IFAS News

University of Florida

New method could quash squash pests

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

Dr. Oscar Liburd conducts research on the management of thrips in blueberries.

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida grows more zucchini squash than anywhere else in America – to the tune of $70 million a year. To help improve production, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are developing a method to keep squash pests at bay.

For a newly published study, Janine Spies, a post-doctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS entomology department, simultaneously planted buckwheat with squash and found the method kept pests away while retaining yields at current levels. Furthermore, she and her colleagues manipulated how they planted buckwheat and squash.

“Pests like whiteflies and aphids transmit viruses to squash and can significantly reduce yield, and the money we make on squash,” Spies said. “This is why it is important to reduce the number of whiteflies and aphids that land on squash and to prevent the transmission of viruses.”

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UF/IFAS-developed web tool saves money for strawberry growers in several states

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, New Technology, Pests, RECs, Research

Strawberry forecasting feature photos for the 2010 IFAS Annual Research Report.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A UF/IFAS-developed web tool – which has been shown to save Florida strawberry growers $1.7 million a year – is now being used in several other states, including Maryland, Georgia, South Carolina and California.

Florida’s strawberry crop is worth $300 million a year. It’s also important to the national economy. For example, in 2014, the United States produced 3 billion pounds of strawberries, valued at nearly $2.9 billion, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Florida ranks second to California in strawberry production.

While gaining a foothold in other states, the tool is getting more useful, thanks to work by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers. Scientists have found a promising model to simulate leaf wetness in plants of strawberries.

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UF/IFAS scientist digging into artichokes as alternative crop

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

Artichokes 071416

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While California grows 99 percent of the nation’s artichokes, the edible plant high in antioxidants might get a chance to grow in the Sunshine State, if a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher gets good results from his field trials.

Artichokes flourish in a cool environment, so a warm winter might present an obstacle for Florida growers. Artichokes generally require at least 250 cumulative hours below 50 degrees for bud formation. Therefore, flowering must be artificially induced to produce artichokes in Florida.

Shinsuke Agehara, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of horticultural sciences, thinks he can overcome those barriers. Based at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida, Agehara recently received a nearly $90,000 federal grant to study how to establish an artichoke system for Florida growers.

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UF/IFAS researcher: Taller, thinner crop beds save money, water, other resources

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Crops, Economics, Environment, IFAS, RECs, Research

Environmental portrait of Sanjay Shukla working with raised plant beds at the SWFREC on May 21, 2015.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Looking out over thousands of acres of tomatoes, Miguel Talavera, director of East Coast growing operations at Pacific Tomato Grower, Ltd., marvels at the narrow lanes of fruit that are thriving in the hot Florida sun. Talavera credits increase in yield and a decrease in the use of fumigants to a collaboration with researchers and Extension faculty at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Three years ago, Talavera began working with Sanjay Shukla, a professor in the agricultural and biological engineering department based at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, Florida. Shukla was researching what he calls “compact bed geometry,” which is used in plasticulture. Plasticulture – the use of plastic in agriculture – is used globally to produce high-value vegetable (e.g. tomato, pepper, eggplant) and some fruit crops.

The crops are grown on raised soils beds that are covered with plastic. The plastic mulch protects the crops from pests including weeds, provides a warmer soil environment and protects the fertilizer from being washed away, Shukla said. The end result is a high yield and consistent fruit quality, he said.

The plants are watered though plastic drip tubes which also carries fertilizer with them. Fumigants are mixed in the soil bed to protect the crop from disease, Shukla said. And, the wider the bed, the more the fumigant is needed, he added.

Instead of planting crops on beds that were normally 6 to 8 inches high and about 3 feet across, Shukla planted them 10 inches to a foot high and 1 ½ to 2 feet across. The crops were more narrow and higher.

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Q-biotype whitefly expands to 8 Florida counties

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

WHITEFLY 052516

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Q-biotype whitefly, a significant pest that could damage agriculture, has spread from Palm Beach to seven other Florida counties, according to a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher.

Crops that could eventually be affected include tomatoes, squash, beans, watermelons and many other vegetables and ornamentals, said Lance Osborne, an entomology professor at UF/IFAS.

The whitefly species has now been reported in homeowners’ yards and on plants in retail nurseries are destined to be planted in yards as far north as Duval County. It’s also in Broward, Highlands, Hillsborough, Martin, Pinellas and Seminole counties, Osborne said.

