IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS scientists: Commercially grown strawberries are not genetically engineered

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Cultivars, Extension, IFAS, RECs

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BALM, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers want the public to know that they do not use genetic engineering to breed commercial strawberries; in fact, commercially grown strawberries worldwide do not use such techniques in new variety production at this time.

A UF/IFAS strawberry breeder says he’s often asked whether the fruit is genetically engineered, or as some put it, “genetically modified.”

“In recent years I have been frequently contacted by the public with questions about genetic engineering, and Florida strawberry growers have frequently reached out to me to help answer questions they have received from the public as well,” said Vance Whitaker, a UF/IFAS associate professor of horticultural sciences and a strawberry breeder.

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UF/IFAS early career scientists to use grants to study greening, pests, environmental issues, more

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Citrus, Conservation, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Nutrition, Pests, RECs, Research, Soil and Water Science

Front- John Bonkowski lab assistant, Anne Vitoreli Laboratory manager

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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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Consumers to choose from more than 100 varieties at annual UF/IFAS poinsettia sale

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Cultivars, Families and Consumers, IFAS

2012 Horticulture Club's Poinsettia Show and Sale on Thursday, December 6th.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When people shop at this year’s 20th annual poinsettia sale at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, they may be surprised that not all poinsettias are red.

The sale, held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 8 and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 9, takes place at the greenhouses behind Fifield Hall, 2550 Hull Road, Gainesville, Florida, on the UF campus. For more information on this year’s UF/IFAS poinsettia sale, click here.

Traditionally, consumers prefer red poinsettias, said Jim Barrett, a UF/IFAS professor emeritus of environmental horticulture who still plays a large role in UF/IFAS poinsettia trials. But as a result of breeding, the bright red poinsettia is now available in burgundy, pink, peach, white, yellow and marbled colors.

In fact, this year, a new, popular poinsettia is the ‘Love You Pink,’ Barrett said. “It’s not a traditional Christmas red,” Barrett said. “But it’s so popular, you’ll find it in retail outlets this year.”

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Veteran UF/IFAS economist named interim director of UF/IFAS Tropical REC

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Extension, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

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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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Florida Ag Expo to highlight emerging crops, ways to battle new pests

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Cultivars, Extension, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

Gary Vallad speaking at the 2015 Florida Agricultural Expo at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida.  Photo taken 11-04-15

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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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UF/IFAS study: Sweet Sensation® ‘Florida127’ strawberry lives up to its name

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Growers in Florida’s $300 million-a-year strawberry industry now have proof that the latest UF/IFAS-bred variety lasts longer on the shelf and tastes sweeter than two UF/IFAS cultivars, making it more attractive to faraway markets.

“These two attributes together make for a clear step up in eating quality for the consumer,” said Vance Whitaker, an associate professor of horticultural sciences and strawberry breeder at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida.

In a newly published study, scientists studied traits for Sweet Sensation® ‘Florida127,’ which was released commercially in the 2014-2015 growing season. Researchers compared them to those of ‘Florida Radiance’ and ‘Strawberry Festival,’ two other UF/IFAS-bred varieties.

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UF/IFAS scientists zero in on better mandarin traits

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

Dr. Fred Gmitter examining citrus trees in a greenhouse at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.  Photo taken 03/08/16.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In their quest to develop higher quality mandarins, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are zeroing in on the traits that will help them breed the best fruit.

Last year, they released the mandarin cultivar currently known as ‘7-6-27,’ which UF/IFAS researchers say is soaring with interest, and with more than 100,000 trees already ordered.

In a newly published study, Fred Gmitter, a UF/IFAS horticultural sciences professor, and his colleagues, including doctoral student Yuan Yu, found genetic markers for fruit quality traits that will be useful in future cultivar-breeding efforts.

Scientists wanted to know whether, for example, genetic markers – or “signposts,” as Gmitter calls them — for qualitative and quantitative traits in one group of mandarins lined up with these traits in other mandarins. Qualitative traits would be such things as peel or flesh color, while quantitative traits would include weight, size or shape.

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UF/IFAS scientists find top 10 muscadine grape varieties for health, taste, smell

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — You may eventually tempt your palette with more muscadine grape varieties, and they’ll be good for you, with new findings from University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.

Muscadine grapes are known for their health benefits and other nutritive values – even for potential preventive measures against cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The fruits are rich in antioxidants such as a ellagic acid and resveratrol.

Although scientists have done much research extracting and identifying these health benefits, the studies have looked at few commercial varieties. The new UF/IFAS study examined those benefits in 58 of the approximately 100 muscadine grape varieties.

UF/IFAS scientists, led by former post-doctoral researcher Changmou Xu, put the muscadine varieties through various tests over two growing seasons to see which ones passed muster for health, taste and smell genes.

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UF/IFAS research findings could eventually save $30 million annually for strawberry growers

Topic(s): Agriculture, Cultivars, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Strawberry growers may eventually save $30 million a year with genetic findings from a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study.

UF/IFAS researchers are looking for ways to thwart angular leaf spot, a pathogen that can destroy up to 10 percent of Florida’s $300 million-a-year strawberry crop in years with multiple freezes.

In the research, Vance Whitaker, a UF/IFAS associate professor of horticultural sciences, and a team of researchers found genetic markers they believe can lead them to develop strawberry cultivars that are more resistant to angular leaf spot. Genetic markers are short sequences of DNA used to identify a chromosome or nearby genes in a genetic map.

In two years of field trials, researchers at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center – along with colleagues from Oregon, The Netherlands and Canada – found places in strawberry genes that show promise for developing cultivars that are resistant to this disease.

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UF/IFAS study: Sweet potato crop shows promise as feed and fuel

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biofuels, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Livestock, Research, Soil and Water Science

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As some Florida growers try to find new crops and the demand for biofuel stock increases globally, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers have found that sweet potato vines, usually thrown out during harvest, can serve well as livestock feed while the roots are an ideal source for biofuel.

This could be a key finding for the agriculture industry in Florida and to biofuel needs worldwide, said post-doctoral researcher Wendy Mussoline.

“The agriculture industry in Florida is looking to find new, viable crops to replace the citrus groves that have been diminished by the greening disease,” Mussoline said. “Potato farmers are also trying to find new crops that offer both biofuel alternatives as well as food and/or animal feed opportunities. They are conducting field trials on several varieties of sweet potatoes to determine if they are an economically viable crop that they can market.”

According to a newly published study by professor Ann Wilkie and Mussoline, an industrial sweet potato variety (CX-1) may do the trick.

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