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UF/IFAS study shows flavor trumps health for blueberry buying

Topic(s): Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Nutrition, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Taste trumps health benefits for blueberry buyers, sending a strong message that fruit consumers value flavor most, new University of Florida research shows.

About 61 percent of blueberry consumers buy the fruit for its flavor, while 39 percent do so for psychological reasons, according to two national online surveys. By “psychological,” researchers mean those consumers may buy blueberries because they believe the fruit, which contains antioxidants, provides health benefits.

UF horticultural sciences assistant professor Jim Olmstead will use the data as he breeds new types of blueberries. Olmstead uses traditional breeding methods to create blueberry cultivars that have traits consumers want.

“What we’re trying to determine is: What is the consumer’s perception of the ideal blueberry? What should it look, taste and feel like?” said Olmstead, a faculty member with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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UF/IFAS study: Strawberry monitoring system could add $1.7 million over 10 years to some farms

Topic(s): Crops, Economics, New Technology, Research

Natalia Peres strawberries

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida-developed web tool can bring growers $1.7 million more in net profits over 10 years than a calendar-based fungicide system because it guides growers to spray their crop at optimal times, a new UF study shows.

The Strawberry Advisory System, devised by an Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher, takes data such as temperature and leaf wetness and tells growers when to spray fungicide to ward off diseases. Growers can use the system by logging onto www.agroclimate.org/tools/strawberry or use the website to sign up for email or text alerts.

Before the system was developed, strawberry farmers traditionally sprayed weekly during the November-to-March growing season. Spraying more often than is needed wastes money and can lead to fungicide resistance, said Natalia Peres, associate professor in plant pathology, who led the system’s development.

Not all strawberry growers use the system, but this research might persuade them to do so, said Tatiana Borisova, an assistant professor in UF/IFAS food and resource economics department.

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UF/IFAS study finds simple solution to monitoring major berry pest

Topic(s): Crops, Economics, Pests, Research

Spotted wing drosophila trap in blueberry bushes1

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Using a yeast-sugar-water mixture, berry growers can easily keep tabs on a pest that causes millions in damage each year in the U.S., a new University of Florida study shows.

Farmers can conduct a test to determine if the spotted wing drosophila is in their field – and if so, how prevalent. They punch holes near the upper rim of a covered plastic cup and pour in a yeast-sugar-water mix to about 1 inch high in the cup.

The liquid mixture lures the pest, and growers add a drop of dishwashing liquid to thicken the bait and keep the bugs from escaping. Growers check the traps once a week to see how many bugs are in them. Knowing the pest population is the first step to controlling the bug, also known as the drosophila suzukii.

The female insect cuts a slit in the fruit’s skin and lays eggs there. The larvae consume strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and other thin-skinned fruit, said Oscar Liburd, a UF entomology and nematology professor.

“The drosophila suzukii is the biggest threat to berry production in the United States,” said Liburd, a faculty member at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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UF/FAS and Florida A&M announce innovative farmer awards

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Livestock

Gainesville, Fla. ─ The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and Florida A&M University’s Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Focus Team are pleased to announce the three winners of the Innovative Farmer Award for this year’s conference.

The Innovative Farmer Award recognizes farmers and ranchers who are innovative leaders and excel in making their farming systems more profitable over the long term, using farming practices that enhance natural resources, leading or participating in activities that support viable communities and providing outreach and/or education about sustainable agriculture ideas and practices to others.

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No browning, maybe less oil with Florida’s Elkton potato

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A new potato variety grown for use as a chip should be more marketable because it averts a process that causes the crop to brown, and may be less oily than current tubers, a University of Florida researcher says.

The Elkton potato does not succumb to internal heat necrosis, said Lincoln Zotarelli, a UF assistant horticultural sciences professor and faculty member at the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The disorder is caused by high temperature and changes to soil moisture and nutrients and leaves the potato brown inside.

UF/IFAS and U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists put Elkton potatoes through 19 trials, from 2003-2013, in Florida.  Numerous trials were also conducted in Maine, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Maryland and Pennsylvania. The trials tested Elkton’s adaptability to soils in the those states and showed the variety exhibits characteristics growers want, said Kathleen Haynes, a research geneticist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Maryland.

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Annual conference to teach farming, livestock, local foods, more

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

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – If you’re thinking of starting a small farm or want to know about the latest in local foods, organic and hydroponic production, livestock production, farmers markets and more, you might consider attending the Florida Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference.

Like last year, about 800 people are expected to attend the conference, Aug. 1-2, at Osceola Heritage Park, 1875 Silver Spur Lane in Kissimmee, said Jose Perez, small farms specialty crop statewide program coordinator and the event’s publicity chairman.

Now in its sixth year, the conference is presented by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and Florida A&M University.

Typically, those who attend include small family, transitional, beginning and experienced farmers; allied-industry representatives; educators; researchers; policy makers; small farm commodity associations; foundations and others dedicated to strengthening Florida’s small farm community.

Ed Skvarch, commercial horticulture extension agent in St. Lucie County, said those pondering farming can learn much of its business side at the conference.

“If you’re starting a small farm, I believe it is crucial to have passion, the technical knowledge on how to grow vegetables or raise livestock and a working plan on how to grow the business,” Skvarch said. “Most beginning farmers I work with have the passion and possess some knowledge of growing vegetables; however, what they lack is a plan on how to grow their business. All three are important.”

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Veteran UF/IFAS faculty member wins global biology award

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Conservation, Crops, Environment, IFAS

 Michael Kane award

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A 27-year University of Florida faculty member who recently received a global award for his life’s work in biology credits his colleagues and his students for his success.

Michael Kane, environmental horticulture professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences,was honored in May with the 2014 Society for In Vitro Biology Lifetime Achievement Award. The SIVB fosters information exchange of scientific research on the biology of cells, tissues and organs from both plants and animals.

“My mantra has always been: It’s all about the people,” said Kane, who specializes in micropropagation, the practice of rapidly multiplying stock plant material to produce offspring plants, using modern plant tissue culture methods. “If it wasn’t for several caring professor mentors, I wouldn’t have gone on in graduate school.”

The faculty member nugget could refer to many people, but in this case it pertains partly to Toshio Murashige, a now retired botany professor at the University of California-Riverside, who gave Kane keen advice while he was a young doctoral student at the University of Rhode Island.

Plenty of Kane’s students laud their mentor, years after studying under his tutelage. Ray Gillis, a former graduate student and now laboratory director at Oglesby Plants International, wrote a letter supporting Kane to win the SIVB award.

In some of his early work in the 1980s, Kane studied how tissue-cultured, native plant species could be useful for the ecosystem restoration of phosphate-mined lands, Gillis wrote. Later, he pioneered the development of micropropagation protocols of numerous wetland and dune species indigenous to the eastern United States.

“To his credit, just developing a lab protocol was not deemed sufficient,” Gillis wrote. “He and his graduate students have taken that material generated in the laboratory and conducted extensive field studies to prove that micropropagation research has real-world application.”

Kane’s latest projects, in collaboration with his students, include growing native wetland and coastal dune plants in the lab. Those sea oats are used to preserve dunes on the Florida coast. Some of the plants are also used to preserve wetlands.  He and his students also develop procedures to grow threatened and endangered native orchids.

Kane, who came to UF in 1985 as a postdoctoral researcher and eventually a faculty member, has won numerous accolades at UF and across the country. In 2009 alone, he won the IFAS Award of Excellence for Graduate Research: Best Master’s Thesis Major Adviser, University of Florida Blue Key Distinguished Faculty Award and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Excellence in College and University Teaching in the Food and Agricultural Sciences Award.

An SIVB member for 25 years, Kane accepts praise with a shrug.

“I didn’t even know I was nominated,” he said. Kane paraphrased the famous quote from the movie, “Wayne’s World,” saying, “‘I’m not worthy.’ Given the individual scientists who have received this honor in the past, I’m in rarefied air. My biggest pleasure is to see students and faculty become successful, to see the progress they’ve made.”

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

Source: Michael Kane, 273-4500, micropro@ufl.edu

Cutline: UF/IFAS environmental horticulture professor Michael Kane works in his lab. Kane was honored in May with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of In Vitro Biology. In Kane’s latest research, he and his staff and students are working on growing native wetland and coastal dune plants in the lab. Those sea oats are used to preserve dunes on the Florida coast. Some of the plants are also used to preserve wetlands. UF/IFAS file photo.

UF/IFAS study: Model may help growers mitigate costly droughts

Topic(s): Crops, Economics, New Technology, Weather

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida-created model may help growers plant at optimal times and avoid crop-destroying drought, which can cost millions of dollars in a given year, according to one of the tool’s creators.

If growers know when their crops need the most water, they can plant accordingly, said Keith Ingram, an associate scientist in UF’s agricultural and biological engineering department, part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Although forecasts indicate a drought’s likelihood, they aren’t perfect, Ingram said. But they can help a farmer decide whether to plant a crop earlier or later than usual so drought is less likely to occur when the crop is most sensitive to drought, Ingram said.

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UF/IFAS-tested treatment retains avocado taste, smell while keeping it fresh

Topic(s): Crops, Economics, Nutrition

Avocados growing on a tree.  Avocado fruit.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new liquid treatment may keep a Florida avocado hybrid fresh longer, a finding that could expand the avocado’s marketability, a University of Florida study shows.

Former UF doctoral student Marcio Eduardo Canto Pereira used ethylene as well as liquid and gaseous forms of 1-methylcycloprene on Booth 7 avocados, a combination of West Indian and Guatemalan varieties. Ethylene is a natural plant hormone produced by fruits and can be applied to speed the ripening process ─ as is done commonly with bananas and tomatoes ─ while 1-methylcycloprene slows the process.

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Perennial corn crops? It could happen with new plant-breeding tool developed at UF/IFAS  

Topic(s): Crops, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Since the first plant genome sequence was obtained for the plant Arabidopsis in 2000, scientists have gene-sequenced everything from cannabis to castor bean.

University of Florida scientists were part of a research team that this week unveiled a new tool that will help all plant scientists label (“annotate” in researcher parlance) genes far more quickly and accurately and is expected to give a big boost to traditional and nontraditional plant breeders.

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