In April, the whitefly was found for the first time outside greenhouses and nurseries in Florida. Known scientifically as Bemisia tabaci, the Q-biotype or Mediterranean whitefly is a light-colored, tiny flying insect. This marks the first time the Q-biotype of Bemisia tabaci has been found outside a greenhouse or nursery in the United States since it was found on an ornamental plant in a greenhouse in 2004-2005, said Osborne.

Inspectors from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services are in the process of tracing the flies back to the wholesale nurseries that shipped the plants to the retail stores. From there, nurseries can work with UF/IFAS on appropriate management practices.

If homeowners suspect they have a Q-biotype whitefly in their yard, they should use soap and oils that are sold as insecticides or just call a professional exterminator.

Researchers with UF/IFAS are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service and FDACS to manage the whitefly. The following measures are recommended to control the spread of Q-biotype whitefly:

 

  • Homeowners who suspect they have a whitefly infestation should contact their UF/IFAS Extension county office. Office locations may be found at http://bit.ly/1Q8wguw.
  • For identification purposes, infested leaves and dead insect specimens should be brought to local Extension offices. Wrap in a dry paper towel and place in a seal-able plastic bag and then in an envelope. Freezing the specimen overnight before transport is highly recommended. Live insects should not be transported.
  • The collection information should be included with the sample. Date, location, what type of vegetation is affected, number of suspected whiteflies, and any information about whether a pesticide has been used on the plant, is helpful information to managing the pest.  For steps on how to submit a sample to FDACS DPI, visit http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Plant-Industry/Business-Services/Submit-a-Sample-for-Identification.
  • Because new populations have built up resistance to chemicals, it is recommended that suspected whitefly infestations be confirmed before chemically treating the insects, as it may be needless to spray pesticides.
  • Landscapers and pest control operators should inspect for signs of whitefly pests, communicate with neighboring properties and homeowners associations, employ good management and growing practices, and implement whitefly management guidelines available at http://mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/lso/bemisia/bemisia.htm.
  • Nurseries that suspect whitefly infestations should contact Cindy McKenzie at cindy.mckenzie@ars.usda.gov. She will only report positive finds to the county level. Growers will not be identified. Please also check out the UF/IFAS whitefly management program at http://mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/lso/bemisia/DOCUMENTS/WhiteflyManagementProgram_1-15-15.pdf).

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Caption: The Q-biotype whitefly, a significant pest that could damage agriculture, has spread from Palm Beach to seven other Florida counties, according to a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher. Crops that could eventually be affected include tomatoes, squash, beans, watermelons and many other vegetables and ornamentals, said Lance Osborne, an entomology professor at UF/IFAS.

Credit: UF/IFAS file.

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

Sources: Lance Osborne, 407-461-8329, lsosborn@ufl.edu

Adrian Hunsberger, 305-248-3311, aghu@ufl.edu

Fruit fly outbreak cost growers $4.1 million; could have been much worse

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Pests

Oriental Fruit Fly Damage 070516

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences economists estimate the Oriental fruit fly outbreak last year caused at least $4.1 million in direct crop damages in Miami-Dade County, but the damage could have been far worse, UF/IFAS researchers say.

In the new report, UF/IFAS researchers and the chief economist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, compiled three scenarios for crop losses: optimistic, mid-range and pessimistic. So, although the optimistic scenario reports direct crop damage at $4.1 million, the pessimistic one shows that the loss could have been $23 million.

Edward “Gilly” Evans, a UF/IFAS professor of food and resource economics, said the $4.1 million loss that he and his colleagues estimated was a conservative one and does not reflect the full economic impact on the economy due to the multiplier effect. In addition to these costs, approximately $1.5 million was spent by state and local agencies in a joint effort to control the outbreak.

The direct crop losses came as a result of the quarantine protocol and a potential non-planting response by growers in Miami-Dade County.

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UF/IFAS plans workshop to teach site preparation for herbicide usage

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Departments, Environment, Extension, IFAS, RECs

QUINCY, Fla.— University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension will host the Advanced Forest Site Prep Herbicide Workshop in Quincy, Florida to teach advanced techniques in herbicide applications.

The Advanced Forest Site Prep Herbicide Workshop is for natural resource managers who are responsible for site preparation decisions or implementation. The workshop will take place on July 13 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center.

This workshop will teach participants how to properly prepare a planting site for herbicide usage, review advanced technology in aerial application, different types of forestry surfactants and how herbicides work. There will also be a prescription process where experts will help participants diagnose a suitable herbicide program for the best vegetation management.

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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.

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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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