IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS officials credit teamwork for victory over invasive Oriental fruit fly; end of quarantine means return to business as usual for Miami-Dade County growers

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Female Oriental fruit fly. Click on image for high-res version. Cutline at bottom.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The lifting of an agricultural quarantine in Miami-Dade County on Feb. 13 signaled victory over the invasive Oriental fruit fly and a return to business as usual for growers within a 99 square-mile area that includes vegetable farms, nurseries, packing houses, residential neighborhoods and much of the state’s commercial tropical fruit acreage.

Officials with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences credit the success story to determination and teamwork by a partnership of growers, landscapers, homeowners, government officials and agency personnel, and UF/IFAS Extension faculty.

“Our personnel played a vital role in bringing the quarantine to a quick ending, by facilitating clear communication between producers and agency personnel,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “The good guys won, and we’re proud that we helped make it happen.”

Numerous UF/IFAS Extension faculty took part in a statewide effort known as the Oriental Fruit Fly Eradication Program, or OFF Program, he said. Funded and overseen by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the OFF Program also included representatives of the FDACS Division of Plant Industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection — Plant Protection Quarantine, the Miami-Dade County Agricultural Manager’s office, Miami-Dade County officials and growers’ organizations.

“Our faculty helped growers and regulators understand each other’s point of view,” Payne said. “Both sides were very motivated and once they recognized the need for cooperation, it wasn’t difficult to build consensus on a science-based plan to eradicate the fly.” Continue reading

National Strawberry Day: Time to Recognize UF/IFAS Breeding Program

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

Strawberry economics 111015 - vance whitaker

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As National Strawberry Day approaches on Feb. 27, you can bite into a Florida strawberry, and you might taste the tang of the fruits bred through the combined efforts of University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.

Vance Whitaker, a UF/IFAS associate professor of horticultural sciences, continues his quest to breed the latest and greatest strawberry cultivar. But like all UF/IFAS scientists, Whitaker knows it takes a team to breed cultivars.

Among those who regularly help him, Whitaker credits Natalia Peres, a UF/IFAS associate professor of plant pathology, and Charles Sims, a professor of food science and human nutrition, with helping him breed better strawberries. Whitaker works with Peres to screen advanced breeding selections for disease resistance.

Sims conducts taste panels from his Gainesville lab, and the results give Whitaker tools to produce strawberries with the qualities consumers desire most – taste, smell and fruit appearance and texture.

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Florida farmers adapting to UF/IFAS web-based tool to ward off strawberry diseases

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

 

Natalia Peres.  Associate Professor, PhD. Plant Pathology.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Farmers  are adapting to a UF/IFAS-developed, web-based monitoring system that can help the environment by using less chemical treatment to prevent strawberry diseases, which will help the state’s $306 million a year crop, a new UF/IFAS study shows.

The web-based tool, known as the Strawberry Advisory System (SAS), uses data such as temperature and leaf wetness to tell growers when to spray fungicide to ward off diseases.

“Overall, the results show evidence of potential economic gains from switching from calendar to certain SAS-based options,” said post-doctoral researcher Theodoros Skevas, who led the study.

Most strawberry growers treat for fungi every week. Natalia Peres, a UF/IFAS associate professor of plant pathology, helped develop the SAS in 2012 to give producers more precise times to chemically prevent two potentially deadly fungi. The SAS has two models, one to help farmers control Botrytis and the other to prevent anthracnose – two fungi that make the fruit rot.

For a new study published in the journal Crop Protection, the team of University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers examined the economic effects of traditional, calendar-based chemical treatments of strawberries and compared them to variations of the SAS, using different chemicals.

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Reeling from citrus greening, UF/IFAS researchers support new olive industry in Florida

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

Extension

DELEON SPRINGS, Fla. – Richard Williams unfurls his long, sturdy frame from a tractor and begins a stroll through 20 acres of olive groves at his farm in Volusia County, Florida. His in-laws, the Ford/Veech family, has spent six generations farming in Florida, and has a more than 50-year-old citrus grove.

Williams checks the leaf structure to see which of the 11,160 olive trees are giving fruit. He has a lot riding on the Florida Olive Systems, Inc., project that is being funded by the Ford/Veech family.

“Planting olives is not for the faint of heart by any stretch of the imagination. This is so new that we are learning every day,” said Williams, whose wife Lisa helps run Florida Olive Systems, Inc. “But it’s a new opportunity to reinvent ourselves after catastrophic losses to citrus greening.”

