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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Growers in Florida’s $100 million-a-year avocado industry could see a rise in the price of avocados in the short term due to a reduction in domestic production, because of the deadly Laurel Wilt pathogen, a new University of Florida study shows.
But any noticeable price increase probably wouldn’t last because increased imports from the Dominican Republic are likely to temper any price increases.
Edward Evans, a UF/IFAS associate professor in food and resource economics, is quick to note, however, that he conducted his study before the recent discovery of a medfly outbreak in the Dominican Republic. The outbreak led the U.S. Department of Agriculture to restrict imports of green-skin avocados from that country. This avocado is similar to the type produced in the Sunshine State.
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CITRA, Fla. — Stretching out in a North Central Florida field, under the scorching summer sun, lies row upon row of lush, green peanut plants – with more than 1,500 kinds growing at the University of Florida’s Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra. The crop is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s germplasm network to maintain and research different types of one of the world’s most popular and nutritional legumes.
“Nobody had done a side-by-side study of yield, grade, biochemical components and genetic background of these peanut varieties,” said Greg MacDonald, a weed scientist and agronomist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, who oversees the project. “We put together this study and we’re now able to determine those things for each plant line.”
On Thursday, more than 50 national and international peanut scientists and researchers will tour the fields and review the varieties to determine if there are any they would like to try in their areas. For instance, if someone from an African country only gets three months of rain, that grower would need a peanut plant that can survive and make a harvestable crop with a limited amount of rain. (more …)
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As the University of Florida prepares to embark on the 2015-16 academic year, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences offers several courses and majors that reflect how the institution adapts to industry and stakeholder needs.
The courses and majors aren’t brand new for this fall. They evolved during the past few years. But they reflect the growing menu of courses and majors offered to the more than 3,700 undergraduate students expected to enroll at UF CALS this fall.
Just to name a few of the relatively new majors and course offerings, UF CALS offers a major in marine sciences that leads to a bachelor’s degree, a new undergraduate certificate titled “Challenge 2050: Global Leadership and Change” from the Challenge 2050 Project and three new majors offered in the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department that were previously specializations under one major – Food Science and Human Nutrition.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida officials expressed thanks Monday for the $180,000 increase in the state budget that’s slated for the quarantine research facility at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce.
With the additional funding, scientists will be able to expand foreign exploration to identify new candidate biological control agents of Florida’s worst invasive plants and insects, and support intensified laboratory studies that are required to ensure agents are safe for release, said Bill Overholt, a UF/IFAS entomology professor who works at the quarantine facility.
With biological control such as one bug eating another, scientists and growers can use a sustainable, cost-effective solution to manage invasive plant and insect problems.
“The facility needs an increase in the amount of operating funds in order to reach its full potential,” said Mary Ann Gosa-Hooks, director of UF/IFAS Government Affairs. “We can do so much more, but with costs continuing to increase, while the facility continues to function on the same budget since 2004, activities are somewhat limited.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two UF/IFAS graduate students will advise a congressional committee as lawmakers question them about biotechnology and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Chris Barbey and Alejandra Abril Guevara, doctoral students in Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology, will head to Washington D.C. with UF/IFAS horticultural sciences Professor Kevin Folta to answer questions from the U.S. House Science Committee at a June 25 hearing. Folta said there is no set agenda for the discussions, but he expects the researchers to field many questions relating to the GMO regulatory processes, food labeling and product safety.
“It is great that this committee is consulting with scientists that understand the evidence, and hopefully evidence will help them devise new policy,” Folta said.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida scientists have discovered how much water castor needs in order to grow in North Florida, a key finding in their efforts to determine the feasibility of producing castor in Florida for the first time since 1972.
Castor, grown in Florida during World War II and currently being considered as a component for military jet fuel, contains the toxin ricin. So scientists next must develop a ricin-free cultivar, said Diane Rowland, a professor in agronomy and advisor for the lead author, graduate student David Campbell.
Scientists measure what’s known as “evapotranspiration” – or how much water leaves the plant and its surrounding soil – to get what’s called a “crop coefficient.” A crop coefficient tells scientists and growers the relative water use of the crop in comparison to what’s called a “standard crop evapotranspiration.” That standard comes often comes in the form of grass grown under optimal conditions. Florida growers can obtain site-specific standard evapotranspiration from the Florida Automated Weather Network, or FAWN (http://fawn.ifas.ufl.edu/).
“FAWN provides standard evapotranspiration data for more than 40 locations in the state of Florida already. Thus, one thing we need to provide to prospective castor growers is a crop coefficient for castor,” said Chaein Na, a postdoctoral scientist on the study. A grower can determine crop water use by multiplying the appropriate crop coefficient with the standard evapotranspiration to estimate daily, weekly, monthly or seasonal water requirements for the crop.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — First impressions are important. So much so that even armed with new information, many people won’t change their minds about genetically modified foods and global warming, a new University of Florida study shows.
In fact, some grow even more stubborn in their beliefs that GMOs are unsafe, said Brandon McFadden, an assistant professor in food and resource economics in the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
After they read scientific information stating that genetically modified foods are safe, 12 percent of the study’s participants said they felt such foods were less safe – not more, much to McFadden’s astonishment.
That’s partly because people form beliefs and often never let go of them, he said.
“This is critical and hopefully demonstrates that as a society we should be more flexible in our beliefs before collecting information from multiple sources,” McFadden said. “Also, this indicates that scientific findings about a societal risk likely have diminishing value over time.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Low-altitude aerial images can detect laurel wilt, a devastating avocado disease, giving growers an early way to identify diseased trees and perhaps help reduce losses to the $100 million-a-year economic impact avocados provide Florida.
Reza Ehsani, an associate professor in agricultural and biological engineering at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, used a multi-spectral camera that distinguishes between laurel wilt-affected trees and healthy ones.
Images taken with the camera from a helicopter have significant implications in the management of this important disease and for the commercial avocado industry in Florida. Ehsani said he expects the Federal Aviation Administration to open U.S. airspace for commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles, which could be equipped with such cameras, by 2017.
“Ultimately, we think that small UAVs, equipped with the right multi-band camera, can be used for scouting for this disease, which could potentially be very cost-effective,” Ehsani said. “The results of this study will enable growers or service companies that use UAVs to detect this disease at an early stage.”
MAITLAND, Fla. – The New Varieties Development & Management Corporation has scheduled statewide grower meetings for May to launch FAST TRACK’s third suite of UF/IFAS-developed experimental citrus selections.
This new suite features four seedless easy-peel mandarin selections: UFGlow, UFSunrise, UFDawn and 7-6-27.
In addition, the UFGlow, UFSunrise and UFDawn varieties are mess-free – meaning your hands remain dry — early maturing and cold tolerant. Variety 7-6-27 has generated greater interest than any previous UF mandarin release at UF’s Citrus Research and Education Center Fruit Display Days, both in-state and internationally, as a result of its very early season of maturity, excellent color and flavor, and a potentially higher degree of tolerance to citrus greening.
Interested commercial citrus growers should plan to attend one of the meetings. A presentation will explain details about the program and registration documentation will be distributed. Representatives from the UF/IFAS Plant Improvement Team and the Florida Foundation Seed Producers Inc. also will be present. Citrus Extension agents are encouraged to attend.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty have developed a new app for avocado growers that provides an irrigation schedule so users save an estimated 20 to 50 percent on the water they apply to their orchards.
“Weather changes daily, and the app takes into account these changes in the irrigation schedule it provides,” said Kati Migliaccio, an associate professor in agricultural and biological engineering at UF’s Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida.