it. Floridians see a place for GM foods, but they do have hesitations.”

The PIE Center surveyed 500 Floridians on their perceptions of genetically modified foods. Respondents were largely unsure about the potential benefits of genetically modified food, with more than 40 percent neither agreeing nor disagreeing that food technology such as GMOs allows people to live longer or better lives.

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New test can detect plant viruses faster, cheaper

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, IFAS, New Technology, Research

A virus that could devastate the Florida and southern U.S. tomato crop has been detected for the first time in the U.S. by University of Florida researchers. Here, Jane Polston, UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences associate professor of pathology, examines a plant infected with tomato yellow leaf curl virus. Regulators are working to pull all infected plants from retailer shelves.

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new test could save time and money diagnosing plant viruses, some of which can destroy millions of dollars in crops each year in Florida, says a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher.

In a newly published study, Jane Polston, a UF/IFAS plant pathology professor, examined several ways to detect the DNA genome of begomoviruses. These viruses have emerged over the last 30 years to become plant pathogens that threaten crop production in tropical and sub-tropical regions globally.

Polston and her research colleagues found that a certain test called “recombinase polymerase amplification” identified the cause of a disease faster and cheaper than the commonly used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test – or “assay,” as scientists call them.

UF/IFAS scientists learned of this new type of test that’s fast, sensitive and cheaper than some other methods, and they adapted the new technology and modified it to test for several whitefly-transmitted viruses found in Florida, Polston said.

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Blueberries’ health benefits better than many perceive

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

Blueberry bush.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Consumers know some of the benefits blueberries provide, but they’re less aware of the advantages of reverting aging, improving vision and memory, a new University of Florida study shows.

Shuyang Qu, a doctoral student in agricultural education and communication at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, led the study. Joining Qu were Joy Rumble, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication, and Tori Bradley, a master’s student in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department. Rumble’s Florida Specialty Crop grant gave the opportunity to examine consumers’ knowledge of blueberry health benefits.

Qu and her colleagues wanted to determine how much consumers know about blueberry health benefits and see if there’s a knowledge gap with blueberry health benefits among demographic groups. Using their findings, they will identify promotional opportunities for Florida blueberries.

Researchers surveyed more than 2,000 people in 31 states – mostly on the East Coast and in the Midwest – to see what they know about the health benefits of blueberries. Most were aware of the benefits of blueberries in warding off cancer and lowering the risk of heart disease. The UF/IFAS study also found that low-income populations tend to know less about blueberry health benefits.

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UF/IFAS, Pinellas Sheriff’s office create urban farms in Pinellas County

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

Loften Center students learning about gardening and nutrition on Thursday, May 21st, 2015.

GAINESVILLE, Fla.— Residents in a county on Florida’s Gulf Coast are getting the help they need to access healthier foods via a collaboration between the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and the Pinellas Sheriff’s Police Athletic League. The two entities have teamed up to create an urban farm in Pinellas County.

Urban farms promote an abundance of food for people in need while raising awareness of health and wellness. “It is an opportunity to teach families and children the values of nutrition and establish a level of commerce for produce distribution,” said Mark Trujillo, a public health regional specialist for UF/IFAS Family Nutrition Program.

Trujillo introduced the executive director of the Pinellas Sheriff’s PAL, Neil Brickfield, to an empty U-Pick farm in Lealman, Florida, Pinellas County. After discovering the potential that the farm had to help the county, Brickfield then began to work with UF/IFAS to identify the needs of the farm and community.

Because Lealman, Florida is considered a food desert, the idea of an urban farm was essential for the area, Trujillo said. According to Brickfield, the citizens in Lealman are more than a mile from a local grocery store. “So, the urban farm is an opportunity for people to have fresh produce readily available,” Brickfield said.

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UF/IFAS researcher to be honored as citrus engineer of year

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, Crops, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, RECs, Research

Reza Ehsani 060616

Reza Ehsani

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher who uses steam to help treat citrus trees infected by greening, will receive this year’s Citrus Engineer of the Year Award.

Reza Ehsani, a UF/IFAS associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, will receive the award June 21 at the 59th Biennial Citrus Engineering Symposium at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center (REC) in Lake Alfred, Florida.

“I am very honored and grateful to receive this award,” said Ehsani, a faculty member at the Citrus REC. “It means a lot to me because it shows my efforts and contributions to the engineering aspects of citrus production have been of value and have been noticed and recognized by my peers.”

Michael Rogers, director of the Citrus REC, touted Ehsani’s work in using steam to help citrus trees infected by greening, or HLB as it’s known in scientific circles.

“The premise of his work is that, by using steam to kill the bacteria in the above-ground portion of the tree, growers can buy additional years of productivity of a grove before it must be replanted,” Rogers said. “The machine designs he has created are being used by several startup companies around the state. He definitely deserves the recognition.”

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UF/IFAS helps local farmers break into the local food movement

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

Buying and selling at an outdoor farmers' market

Please see caption below the story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When it comes to defining “local” food, things are hardly black and white. Instead, consumers perceive degrees of localness rather than firm local and non-local divisions, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers have found.

Now researchers are using these findings to help Florida farmers effectively market their produce to Floridians.

