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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Fifteen early career scientists at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Scientists have been awarded grants to help solve global issues such as thwarting invasive pests, improving crop varieties, battling citrus greening and preserving our environment.
The faculty members will receive about $50,000 each as part of UF’s Early Career Scientist Seed Fund program to help develop new faculty research, said Jackie Burns, UF/IFAS dean for research. UF/IFAS works with the UF vice president for research on the program.
“This year’s competition was highly competitive, with 25 early career scientists presenting excellent proposals,” Burns said. “After a rigorous review by a panel of UF/IFAS scientists, I am pleased to announce 15 awards. The research projects represented by these awards demonstrate the breadth of UF/IFAS research programs.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Thanks to a partnership of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and the Florida Peanut Producers Association, food pantries from Pensacola to Monticello will receive thousands of jars of donated peanut butter this December.
“The Peanut Butter Challenge not only raises awareness about the important contribution of north Florida’s peanut growers to the state peanut industry, but also helps provide a healthy, locally produced product to food-insecure families in northwest Florida,” said Libbie Johnson, agriculture agent for UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County and co-organizer of the Challenge.
Since 2012, the Peanut Butter Challenge has collected jars of peanut butter from residents, volunteer groups and businesses in 16 northwest Florida counties, Johnson said. This year, UF/IFAS Extension county offices received 3236 jars of peanut butter.
In addition to these donations, the Florida Peanut Producers Association also contributes, supplying more than 3000 jars each Challenge, Johnson said.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers and Extension agents are fanning across the state and the Southeast region to help growers and packers meet new federal food safety guidelines.
Driving across the state to packinghouses, farms and training centers, scientists such as Michelle Danyluk, Keith Schneider and Renee Goodrich are training growers in the latest regulations. “The state is massive, and we are not only tasked with helping Florida farmers meet new safety guidelines, but also are tasked with training educators in the Southeast so they can help growers in their states,” said Schneider, who with his colleagues is in the UF/IFAS department of food science and human nutrition.
Last fall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released several major rules that comprise the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The federal government has recognized the role of Extension specialists in training programs for key sections such as the Produce Safety Rule and the Preventive Controls for Human Foods Rule, Schneider said.
The University of Florida is one of two institutions that was awarded a $1.2 million grant by USDA in 2015 to help lead such training, Danyluk said. The Southern Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Center to Enhance Produce Safety at UF, led by Danyluk, is one of two regional programs that play a leading role in coordinating and implementing FSMA-related training, education, and outreach programs for small and medium-sized farms, beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, small processors, and/or small fresh fruit and vegetable merchant wholesalers.
Edward “Gilly” Evans
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Edward “Gilly” Evans, a longtime agricultural economist at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Tropical Research and Education Center, has been named interim director of the center as the unit is hiring seven new faculty members.
The new scientists include an agro-ecologist (a combination of agronomist and ecologist) who will study, among other things, how production systems can remain profitable while conserving natural resources and protecting the environment. Other TREC hires include one of two hydrologists, two crop breeders, and a plant stress physiologist. A biogeochemist and a hydrologist will be hired in the near future.
Evans credits recently retired TREC director Chris Waddill for laying the groundwork for the seven new faculty positions. Once the new faculty are on-board, Evans will be supervising 100 full-time center employees, which will include 17 faculty members.
“It’s an exciting time for us because this will mark the beginning of a new chapter in TREC’s history that will bring us to a new level of excellence,” said Evans, a professor in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department. “More and more, growers are looking to us to help with the many challenges they face, including increased foreign competition, a barrage of pests and diseases and climate change sea-level rises that threaten the quality and quantity of water resources in Florida. My emphasis over the coming year will be on completing the new hires and getting our scientists the help and tools they need to be more effective in doing their jobs.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Citrus grower James Shinn remembers days when he and his workers would rush out as early as 5 p.m. to turn water pumps on to irrigate his crops. “We had no idea when the temperature would drop, so we had to get out there early and get the water going.”
Now, researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are helping state growers save millions of dollars via a tool to gauge weather in agricultural areas.
The Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN), was started in 1998 to provide weather decision-making data in agricultural regions, said Rick Lusher, director of FAWN. While all National Weather Service tools are located at airports, FAWN stations are located in agricultural areas, he said.
