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. — 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. — 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.
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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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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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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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.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher has identified two areas of the sorghum genome that could boost the plant’s resistance to the anthracnose disease.
This finding could be a key to expanding sorghum production in the Southeast, said Wilfred Vermerris, an associate professor of microbiology and cell science with UF/IFAS. Most sorghum does not grow well in the Southeast because the hot and humid weather provides ideal conditions for the growth of the fungus that causes anthracnose, with leaf blight and stem rot as its symptoms.
Sorghum is a source for table syrup and cattle feed that also shows great potential as a source for biofuel. It a huge grain: By acreage, it’s the fifth largest cereal crop in the world and the third largest in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2014, the U.S. was the largest producer of sorghum in the world.
For the latest study, Vermerris and other UF scientists used ‘Bk7,’ an anthracnose-resistant grain sorghum developed by Dan Gorbet, a professor emeritus of agronomy at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center.
FORT PIERCE, Fla. — An entomologist recognized internationally as a specialist in biological control of insect pests has been named interim director of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Indian River Research and Education Center.
Ronald Cave will serve as the sixth leader of the Indian River REC.
From the Indian River REC’s 1947 start as the Indian River Field Laboratory, it has served agricultural and natural resources interests with research, Extension and education programs.
Cave was appointed to his new position by Jack Payne, UF senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources.
“In this challenging time for the citrus industry and for other agricultural commodities, we cannot afford a leadership gap even for a few months,” Payne said. “Ron Cave is the right leader for this transition because of his accomplishments as a scientist, his dedication as a mentor and his familiarity with the center. It’s this combination of excellence and stability that makes him an ideal choice for this important role.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Faculty, administrators and friends of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences now know even more about the fine foods and beverages produces by UF/IFAS faculty after the annual May 9 Flavors of Florida event.
Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, commended faculty and thanked friends for attending.
“Flavors of Florida is a chance for UF/IFAS to showcase the many fine foods and beverages developed by our world-renowned scientists to not only make food tastier and more nutritious but to help growers sell more food at the grocery store,” Payne said. “And with the help of our many friends around Florida, we can continue the laboratory and field research necessary to continue producing these incredible foods.”