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IFAS News

University of Florida

Tracking the eyes: The keys to consumers’ plant preferences

Topic(s): Conservation, Economics, Environment, Families and Consumers

eye-tracking and plant purchases photo 121614

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Picture this: Researchers ask you to sit and gaze at plants from a retail store’s garden display. You look at a computer screen, which tracks how long your eyes take to focus on a visual cue and how long you fixate on it.

Those cues can include what the plant looks like, a price tag or how it was grown.

With results of a new national study, researchers now know that computer software allows researchers to link eye movements to the plants people buy, a finding that can tell retailers more about how to use signs to lure potential buyers. Those are important issues for retailers and consumers nationally, but particularly in Florida, where the environmental horticulture industry generates about $12 billion a year, according to University of Florida estimates.

Hayk Khachatryan, a UF assistant professor in food and resource economics, helped conduct the study. Researchers wanted to understand how visual behavior could influence purchasing choices. They studied consumers’ choices as project participants viewed signs showing several plant attributes. For example, the plants might have been grown using water-saving or energy-saving techniques.

“Investigating the link between consumers’ visual behavior and their preferences can significantly improve our understanding of the effects of marketing practices that use visual cues to attract more consumers,” said Khachatryan, who’s based at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka, which is part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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New marketing help for smaller growers

Topic(s): Announcements, Economics, IFAS

Gainesville, Fla. – Small- and mid-sized growers often cite marketing as one of their greatest challenges. Yet, there never seems to be enough time or money to promote your products directly to those who may want to purchase them. Florida MarketMaker and Florida Food Connect are two resources managed by UF/IFAS that aim to help alleviate the burden of marketing for Florida’s growers. While Florida MarketMaker unites growers with potential markets throughout the state, Florida Food Connect is a tool that links schools with the local producers who can meet their needs.

Florida MarketMaker provides a free and simple, yet powerful, web-based search tool to connect with others across the food production and distribution chain. It is the largest and most in-depth food-related database of its kind, featuring a diverse community of more than 81,000 Florida businesses:  farmers/ranchers, fisheries, seafood dealers, farmers markets, food hubs, food pantries, processors/packers, wholesalers, retailers, distributors, wineries, restaurants and other types of buyers.

Essentially, MarketMaker gives growers the power to create their own searchable websites, opening the door for a flood of buyers to discover them.

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UF/IFAS scientists find potential biological control for avocado-ravaging disease

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Crops, Economics, Pests, RECs

redbay ambrosia beetle for Steve at UR 120114

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida scientists believe they’ve found what could be the first biological control strategy against laurel wilt, a disease that threatens the state’s $54 million-a-year avocado industry.

Red ambrosia beetles bore holes into healthy avocado trees, bringing with them the pathogen that causes laurel wilt. Growers control the beetles that carry and spread laurel wilt by spraying insecticides on the trees, said Daniel Carrillo, an entomology research assistant professor at the Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead.

But a team of researchers from the Tropical REC and the Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce have identified a potential biological control to use against redbay ambrosia beetles that could help growers use less insecticide.

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UF/IFAS organic strawberry research featured in e-book

Topic(s): Announcements, Crops, Cultivars, Economics

Organic strawberry e-book Javier L. - Jan28,2014 - Citra - Focus grup assessment - Open field (45)-X2

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A new e-book from the University of Arkansas System features University of Florida scientists’ quest to establish a Florida organic strawberry industry.

A chapter titled “Organic open-field and high tunnel strawberry cropping systems for long-term viability of the southeastern industry” examines the participation of five Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty in the National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative sponsored by the Walmart Foundation.

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UF/IFAS study: Consumers will pay more for eco-friendly plants

Topic(s): Conservation, Economics, Environment, Green Living, IFAS

Hayk Khachatryan

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – People concerned with future consequences of their decisions will pay up to 16 cents more for eco-friendly plants, a new University of Florida study shows.

While 16 cents may not seem like much, researchers see any willingness to pay more to help the ornamental plants industry and the environment as good news.

Previous research has investigated the effects of perceived long-term consequences on people’s environmental behavior, including recycling or using public transportation. So UF food and resource economics assistant professor Hayk Khachatryan wanted to understand how differences in people’s perceptions of long- and short-term consequences affect plant preferences and purchase decisions.

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Gulf anglers could be entitled to $585 million after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, UF/IFAS study says

Topic(s): Conservation, Economics, Environment, Research

Apalachicola, Florida photographed for the 2015 Extension calendar.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Recreational anglers who normally fish in the Gulf of Mexico lost up to $585 million from lost fishing opportunities in the year of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and could be entitled to compensation, according to a new University of Florida study.

After a disaster such as an oil spill, trustees — which could include federal, state or tribal authorities – often attempt to secure financial compensation from those responsible.

In the Gulf oil spill, those monies would not go back to individual fishermen, but instead might fund ecosystem improvements or to stock more fish in the Gulf on the fishermen’s behalf, said UF food and resource economics professor Sherry Larkin.

In December 2012, BP agreed to pay $2.3 billion to commercial fishermen, seafood boat captains and crew, seafood vessel owners and oyster leaseholders, but trustees have yet to seek compensation on behalf of recreational fishermen.

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UF/IFAS study shows flavor trumps health for blueberry buying

Topic(s): Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Nutrition, Research

BlueberryFlavor 080514

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Taste trumps health benefits for blueberry buyers, sending a strong message that fruit consumers value flavor most, new University of Florida research shows.

About 61 percent of blueberry consumers buy the fruit for its flavor, while 39 percent do so for psychological reasons, according to two national online surveys. By “psychological,” researchers mean those consumers may buy blueberries because they believe the fruit, which contains antioxidants, provides health benefits.

UF horticultural sciences assistant professor Jim Olmstead will use the data as he breeds new types of blueberries. Olmstead uses traditional breeding methods to create blueberry cultivars that have traits consumers want.

“What we’re trying to determine is: What is the consumer’s perception of the ideal blueberry? What should it look, taste and feel like?” said Olmstead, a faculty member with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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UF/IFAS study: Strawberry monitoring system could add $1.7 million over 10 years to some farms

Topic(s): Crops, Economics, New Technology, Research

Natalia Peres strawberries

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida-developed web tool can bring growers $1.7 million more in net profits over 10 years than a calendar-based fungicide system because it guides growers to spray their crop at optimal times, a new UF study shows.

The Strawberry Advisory System, devised by an Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher, takes data such as temperature and leaf wetness and tells growers when to spray fungicide to ward off diseases. Growers can use the system by logging onto www.agroclimate.org/tools/strawberry or use the website to sign up for email or text alerts.

Before the system was developed, strawberry farmers traditionally sprayed weekly during the November-to-March growing season. Spraying more often than is needed wastes money and can lead to fungicide resistance, said Natalia Peres, associate professor in plant pathology, who led the system’s development.

Not all strawberry growers use the system, but this research might persuade them to do so, said Tatiana Borisova, an assistant professor in UF/IFAS food and resource economics department.

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