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IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS research, breeding showcased at Flavors of Florida

Topic(s): Announcements, Citrus, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, RECs, Research

UF/IFAS Flavors of Florida 2015

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Faculty from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences produce some of the nation’s tastiest fruits and vegetables.

Researchers at UF’s Plant Innovation Center breed new cultivars and conduct research to boost the taste, smell and appearance of Florida fruits, vegetables and foliage. But the PIC does much more, said UF environmental horticulture Professor David Clark.

“The big thing is this: No other university in the country can pull off what we’ve put together here, so we are novel,” Clark said. “We cover the whole supply chain, from the conception of an idea to the realization of a product.”

UF faculty, administrators and friends gathered Monday at the UF president’s house in Gainesville for Flavors of Florida 2015, a premier event showcasing the edible research products of the UF/IFAS Plant Innovation Center. Industry leaders, donors and guests savored the sensations of tasty tomatoes, flavor-filled fruits and other Sunshine State food and drinks while learning more about the impact that UF/IFAS makes for the agriculture industry. This is the second year the event has been held.

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UF/IFAS experts to share research at global symposium on urban tree economics

Topic(s): Announcements, Conservation, Economics, Environment, Forestry, IFAS

 

ED GILMAN

UF/IFAS Professor Ed Gilman

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Global experts, including three from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, will share knowledge at an international symposium focused on the economics of urban tree management, March 18-19, in Tampa, Florida.

The meeting brings together experts from around the world and innovative professionals working with some of America’s largest and longest-standing urban forestry programs: New York and Milwaukee.

Those attending the conference will explore the value of trees as part of urban green infrastructure, try to quantify the costs associated with poor urban forest management practices and examine the potential benefits that can be reaped from proper planning and maintenance.

Once these costs and benefits have been evaluated, urban foresters, utility vegetation managers and elected officials can make effective management decisions, according to the program’s website, http://www.isa-arbor.com/events/eventsCalendar/index.aspx?ID=2077.

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UF/IFAS awarded funding to fight citrus greening

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have been awarded more than $13.4 million for four studies to help fight citrus greening, the devastating disease that threatens Florida’s $10 billion citrus industry.

The projects are funded through the Specialty Crop Initiative Citrus Disease Research and Education (CDRE) program, which is made available through the Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the Farm Bill.

The following UF/IFAS research projects were funded:

  • $4.6 million to develop an environmentally safe, systematic bacteriacide that can be applied with conventional spray or drench technology to reduce or eliminate pathogens in citrus trees. The goal is to recover fruit production in greening-affected orchards.
  • $3.4 million to support ways to provide steam-generated treatments as an immediate, short-term solution to sustain productivity in HLB-affected trees, while reducing adverse effects on crop yield and fruit quality.
  • $3.3 million to try to develop an HLB-resistant citrus cultivar.
  • $2.9 million target the use of field trials in Florida to develop and effective microbial treatment for citrus plants affected by HLB.
  • UF/IFAS is also partnering with the University of California-Davis on a $4.6-million grant that focuses on using new approaches to manage the Asian citrus psyllid, will assess the economic benefits of these approaches and will develop new outreach information.

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Penn State agricultural economist to lead UF/IFAS food and resource economics

Topic(s): Announcements, Economics, Honors and Appointments, IFAS

Spiro Stafanou

Spiro Stefanou

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – An agricultural economist who spent more than 30 years at Penn State has joined UF/IFAS as chairman of the Department of Food and Resource Economics.

Spiro Stefanou started Jan. 2 after being appointed by Jack Payne, UF senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources.

“Dr. Stefanou brings national and global expertise in agricultural and resource economics to UF/IFAS,” Payne said. “He can help propel the department to new heights as we help solve myriad world food issues, including hunger.”

Stefanou took over for Professor Rod Clouser, who served as interim chair after Professor Ray Huffaker returned to teaching and research at UF/IFAS.

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UF/IFAS, others improving health of marine life and coastal economies

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Conservation, Economics, Environment, IFAS

CRAIG WATSON

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – University of Florida researchers will work with other scientists to study how to make the water and marine life in Tampa Bay healthier, which in turn could help protect Florida’s offshore ecosystems and fishing economy.

Scientists with UF/IFAS are the first researchers at the Center for Conservation, part of an alliance comprised of UF/IFAS, Tampa’s Florida Aquarium, Tampa Electric Co. and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The partnership came about after Tampa Electric, a subsidiary of TECO Energy, offered the Florida Aquarium 20 acres in Apollo Beach for off-site quarantine and animal holding in 2012-13, said Craig Watson, director of the UF/IFAS Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory in Ruskin. Watson suggested the partners bring FWC aboard because the agency was looking for marine enhancement centers, Watson said.

Then TECO, the Florida Aquarium, UF/IFAS and FWC formed an alliance to create the Center for Conservation on the Apollo Beach site, he said. The site is also near TECO’s Manatee Viewing Center. The CFC will try to solve aquatic resource problems, Watson said.

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One fish, two fish ─ Camera counts freshwater fish, which could help combat hydrilla

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Conservation, Economics, Environment, IFAS
FISHCAMERA photo 012215

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A camera can accurately count freshwater fish, even in the thickest of underwater vegetation, a key finding for those who manage fisheries and control the invasive plant hydrilla, new University of Florida research shows.

The finding by UF/IFAS scientists can help researchers understand how many and which fish species are using dense plant habitats, said former UF/IFAS graduate student Kyle Wilson.

While cameras have been used to document fish behavior – including eating and breeding ─ this marks the first time scientists have used video to count fish in underwater plant habitats, Wilson said. In addition, no prior studies that used cameras to count fish verified their fish populations.

“It is commonly assumed that dense and invasive plants, like hydrilla, can drastically change fish habitat quality, primarily through changes in dissolved oxygen levels, water chemistry and habitat structure,” Wilson said. “Whether these changes are good or bad for fish has previously remained uncertain due to sampling problems in dense plant habitats. Using underwater cameras, we have shown that fish can and do use habitats we previously thought were too stressful for fish habitat.”

This is a big problem, especially with hydrilla, a plant that has invaded lakes throughout Florida, much of the U.S., Central America, South Africa and Australia, Wilson said. He estimated Florida spent up to $14 million per year throughout the 2000s to manage hydrilla, while the U.S. spent about $100 million per year in the 2000s for aquatic plant management.

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UF/IFAS study: Wheat yield to decline as temperatures increase

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Environment, Research, Weather

Research Assistant Jeremy Hall examines newly planted wheat at the UF/IFAS Plant Science Research & Education Unit Tuesday, January 13, 2015 in Citra, FLa.

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See video here: bit.ly/1Cbois7

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – For every degree Celsius that the temperature increases, the world loses 6 percent of its wheat crop, according to a new global study led by a University of Florida scientist. That’s one fourth of the annual global wheat trade, which reached 147 million tons in 2013.

Senthold Asseng, a UF professor of agricultural and biological engineering, used a computer model approach to reach the finding of temperature increases and wheat production.

“We started this with wheat, as wheat is one of the world’s most important food crops,” said Asseng, whose team’s study was published online Dec. 22 in the journal Nature Climate Change. “The simulations with the multi-crop models showed that warming is already slowing yield gains, despite observed yield increases in the past, at a majority of wheat-growing locations across the globe.”

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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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