University of Florida

UF/IFAS Range Cattle REC celebrates 75 years

Topic(s): Announcements, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Livestock, RECs

2015 Range Cattle Research and Education Center Field Day in Ona, Florida on Thursday, April 9th.

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ONA, Fla. — Ranchers, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty and friends will gather Oct. 27 at the UF/IFAS Range Cattle Research and Education Center to celebrate the facility’s 75th anniversary of providing the best science for the cattle industry.

Among the scheduled speakers during the day’s festivities are Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources; John Arthington, director of the Range Cattle REC; Ned Waters, president of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association; Erik Jacobsen of Deseret Cattle and Citrus; and Jim Strickland of Strickland Ranch.

Payne sees the Range Cattle REC as a facility that provides top-notch research data to ranchers in Florida and beyond.

“The Range Cattle REC has a long history of meeting the needs of Florida’s beef industry,” Payne said. “Our faculty in Ona study weeds, forage and ways ranchers can produce the best cattle for the market.”

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UF/IFAS researchers head to Cuba for scientific exchange to benefit Florida agriculture

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

Bill Messina, agricultural economist with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, surveyes a map of Cuban farming areas, Tuesday 3/24, that could compete with Florida producers if and when the United States trade embargo against Cuba is lifted. During the past four years, he has led a team of UF researchers working with the University of Havana to study the economic impact of lifting the embargo.   Photography by, Thomas Wright  UF/IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is sending an inter-departmental team of scientists to Cuba as part of a grant that is believed to be the first federally-funded project for scientific field research in Cuba.

The project’s principal investigator (PI), associate professor Damian Adams; project co-PIs assistant professor Jiri Hulcr and postdoctoral associates Paloma Carton de Grammont and José Soto, and other UF/IFAS research scientists and graduate students from the School of Forest Resources & Conservation, the Entomology and Nematology Department, the Food and Resource Economics Department, and the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering will travel to Cuba for this research, funded by a $228,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The project team is traveling to Cuba to fulfill several missions:

  • Conduct research to identify wood-boring pest species in Cuba that could pose high-risk threats to U.S. agriculture and forests.
  • Train Cuban scientists on state-of-the-art methods to accurately identify these wood-boring pests in Cuba in an effort to reduce the possibility of transmission of these pests to Florida agriculture and forests.
  • Understand how Cuba’s plant protection programs and policies impact pest movement, particularly to the United States.
  • Estimate the potential economic impact of a pest invasion from Cuba to the United States.

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UF/IFAS researchers project beetle could cause $17 billion damage to loblolly pine in South

Topic(s): Conservation, Economics, Environment, Extension, Forestry, IFAS, Research

Rebbay Ambrosia Beetle.  Summer 2009 Impact Magazine image.  Insects, pests.  UF/IFAS File Photo.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers, who have already seen ambrosia beetles damage part of Florida’s avocado crop, know that more of the species will come from Asia in the next decade. Anticipating their arrival, UF/IFAS researchers set up a hypothetical invasion of the beetle, and found out that loblolly pine owners in the South could lose up to $17 billion in trees in 20 years.

Private companies use loblolly for timber production. Small landowners also harvest and sell some of their loblolly pines, said Andres Susaeta, a research assistant scientist in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. But small landowners are also interested in aesthetics, preserving the environment and passing the land on to their heirs.

For the study, researchers wanted to look at the economic impact of anticipated invasions of more ambrosia beetles from Asia into the southern United States. Invasive wood borers, such as the ambrosia beetle, transmit disease-carrying fungi to several North American trees, and it’s not clear whether trees such as pines will face similar threats in the future, the researchers said.

Even though the scenarios were hypothetical, Andres Susaeta, a research assistant scientist in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation, said the situation could be all too real.

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Screwworm life cycle and habits contribute to insect’s threat, UF experts say

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, CALS, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Livestock, Pests, Research
A cow grazing in a beef cattle pasure at the Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona, Florida.

A cow grazing in a beef cattle pasture at the Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona, Florida. Photo by Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida residents curious or skeptical about the threat posed by the parasitic screwworm fly Cochliomiya hominivorax can rest assured the insect merits all the attention it has received after an outbreak was detected in the Florida Keys earlier this month, say experts with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Commonly known as the primary screwworm fly or New World screwworm fly, the insect threatens the health of warm-blooded animals and people in areas where it is well-established, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“To put it plainly, a full-blown screwworm infestation is a death sentence for the host animal,” Payne said. “This pest can kill a previously healthy cow or bull in a matter of weeks if the problem isn’t treated properly. It’s that serious.”

Payne urges all livestock and pet owners to educate themselves about the symptoms of screwworm infestation and seek veterinary care for animals exhibiting tell-tale indications such as open wounds that do not heal, running sores, listlessness, loss of appetite or sudden weight loss.

The fly’s larvae must consume the tissue of a live warm-blooded animal to develop, so adult females lay their eggs on livestock and wildlife with superficial wounds, said veterinary entomologist Phil Kaufman, an associate professor with the UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department.

“From a strictly scientific point of view, screwworm larvae are incredibly well-adapted parasites,” Kaufman said. “That’s why this species was a constant menace to Florida’s cattle industry up through about 1960, when it was eradicated from the state.” (more …)

In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, UF/IFAS Extension faculty step up as ‘second responders’

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Extension, IFAS, Livestock, Safety


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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As Hurricane Matthew dumped water and wind on Florida’s east coast last week, it wasn’t long before several alligators were spotted roaming the parking lot at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Brevard County office. But alligators or no alligators, the two faculty members hunkered down in the facility weren’t about to leave their posts any time soon.