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UF/IFAS researchers find shallow flooding reduces a major rice pest

Topic(s): Agriculture, Aquaculture, Crops, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

rice plants

BELLE GLADE, Fla. — University of Florida scientists at the Everglades Research and Education Center have found an important way to control the destructive rice water weevil, one of the major pests in rice production.

UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher Ron Cherry and his team discovered that shallow flooding of rice fields can help reduce rice water weevil populations during Florida’s growing season, between April and September. Previous studies of the effect of flood depth on the pest have been inconsistent. (more …)

Davis appointed associate dean for UF/IFAS research

Topic(s): Agriculture, Aquaculture, Citrus, Crops

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — John Davis, professor and associate director of the School of Forest Resources and Conservation in the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has been named associate dean for UF/IFAS research.

“Dr. Davis is an excellent researcher and teacher, and knows UF/IFAS very well. He has assisted this office for many years in a variety of roles, and understands how to support faculty in this important position,” said Jackie Burns, dean for UF/IFAS research. “We are thrilled to have Dr. Davis join our team.”

Davis earned his Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Genetics / Forestry from Michigan State University in 1989, and joined UF/IFAS after a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington. He now specializes in genomics of ecologically important species and their interactions, with a majority research appointment in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation in UF/IFAS.

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Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame adds 4 new inductees on Feb. 9

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Extension, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Livestock

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame is honoring four new inductees in Tampa on Feb. 9 who have ties to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame honors men and women who have made lasting contributions to agriculture in this state and to the mentoring of youth, who represent the future of agriculture in Florida. All four inductees have played major and vital roles in mentoring young people through Extension, 4-H, at UF or on their ranch. The 2016 Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame inductees are: (more …)

UF/IFAS study shows 10-day weather forecasts can increase farmers’ profits

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

Citra farm, University of Florida/IFAS Research and Education Center, wheat, tilling soil, disking, tractor, field. UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new University of Florida-led study shows how Australian wheat farmers can use hypothetical 10-day weather forecasts to increase their annual profits by hundreds of thousands of dollars, a finding that can be applied to other parts of the globe.

Scientists now want to know how a real – meaning, imperfect – 10-day weather forecast will affect farmers’ decisions on when to plant and fertilize, said Senthold Asseng, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. They may apply their new findings on a fresh study that would predict crop yield based on 10-day forecasts in the United States.

“U.S. farmers make decisions based on anticipated growing conditions, including rainfall and temperature,” said Asseng, who led the study. “So I think it would be very useful to develop a project with farmers to explore if they could make more money or be more sustainable when considering a short-term forecast in their decision making. If so, real forecasts need to be analyzed and combined with farmers’ decisions.”

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UF/IFAS study: Mite might control pest that attacks Florida’s $125 million-a-year cucumber crop

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

IFAS Extention faculty are working to increase food safety. By following food safety guidelines, farmers and packing facilities are improving their processes, but consumers must be aware of how to select, store and serve fresh produce in order to minimize their risk of contracting food-borne illnesses. UF/IFAS Photo: Thomas Wright.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A predatory mite might feed on a pest of cucumbers, a $125 million-a-year crop in Florida, newly published University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences research shows.

This finding may help growers protect the environment because they could reduce pesticides to keep the pest – known as thrips — at bay. Growers may also save money because they may cut chemical use on their crop. In fact, because this thrips preys on many vegetable crops, the finding could save millions of dollars in pesticide use.

Armed with new data, it’s important for growers to use the mite to mitigate the pest, UF/IFAS researchers said.

“It will take some time for growers to be trained to use biological control agents in the field for maximum benefits,” said Garima Kakkar, who spearheaded the study as part of her master’s thesis when she was a graduate student at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida.

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UF/IFAS hosting Florida Agricultural Policy Outlook Conference in January

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

A man checks fertilizer levels on a tractor on a farm. Farm equipment, fertilization, agriculture, food crops. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

APOPKA, Fla. — Florida agriculture and food industries are among the largest economic contributors in the state. Agricultural producers manage 9.5 million acres, growing more than 300 commodities, including everything from citrus and cows to peanuts and potatoes. Agricultural products are shipped to national and international markets.

On January 28, some of the state’s top agriculture thinkers will gather at the University of Florida’s Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka for the Florida Agricultural Policy Outlook Conference scheduled for 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.  Cost is $50 and includes a catered lunch. The event is organized by the UF Food and Resource Economics Department, under the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. (more …)

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