“We estimate that if farmers use FAWN tools to determine when to irrigate their crops, they can save millions of dollars and millions of gallons of water,” Lusher said.
BUSHNELL, Fla. — Residents of Sumter County are gathering early today for a tour of the county’s agricultural offerings. Organizers hope participants will walk away with a deeper connection to their food and food sources.
The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Sumter County office is hosting a Farm-City Tour on Nov. 1. The tour includes a tour of the Bushnell Nursery, the John Graham Ranch, the Webster Livestock Auction and Farmer’s Market and the Florida Bass Conservation Center.
“Farm-City Week has been held since the 1950s as a way to bridge the gap between the producers and consumers,” said Joseph Stacy Strickland, UF/IFAS county Extension director for Sumter and Hernando counties. “Our agricultural enterprises are dependent on consumers and consumers are dependent on our agricultural products. We in the United States are blessed with an abundance of safe, healthy and affordable food.”
JAY, Fla. – Come November, 800 pre-qualified families in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties will line up to get free, healthy, locally-grown food for Thanksgiving dinner.
For the sixth year, the University of Florida IFAS West Florida Research and Education Center will join forces with Feeding the Gulf Coast to feed local families during National Farm to City Week, Nov. 21 to 25.
Farm to City Week is a national effort to increase the public’s knowledge and appreciation for agriculture. The week of Thanksgiving, meals will be distributed to 400 pre-qualified families in Santa Rosa County and 400 families in Escambia County.
“We are proud, as members of the community, to continue a tradition of feeding needy families for the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Wes Wood, center director of the UF/IFAS West Florida REC. “Plus, we get to include other students in harvesting the produce, which helps them learn about farming.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is sending an inter-departmental team of scientists to Cuba as part of a grant that is believed to be the first federally-funded project for scientific field research in Cuba.
The project’s principal investigator (PI), associate professor Damian Adams; project co-PIs assistant professor Jiri Hulcr and postdoctoral associates Paloma Carton de Grammont and José Soto, and other UF/IFAS research scientists and graduate students from the School of Forest Resources & Conservation, the Entomology and Nematology Department, the Food and Resource Economics Department, and the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering will travel to Cuba for this research, funded by a $228,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The project team is traveling to Cuba to fulfill several missions:
- Conduct research to identify wood-boring pest species in Cuba that could pose high-risk threats to U.S. agriculture and forests.
- Train Cuban scientists on state-of-the-art methods to accurately identify these wood-boring pests in Cuba in an effort to reduce the possibility of transmission of these pests to Florida agriculture and forests.
- Understand how Cuba’s plant protection programs and policies impact pest movement, particularly to the United States.
- Estimate the potential economic impact of a pest invasion from Cuba to the United States.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Growers, UF/IFAS Extension faculty and scientists will tackle production and pest problems – including the Q-biotype whitefly — when they gather for the 11th annual Florida Ag Expo on Nov. 2 at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center.
Created as a way to showcase the Gulf Coast REC, the Ag Expo is a one-stop resource for Florida fruit and vegetable producers. The day-long event includes education sessions, grower roundtables, field tours and demonstrations, as well as a large vendor show with about 80 ag-related booths. The Gulf Coast REC, part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, sits on 475 acres in Balm, Florida, southeast of Tampa.
“The expo has become an important show for growers to stay up to date on the latest research results to assist them in vegetable and small-fruit production,” said Jack Rechcigl, director of the Gulf Coast REC.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As Hurricane Matthew dumped water and wind on Florida’s east coast last week, it wasn’t long before several alligators were spotted roaming the parking lot at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Brevard County office. But alligators or no alligators, the two faculty members hunkered down in the facility weren’t about to leave their posts any time soon.
“We have a very large generator at the office that we needed to keep running during the storm in case people at the county facilities lost power and had to move to our facility,” said Linda Seals, director of UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County.
Seals’ staff weren’t the only ones hard at work helping residents and emergency personnel weather the storm. From housing evacuated livestock to manning the phones at local emergency operations centers, UF/IFAS Extension faculty across the state put in many long hours and a few sleepless nights keeping people safe and informed.
“We serve 20 million Floridians year-round in our day jobs, but in a crisis we work 24/7 to help those most in need” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “We demonstrated all weekend long how much we value our relationships. Our actions told our communities that this isn’t just a job to us. This was about helping friends, neighbors and community members.”