University of Florida

UF/IFAS researchers get $2 million grant to study organic strawberry production

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Research


Strawberries.  UF/IFAS Photo by Marisol Amador.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences will address production constraints for organic strawberry producers, thanks to a new $2 million federal grant.

The grant comes from the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) program, which is administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The research focuses on strawberry production systems, rather than just one part of the production process, said Mickie Swisher, associate professor of sustainable agriculture in the UF/IFAS Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences.

“Controlling weeds is a significant cost for all strawberry producers, not just organic producers,” Swisher said. “The project examines the effectiveness of cover crops as a supplementary weed management technique, used in conjunction with plastic mulch.”

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Costa Farms to donate 200 orchids for Ag and Gardening Day at UF Homecoming

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Cultivars, IFAS
An assortment of flowers on display and for sale at the Downtown Farmer's Market in Gainesville, Florida. UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Costa Farms will donate 200 orchids for the University of Florida Agriculture and Gardening Day during the Homecoming football game on Nov. 7. UF Athletics and UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are hosting the event that revolves around the game between the Gators and the Vanderbilt Commodores, which kicks off at noon.

Costa Farms is a third-generation, family-owned group of companies headquartered in Miami, Florida. The company sprouted in 1961 when its founder, Jose Costa Sr., purchased 30 acres south of Miami to grow fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes in the winter and calamondin citrus in the summer. That soon morphed into houseplants, and the Costa Farms family started innovating and introduced new houseplants such as the canela tree and Cecilia Aglaonema.

The UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center, located in South Florida, supports the orchid industry by offering a full semester online course on orchid biology and culture, in addition to research conducted on orchid production and conservation using biotechnology.

Families who come for the festivities can enjoy tours of the community garden and bat house, plus games, giveaways and special gardens. And a lucky few will get a Costa Farm orchid.

UF/IFAS is the largest entity on campus, comprised of 18 schools and departments with about 5,400 students and 3,000 employees.  It is a federal-state-county partnership dedicated to developing knowledge in agriculture, human and natural resources, and the life sciences, and enhancing and sustaining the quality of human life by making that information accessible.


By: Beverly James, 352-273-3566, beverlymjames@ufl.edu


UF/IFAS can help with all your grass needs

Topic(s): Agriculture, Cultivars, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, RECs

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Are you interested in learning about new advances in nematode control?  Would you like to get a glimpse at the new turfgrass cultivars that are being developed?  The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has all your answers at its annual Central Florida Turfgrass Field Day, being held tomorrow at the Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra. (more …)

UF/IFAS scientists zero in on genetic traits for best blueberry taste

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Cultivars, Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Research

Blueberry bush.

James Olmstead.  Horticulture Sciences.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers have taken a big step toward breeding tastier blueberries with a three-year study that examined the traits consumers desire. Now they have specific breeding targets to improve flavor.

For a study published Sept. 17 in the online journal PLOS ONE, UF/IFAS Plant Innovation Center scientists harvested 19 cultivars of blueberries and tested them in 30 panels at the UF sensory lab. The diverse group of cultivars allowed researchers to test a wide range of blueberry flavors, said Jim Olmstead, UF/IFAS associate professor of horticultural sciences.

Of the 217 people who taste-tested the blueberries, many were repeat panelists, said Olmstead, who led the experiment. As a result of the high participation level, researchers were able to determine which biochemical compounds were most closely associated with blueberry flavor and that people liked the most.

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UF/IFAS researcher growing 1,500 types of peanuts as part of the USDA’s Genetic Resources Unit

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Cultivars, IFAS, Research
Greg MacDonald, a weed scientist and agronomist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, worked in Haiti this summer to help bring peanut research to local farmers.

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The germplasm peanut field at the University of Florida’s Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra. Photo UF/IFAS

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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 …)

UF/IFAS researchers to testify before Congress about GMOs

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Cultivars, Environment, IFAS, New Technology

Kevin Folta.  UF/IFAS File Photo.

Kevin Folta

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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UF/IFAS researcher using “precision breeding” to create disease-resistant grapes

Topic(s): Agriculture, Cultivars, IFAS, Research
UF/IFAS developmental biologist Dennis Gray looks at the progress of grapevines in a vineyard. Photo by UF/IFAS

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Apopka, Fla. — Powdery mildew and black rot are two scourges of grape growers, but University of Florida researcher Dennis Gray is developing disease-resistant grapes, using what he calls “precision breeding” to create these super varieties.

Gray, a developmental biologist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, has successfully bred Thompson Seedless, Seyval Blanc and Syrah that resist mildew and fungus. Those are just three of only 35 grape varieties that accounted for 66 percent of the world grape acreage in 2014, he said. (more …)

New citrus variety trial options for Florida growers

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Citrus, Crops, Cultivars, IFAS, Research

CITRUS VARIETIES - Gmitter's latest 051215CITRUS VARIETIES - UFSunrise 051115

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.

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UF/IFAS research, breeding showcased at Flavors of Florida

Topic(s): Announcements, Citrus, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, RECs, Research

UF/IFAS Flavors of Florida 2015

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Faculty from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences produce some of the nation’s tastiest fruits and vegetables.

Researchers at UF’s Plant Innovation Center breed new cultivars and conduct research to boost the taste, smell and appearance of Florida fruits, vegetables and foliage. But the PIC does much more, said UF environmental horticulture Professor David Clark.

“The big thing is this: No other university in the country can pull off what we’ve put together here, so we are novel,” Clark said. “We cover the whole supply chain, from the conception of an idea to the realization of a product.”

UF faculty, administrators and friends gathered Monday at the UF president’s house in Gainesville for Flavors of Florida 2015, a premier event showcasing the edible research products of the UF/IFAS Plant Innovation Center. Industry leaders, donors and guests savored the sensations of tasty tomatoes, flavor-filled fruits and other Sunshine State food and drinks while learning more about the impact that UF/IFAS makes for the agriculture industry. This is the second year the event has been held.

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3 blueberry, 3 coleus cultivars approved for release by UF/IFAS

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Cultivars, IFAS

Cultivar release FEBRUARY 2015 FL06-203_field cluster

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Three new cultivars each of blueberry and coleus have been approved for release by a University of Florida panel.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Cultivar Release Committee approved Avanti “FL 06-203,’ Arcadia ‘FL 07-399’ and Endura ‘FL 06-377’ – all blueberry cultivars.

Jim Olmstead, UF/IFAS assistant professor of horticultural sciences and a blueberry breeder, said the cultivars performed best in the central and southern part of Florida’s blueberry region, which includes Desoto, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Manatee, Orange, Pasco, Polk and Sarasota counties. Those areas currently produce more than 50 percent of the state’s blueberries.

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