“We have a very large generator at the office that we needed to keep running during the storm in case people at the county facilities lost power and had to move to our facility,” said Linda Seals, director of UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County.

Seals’ staff weren’t the only ones hard at work helping residents and emergency personnel weather the storm. From housing evacuated livestock to manning the phones at local emergency operations centers, UF/IFAS Extension faculty across the state put in many long hours and a few sleepless nights keeping people safe and informed.

“We serve 20 million Floridians year-round in our day jobs, but in a crisis we work 24/7 to help those most in need” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “We demonstrated all weekend long how much we value our relationships. Our actions told our communities that this isn’t just a job to us. This was about helping friends, neighbors and community members.”

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UF/IFAS-based PINEMAP project earns national award from USDA

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biofuels, CALS, Conservation, Crops, Economics, Environment, Extension, Forestry, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Research, Weather


Caption: PINEMAP principal investigator Tim Martin, right, accepts congratulations from Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, at the NIFA Partnership Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (Photo courtesy of USDA-NIFA)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The PINEMAP project, based within the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, devoted five years to helping the Southeastern planted-pine industry prepare for future production challenges. Now, PINEMAP is being honored with a prestigious national award from the United States Department of Agriculture.

On Thursday, Oct. 6, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, or NIFA, announced that PINEMAP would receive one of three 2016 NIFA Partnership Awards presented nationwide. The award recognizes PINEMAP for its outstanding performance integrating and fulfilling the education, Extension and research missions common to all land-grant universities.

The award confirms yet again the impact of UF/IFAS programs for one of the state’s most important industries, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“Planted pine is cultivated on about 20 million acres throughout the Southeast. This industry is enormously important both economically and environmentally, and the work of PINEMAP was crucial to help secure the industry’s future,” Payne said. “Our UF/IFAS faculty members have shown exemplary leadership and scholarship; this honor is richly deserved.”

PINEMAP involved UF and 10 other southeastern U.S. land-grant institutions, as well as numerous collaborators from government agencies and private industry. The project was launched in February 2011 after leaders obtained one of three $20 million grants awarded concurrently by USDA as part of its Coordinated Agriculture Projects program, meant to strengthen vital domestic crop-production industries. (more …)

UF/IFAS study: Good tree care should yield environmental benefits

Topic(s): Conservation, Economics, Environment, Extension, Forestry, IFAS, RECs, Research

Urban forestry in Tampa Bay, Florida.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Trees shade our homes and help clean the air of our cities. However, their production in the nursery and maintenance in the landscape requires energy and material resources. Some of those processes are mechanized and release greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

Understanding this balance between tree environmental costs and benefits is crucial to those who plan and plant urban forests as it can help inform species selection, site development and prescribed care measures, says a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher and UF/IFAS Extension specialist.

In addition to providing shade, trees take in carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas – and convert it and store it as carbon in their woody tissues. Trees generally provide the greatest environmental and economic benefits as they mature and grow to a significant size, said UF/IFAS environmental horticulture assistant professor Andrew Koeser.

In a newly published study, Koeser and Aaron Petri of the University of Illinois used a concept called “carbon neutrality” to examine tree benefits. When trees start storing more carbon than they emit – offsetting the amount spent by nurseries and foresters in tree care, that’s called “carbon neutrality.” That care can include planting, water, pest control, mulching, pruning and more.

“In general, the bigger the tree, the more environmental benefits you receive. Over time, the benefits of a tree finally equal its associated costs, with regard to carbon balance,” Koeser said. “I like to think of this as the tree paying back the environmental debt. If the tree doesn’t get to this point, it is emitting more carbon dioxide than it’s taking in and does a disservice to the environment.”

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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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Two UF/IFAS food and resource economics faculty win awards for educational programming

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Crops, Economics, Environment, Extension, Honors and Appointments, IFAS

Tatiana Borisova and Edward “Gilly” Evans

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty in the food and resource economics department have each been selected for UF/IFAS Extension Professional and Enhancement awards.  These awards highlight exceptional UF/IFAS Extension programming, and earn faculty additional funding and program support.

Tatiana Borisova, associate professor and Extension specialist, has been selected for the Wells Fargo Extension Professional Award and Program Enhancement Grant, which recognizes a proposed educational program that responds to a public policy issue.

Borisova, who specializes in water economics and policy, is interested in educating Floridians about water resource management.

“In recent years, changes to water resource laws and regulations have rapidly accelerated in Florida and the U.S.,” said Borisova. “Meanwhile, public knowledge of water laws and regulations is limited. Public participation is vital for development and implementation of water resource management programs.”

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UF/IFAS report: Florida agriculture, natural resources employment up 29 percent in 13 years

Topic(s): Agriculture, Economics, Extension, IFAS, Research

Workers picking and loading lettuce onto a conveyor belt.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — About 1.56 million people worked full- or part-time in agriculture, natural resources and food industries in 2014, an increase of about 40,000 workers from 2013, and nearly 29 percent from 2001, according to a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences economic report.

Direct employment in the agriculture and natural resources sectors accounted for 13.8 percent of all jobs statewide. Employment in these sectors grew from 1.24 million jobs in 2001 to a peak of 1.34 million in 2008 before the recession, then recovered to 1.56 million in 2014, the latest year for which information is available.

“I would characterize that as modest growth in the industry, although the growth rate was higher before and after the recession (before 2007 and after 2010), and ag-food fared much better during the recession than many other leading industries such as construction and tourism,” said Alan Hodges, Extension scientist with the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department. “Growth in economic activity of agriculture, natural resources and related food industries continues to contribute to the stability of the state’s economy.”

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