AUGUSTINE, Fla. — On Oct. 1, about 1,000 people are expected to attend the ninth annual Datil Pepper Cook Off to celebrate the iconic pepper. The Datil Pepper Cook off, as part of the Datil Pepper Fall Festival, is hosted by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension St. Johns County in St. Augustine, Florida.
Attendees will sample an array of datil-themed fare prepared by local restaurants, and experience cook-offs and tasting contests. Those making the journey to this foodie hot-spot should keep in mind that the datil adds more than just a “kick” to a dish, said Joanne Cooper, family and consumer science agent with UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County and cook off festival organizer.
“The datil is as hot or hotter than the habanero pepper,” Cooper said. “During our hot sauce competition, which usually has about 50 entries, there is a lot of milk and bread on hand for the judges.”
Tatiana Borisova and Edward “Gilly” Evans
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty in the food and resource economics department have each been selected for UF/IFAS Extension Professional and Enhancement awards. These awards highlight exceptional UF/IFAS Extension programming, and earn faculty additional funding and program support.
Tatiana Borisova, associate professor and Extension specialist, has been selected for the Wells Fargo Extension Professional Award and Program Enhancement Grant, which recognizes a proposed educational program that responds to a public policy issue.
Borisova, who specializes in water economics and policy, is interested in educating Floridians about water resource management.
“In recent years, changes to water resource laws and regulations have rapidly accelerated in Florida and the U.S.,” said Borisova. “Meanwhile, public knowledge of water laws and regulations is limited. Public participation is vital for development and implementation of water resource management programs.”
BELLE GLADE, Fla. — Want to teach your students the good, the bad and the ugly about plants while incorporating three different sciences? Researchers at the UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center will lead the second annual workshop, “Don’t Get Caught with Your Plants Down,” from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 27.
The free workshop will be held at UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center, 3200 East Canal Street, Belle Glade, Florida. Breakfast and lunch will be provided, and in-service points for professional development will be awarded by school districts through Master Inservice Plans (MIP).
This year’s program, developed by the UF/IFAS department of plant pathology, uses resources available from the American Phytopathological Society, said Richard Raid, a professor of plant pathology and workshop organizer. Middle and high school teachers will take back vital information to students on the importance of plants in daily life, he said.
Florida is home to the most invasive species in the country, and many travel in to the state via plants, Raid explained.
LIVE OAK, Fla. — During most of this last year, Suwannee County farmer Sammy Starling never had to guess when he did—or didn’t—need to water his corn. With a new smart-agriculture technology, he could access soil moisture readings right from his phone, with updates every three hours.
This information helped Starling determine when to turn on the irrigation system and when to skip a cycle. “It’s a window to the underground world,” he said.
Thanks to a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension experimental trial, Starling was one of three farmers in the Suwannee River Valley who got the chance to test drive this water-saving technology.
By showing farmers how to use and benefit from these sensors, the trial encouraged producers to adopt best management practices (BMPs) set out by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said Patrick Troy, regional specialized agent in row crops who has spearheaded the initiative.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are closer to helping producers better meet global food demand, now that they’ve combined simulation and statistical methods to help them predict how temperature affects wheat crops worldwide.
A global team of scientists, led by those at UF/IFAS, used two different simulation methods and one statistical method to predict the impact of rising temperatures on global wheat production, and all came to similar estimates.
This finding, published in a study in the journal Nature Climate Change, is critical in predicting how much wheat and other crops we’ll need to feed the world, said Senthold Asseng, a UF/IFAS professor of agricultural and biological engineering and leader of this study.
Scott Walker working with a soil moisture sensor at the peanut farm.
Who: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Escambia County will host an Irrigation and Crop Management Field Day on Sept. 13.
What: Farmers interested in irrigation systems, crop consultants, and representatives from educational and government agencies are invited to participate.
Attendees will learn how soil moisture sensors and UF/IFAS-developed mobile apps can help farmers irrigate crops more precisely and efficiently. Soil moisture sensors are in-ground devices that detect how much water is in the soil and alert the user to real-time watering needs.