“There is no official definition of local food in the way that there is for USDA organic food, for example,” said Joy Rumble, professor of agricultural education and communication at UF/IFAS. As a result, “local” has become a relative term. A consumer will say that a tomato grown in the county where she lives is more local than one grown in another part of the state, said Rumble. However, she will also say that a tomato grown anywhere in Florida is more local than one grown in Mexico.

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UF/IFAS experts available for 2016 hurricane season

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Disaster Preparedness, Economics, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Weather

Flood signage in Florida.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The following University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences sources are available to speak to news media about a range of storm- and hurricane-related topics:

Hurricane and other natural disaster preparation: Mike Spranger, a professor in family, youth and community sciences, can give tips on how to prepare for any kind of natural disaster. He adapted a Gulfwide version of the Homeowners Handbook to Prepare for Natural Hazards for Florida residents. The book has basic background on tornados, tropical storms, hurricanes, floods and wildfires, and covers everything from hurricane clips to what to keep in your pantry and what to take with you during an evacuation. 352-273-3557; spranger@ufl.edu.

Rebuilding/maintaining sand dunesDeborah Miller, a professor of wildlife ecology and conservation based at UF’s West Florida Research and Education Center in Milton, has studied the best ways to rebuild sand dunes destroyed by hurricanes. 850-983-7128, ext. 104; dlmi@ufl.edu.

Hurricane effects on Florida agriculture: Jonathan Crane, a professor and tropical-fruit crop specialist at UF’s Tropical Research & Education Center in Homestead, has studied how hurricanes affect Florida agriculture. His research covers damage to fruit crops and to grove infrastructure such as irrigation systems due to high winds and flooding. 305-246-7001, ext. 290; jhcr@ufl.edu.

Hurricanes and pets/farm animalsJohn Haven directs the UF College of Veterinary Medicine’s All Animals, All Hazards Disaster Response Team and has participated in animal care operations related to hurricanes, fires and disease outbreaks. After leading the college’s responses to Hurricanes Charlie, Frances and Jeanne, he organized this formal veterinary emergency response team consisting of faculty, staff and students. He is a member of the State Agriculture Response Team, coordinator for the State Veterinary Reserve Corps disaster response team, and an Incident Command System Instructor. 352-294-4254, ext. 3154; havenj@ufl.edu.

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

Whitefly infestation only in Palm Beach County – for now

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

WHITEFLY 052516

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — People in Palm Beach County can help manage a potential outbreak of the Q-biotype whitefly through early detection and identification of the insect, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.

This significant tropical and subtropical pest may threaten Florida crops such as tomatoes, squash, beans, watermelons and many other vegetables and ornamentals if immediate measures are not taken to prevent its spread. Known scientifically as Bemisia tabaci, the Q-biotype is a light-colored, flying insect slightly less than 1 millimeter in length. Thus far, the Q-biotype whitefly has been reported in all four quadrants of Palm Beach County – north, east, south and west – said Lance Osborne, a UF/IFAS entomology professor.

To find and detect this whitely, residents should first look at hibiscus plants because those are host plants to which this whitefly species will likely gravitate. They should also take a look at their poinsettia plants, Osborne said. There are two types of this whitefly species: Q-biotype and B-biotype, and they look virtually the same, so it’s critical to get a genetic analysis to determine if you have the Q-biotype whitefly.

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Potential whitefly outbreak threatens Florida landscapes and crops

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

WHITEFLY 052516

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Q-biotype whitefly, a significant  tropical and subtropical pest, may threaten Florida crops such as tomatoes, squash, beans, watermelons and many other vegetables and ornamentals if immediate measures are not taken to prevent its spread.

Scientists statewide, including those with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), are working together to control the whitefly which, for the first time, has been found outside greenhouses and nurseries in Florida. Known scientifically as Bemisia tabaci, the Q-biotype or Mediterranean whitefly is a light-colored, flying insect slightly less than 1 millimeter in length.

Researchers with UF/IFAS are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to manage the whitefly.

“Unfortunately, we have a developing whitefly issue in Florida,” said Lance Osborne, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka, Florida. “The situation may be improved with diligent attention to identifying and reporting any outbreaks.”

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UF/IFAS study finds consumer knowledge gap on genetically modified food

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Environment, Families and Consumers, Research

Brandon McFadden

Brandon McFadden

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While consumers are aware of genetically modified crops and food, their knowledge level is limited and often at odds with the facts, according to a newly published study by a University of Florida researcher.

Last year, Brandon McFadden, an assistant professor of food and resource economics at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, published a study that showed scientific facts scarcely change consumers’ impressions of genetically modified food and other organisms.

Consumer polls are often cited in policy debates about genetically modified food labeling. This is especially true when discussing whether food that is genetically modified should carry mandatory labels, McFadden said. In conducting their current study, McFadden and his colleague, Jayson Lusk, an agricultural economics professor at Oklahoma State University, wanted to know what data supported consumers’ beliefs about genetically modified food and gain a better understanding of preferences for a mandatory label.

So he conducted the survey to better understand what consumers know about biotechnology, breeding techniques and label preferences for GM foods.

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