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“GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As consumers increasingly desire local food, opinion leaders can encourage others to eat healthier food and, in doing so, improve the local economy, according to new University of Florida Food and Agricultural Sciences research.
“Opinion leaders” are those who influence others via the respect they earn from those around them, said Alexa Lamm, associate director of the UF Center for Public Issues Education (PIE Center) and the leader of this research.
“Opinion leaders could be critical in bridging the gap between locally grown food and consumers. That’s important because local food sales totaled $6.1 million in 2012, up $1.3 million in four years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But another study showed only 7.8 percent of U.S. farms targeted local consumers.
LIVE OAK, Fla. — Robert Hochmuth remembers about 30 years ago when researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Suwanee Valley Agricultural Extension Center showed watermelon growers how to use transplants instead of direct seeding. UF/IFAS Extension agents encouraged growers to use plastic mulch instead of bare ground planting, and to switch from overhead to drip irrigation.
“We wanted to help them adopt best management practices that would decrease the use of water, fertilizer and fuel,” said Hochmuth, UF/IFAS Extension center director and regional specialized agent. “In the end, they have not only seen their crop yields increase, but have also helped the environment and reduced the use of resources.”
Over the past 30 years, virtually all Suwannee Valley watermelon growers—about 40—have reduced the use of water, fuel and fertilizer, and improved efficiency by switching to best management practices introduced by UF/IFAS Extension agents, Hochmuth said.
“Nearly one-third of all Florida watermelons are grown in the Suwannee Valley,” said Kevin Athearn, regional specialized agent and co-leader of the watermelon industry study. “So, we wanted to help growers improve the way they grow produce and increase their market share. While most growers started experimenting with plastic much during the 1990s, all had fully transitioned by 2000.”
The results have been astounding.
Growers who participated in a 2016 UF/IFAS survey reported a 50 percent to 80 percent reduction in water use per acre, with the average being 67 percent, Hochmuth said. The growers are saving as much in fuel costs, and 15 percent to 30 percent reduction in applied nitrogen, he said.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Apparently, it’s more convenient to Florida residents to save water while brushing their teeth than to cut back on lawn irrigation, according to a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension report.
Alexa Lamm, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication and Extension specialist, surveyed 932 people deemed to be high-water users in Orlando, Tampa/Sarasota and Miami/Fort Lauderdale.
Respondents were asked how often they engage in water-related behaviors. Among the results, 68 percent saved water when brushing their teeth, but only 29 percent reduced irrigating their lawns in the summer, according to the document, http://bit.ly/2bjQGSm.
To put this data into context, about 50 percent of Floridians’ daily water use is for outdoor purposes, such as landscape irrigation, according to the South Florida Water Management District. The 50 percent figure is 20 percent more than the national average, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers have introduced a program to help Florida growers maximize the use of nutrients and fertilizers while minimizing the impact on the environment. The results are less fertilizer use and improved crops.
The Four RIGHT (4Rs) program helps growers use the right fertilizer in the right place, at the right time, using the right methods, said Kelly Morgan, state Best Management Practices (BMP) coordinator and UF/IFAS professor of soil and water sciences.
“Fertilizers or nutrients are required in most crop production systems in Florida. While all soils in Florida can supply nutrients for crop production, nutrients may not always be available in adequate amounts for economical crop production,” said Morgan, who is based at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, Florida. “Supplying needed nutrients for crop production involves attention to four major fertilization factors: the right source, right rate, right placement and right timing. Attention to these factors will provide adequate nutrition for crop production while minimizing the risk of loss of nutrients to the environment.”
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.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — You’re heading to college for the first time or returning to campus, and you decide with your parents to get a credit card in your name. A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences financial expert says you can use credit wisely by sticking to a few key points.
The two biggest mistakes college students make with credit cards are taking on too much debt and failing to make payments even if your credit card bill comes with a low amount due, said Michael Gutter, associate professor of family financial planning and associate dean for UF/IFAS Extension.
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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.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Relatively few people are aware of the health benefits of mushrooms, according to a new national survey by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.
Only 18.5 percent of survey respondents said they knew the health benefits of mushrooms, according to the online survey of 674 consumers.
“Potentially, increasing knowledge about health benefits would be useful to the mushroom industry,” said Lisa House, a UF/IFAS professor of food and resource economics and an investigator for the study.
Sue Percival, a UF/IFAS professor and chair of the department of food science and human nutrition and principal investigator for the study, published a study last year that documented how shiitake mushrooms can boost immunity. They’re also low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free, low in sodium, and they’re the leading source of the antioxidant selenium in the produce aisle, according to the National Mushroom Council.
The study, to be presented at a national conference next week, revealed many other clues about consumers’ mushroom-buying habits.