When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 13
Where: Sam and Scott Walker’s Farm
Intersection of Highway 99 and Melvin Road,
Oak Grove, FL 32568
The farm is located about ¾ miles south of Oak Grove Baptist Church, 2600 North Highway 99, McDavid, FL 32568
Contact: Libbie Johnson, 850-475-5230, email@example.com
Mike Mulvaney, 850-382-5221, firstname.lastname@example.org
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Hops research by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers is gaining national scientific recognition in addition to media attention.
Three UF/IFAS scientists are not only trying to see if hops will grow in Florida’s hot, humid climate, but they also want to know whether they can quench the thirst of the fast-growing micro-brewing industry.
Brian Pearson, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of environmental horticulture, is one of three members of the hops research team. Pearson’s research to date won him third place in the Early Career Award for scientists at the American Society of Horticultural Sciences (ASHS) in early August. The Early Career Competition is for new faculty and professionals to share their discoveries to a peer audience.
“This is just the beginning of our alternative and specialty crop research,” said Pearson, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka, Florida. “Working with hops, fennel, safflower and skullcap, we hope to bring an array of viable, high-value alternative crops to Florida growers.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are working to find a cure or develop resistant varieties for a virus that is attacking sugarcane and sorghum throughout the Everglades agricultural region. Florida produces more than 50 percent of all sugarcane in the United States, making it the largest producer in the nation.
The sugarcane yellow leaf virus was first identified in Hawaii during the 1980s. The virus was found in Florida in 1993, said Philippe Rott, a professor of plant pathology at the UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade, Florida. Symptoms include a yellow stripe down the middle of sugarcane leaves, he said.
“The virus travels down the vascular bundle of the plant and interferes with the movement of nutrients,” Rott said. “This, in turn, stunts the growth of the plant.”
The virus is carried by an aphid, a tiny bug that feeds by sucking sap from plants, said Gregg Nuessly, director of UF/IFAS Everglades REC and a professor of entomology. Nuessly’s and Rott’s research has identified the carrier of the virus, and trials are in progress to see if insecticides are effective at killing the aphid.
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HASTINGS, Fla. — Back in the 1920s, Danny Johns’ great grandfather was the first farmer in the Hastings area to use a tractor instead of a mule. Now, in a region known for producing potatoes for the potato chip industry, Johns, like his ancestor, isn’t afraid of trying something new.
As of this year, Johns is one of a few commercial farmers in Florida who are growing sweet potatoes, a crop not produced in the state since the sweet potato weevil devastated much of the Florida industry for the commercial, orange sweet type in the 1980s. Now, with the help of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, growers like Johns have the opportunity to diversify their business with this reemerging crop.
In Florida, potatoes grown for the potato chip industry, or “chipping” potatoes, are planted in January or February and harvested in May or June, said Scott Chambers, farm supervisor at the UF/IFAS Hastings Agricultural Extension Center. Table stock potatoes, potatoes sold fresh, are also planted and harvested at these times.
LIVE OAK, Fla. — Robert Hochmuth remembers about 30 years ago when researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Suwanee Valley Agricultural Extension Center showed watermelon growers how to use transplants instead of direct seeding. UF/IFAS Extension agents encouraged growers to use plastic mulch instead of bare ground planting, and to switch from overhead to drip irrigation.
“We wanted to help them adopt best management practices that would decrease the use of water, fertilizer and fuel,” said Hochmuth, UF/IFAS Extension center director and regional specialized agent. “In the end, they have not only seen their crop yields increase, but have also helped the environment and reduced the use of resources.”
Over the past 30 years, virtually all Suwannee Valley watermelon growers—about 40—have reduced the use of water, fuel and fertilizer, and improved efficiency by switching to best management practices introduced by UF/IFAS Extension agents, Hochmuth said.
“Nearly one-third of all Florida watermelons are grown in the Suwannee Valley,” said Kevin Athearn, regional specialized agent and co-leader of the watermelon industry study. “So, we wanted to help growers improve the way they grow produce and increase their market share. While most growers started experimenting with plastic much during the 1990s, all had fully transitioned by 2000.”
The results have been astounding.
Growers who participated in a 2016 UF/IFAS survey reported a 50 percent to 80 percent reduction in water use per acre, with the average being 67 percent, Hochmuth said. The growers are saving as much in fuel costs, and 15 percent to 30 percent reduction in applied nitrogen, he said.