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IFAS News

University of Florida

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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UF/IFAS helps create genome database to aid fruit growers, scientists

Topic(s): Citrus, Crops, New Technology

GAINESVILLE, Fla. –Scientists and growers can use a new genome database developed in part by University of Florida researchers to help make fruit trees more disease- and pest-resistant and enhance crop quality.

Researchers who study citrus, rosaceae and vaccinium crops will be the primary users of the portal, said Mercy Olmstead, assistant professor of horticultural sciences at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, but agricultural producers will also reap the benefits.

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UF/IFAS finding could help farmers stop potato, tomato disease

Topic(s): Crops, Economics, Pests

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida scientist has pinpointed Mexico as the origin of the pathogen that caused the 1840s Irish Potato Famine, a finding that may help researchers solve the $6 billion-a-year disease that continues to evolve and torment potato and tomato growers around the world.

A disease called “late blight” killed most of Ireland’s potatoes, while today it costs Florida tomato farmers millions each year in lost yield, unmarketable crop and control expenses.

For more than a century, scientists thought the pathogen that caused late blight originated in Mexico. But a 2007 study contradicted earlier findings, concluding it came from the South American Andes.

UF plant pathology assistant professor Erica Goss wanted to clear up the confusion and after analyzing sequenced genes from four strains of the pathogen, found ancestral relationships among them that point to Mexico as the origin.

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UF/IFAS study: Some consumers confuse ‘local’ with ‘organic’ food

Topic(s): Conservation, Crops, Economics, Environment, Food Safety, Nutrition

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With more people buying local and organic food, consumers should know the difference between the two so they recognize what they’re buying, but nearly one in five still confuse the terms, a University of Florida researcher says.

Newly published research, done in partnership with three other universities, aims to help local and organic food producers and sellers target their marketing messages to reinforce or dispel consumers’ perceptions. The organic-food industry has spent millions of dollars building brand awareness, only to see some consumers confuse “organic” food with “local” food products, said Ben Campbell, a University of Connecticut extension economist and the study’s lead author.

Hayk Khachatryan, a UF food and resource economics assistant professor, worked with Campbell and others to survey 2,511 people online in the U.S. and Canada in 2011 and found 17 percent thought the terms were interchangeable, the study said.

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Growers play vital role in UF/IFAS organic strawberry study

Topic(s): Crops, Cultivars, Economics, IFAS, Pests

Strawberries.  UF/IFAS Photo by Marisol Amador.

This UF/IFAS file photo shows Florida-grown strawberries.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – After the first year of a University of Florida study to try to develop new organic strawberry production systems, growers are playing a critical role in setting priorities for the research project’s future.

The study stemmed from several issues strawberry growers face. Rising costs of production and increased imports of strawberries threaten the sustainability of the Florida strawberry industry, one of two major production regions in the nation. Demand for organic strawberries is growing and brings a price premium for growers who can master the art and science of organic strawberry production.

Organic and conventional growers assessed parts of the first year of research, said Mickie Swisher, associate professor of sustainable agriculture in UF’s Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences and a member of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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UF/IFAS researchers start to pinpoint biological control for Brazilian peppertree

Topic(s): Biocontrols, Crops, Entomology and Nematology, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests

 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A South American insect could help control the invasive Brazilian peppertree in places where it supplants critical habitat for many organisms, according to University of Florida and U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists.

Brazilian peppertree has clusters of hundreds of small, red berries, and grows about 10 feet per year, to about 30 feet. It is native to Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. The tree has moved around the world as an ornamental plant and has become invasive in several states and countries, including Florida, Texas and Hawaii as well as Australia, New Zealand and some Caribbean islands.

In Florida, Brazilian peppertree has infested nearly 700,000 acres in the central and southern regions. It has been particularly abundant in the Everglades. In general, the trees take over space where native plants should be. Animals such as white-tailed deer, the Florida panther and migratory birds that depend on native vegetation, such as mangrove, for food and shelter are deprived of that habitat.

“This can have cascading effects through the food chain,” said Bill Overholt, an entomology professor at UF’s Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce.

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UF’s Unmanned Aviation Systems featured at the 2014 SUN ’n FUN International Fly-In & Expo

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Environment, IFAS, New Technology, Research
The University of Florida's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research Program team launches its aircraft. It is used for recording imagery of natural resources-based subjects, including bird rookeries, alligator nests, manatee gatherings, crops, infrastructure and habitats.

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LAKELAND, Fla. – While most people think of unmanned aircraft solely as military drones, a group University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers know from more than a decade of experience that the small aircraft are used to further science and engineering.

Thanks to an invitation from the Federal Aviation Administration, the University of Florida’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research Program will be at this week’s 40th annual SUN ’n FUN Fly-In in Lakeland, the nation’s second-largest airshow, to discuss the UF program, its history, and its interdisciplinary design and research, (more …)

International food security expert to speak at UF

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Economics, IFAS
Oxford University Professor Charles Godfray is speaking at the University of Florida on Friday, April 4, as part of the Florida Climate Institute’s Distinguished Scholar Seminar.

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GAINESVILLE – Oxford University Professor Charles Godfray, one of the most influential scientists involved in research and outreach on global food security, is speaking at the University of Florida on Friday, April 4, as part of the Florida Climate Institute’s Distinguished Scholar Seminar.

Godfray is Professorial Fellow in Zoology at Oxford University’s Jesus College, with interests in environmental sciences, and has published articles on ecology, evolution and epidemiology. He is interested in how the global food system will change and adapt to the challenges facing humanity in the 21st century. He is focused on the concept of “sustainable intensification” and the relationship between food production, ecosystem services and biodiversity. (more …)

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