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.
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, 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 …)
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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 …)
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.
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.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers will work to improve avocado production, develop turfgrass with improved drought responses and combat a bacterial disease riddling tomatoes, working with $11 million in recently awarded federal grants.
The grants were announced Oct. 5 by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Randy Ploetz, a plant pathology professor at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida, will use $3.4 million to study how to stem the impact of laurel wilt on avocados. Kevin Kenworthy, an associate professor of agronomy, received $4.4 million to study drought resistance in certain turf grasses, and Gary Vallad, an associate professor of plant pathology at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida, will use $3.4 million to improve the management of a bacterial disease that plagues tomato production.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — You can take the “interim” off of Sandra Wilson’s title. She’s now chair of the UF/IFAS Department of Environmental Horticulture.
Named interim chair in November 2014, Wilson was named to the permanent position in September by Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
“Dr. Wilson was a natural choice to lead our Environmental Horticulture Department,” Payne said. “Combine her outstanding teaching and research record, the leadership she has shown and the fact that the faculty support her, and we knew right away Dr. Wilson would lead the department to unparalleled heights.”
Wilson came to Gainesville after 15 years as an environmental horticulture faculty member at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The UF/IFAS Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Extension Team will present the Mid-Florida Specialty Crops Conference from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Nov. 6 at the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka.
This marks the second of a series of new regional events created by a team of UF/IFAS Extension agents.
“Participants will walk away with knowledge of how to establish, manage and market fruits and vegetables in Central Florida,” said Orange County Extension Director Richard Tyson, one of the event’s organizers. “They will also obtain a better understanding of local food systems.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Asian guava orchards can bring nine times the profit as mango and avocado, all staples of South Florida’s agricultural sector, a new University of Florida study shows.
But Edward “Gilly” Evans, a UF/IFAS associate professor of food and resource economics, cautioned that guava is a niche market that can easily be oversupplied.
“The fruit is not mainstream, so if everyone were to rush out and start producing it, prices would tumble,” said Evans, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida. “It also involves a lot of work as each fruit has to be netted and bagged to avoid fruit fly damage or blemishes.”
Evans also said: “The main consumers are Asian, in northern cities such as New York and Chicago. The fruit is not as popular elsewhere, even though it is very nutritious and has a lot of health benefits.”
Guava contains several vitamins, including A, B2, C and E, along with calcium, copper, folate, iron, manganese, phosphorus and potassium, he said.
Evans led a study of costs and returns on a 5-acre guava orchard in Miami-Dade County. To get their cost and revenue figures, he and intern Stella Garcia interviewed farmers and Extension agents. Then they put the numbers through several economic calculations.