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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Spiny lobsters practice “behavioral immunity” to create safe havens that prevent them from contracting a lethal disease in the wild, an important finding for the $50 million annual spiny lobster fishery in Florida, according to a new study co-authored by a University of Florida scientist.
UF/IFAS Associate Professor Don Behringer worked with Old Dominion University Professor Mark Butler on the study, published online June 10 in the journal PLOS ONE. In the study, scientists showed how the Caribbean spiny lobster uses a form of behavioral immunity to prevent the spread of the PaV1 virus, which takes a heavy toll on their populations.
“Increased infection risk has long been deemed a cost for the many benefits of being a social animal. However, we have shown that a social marine animal, the spiny lobster, has developed behaviors to reduce disease transmission by avoiding infected individuals,” said Behringer, a UF/IFAS scientist in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation Program in Fisheries and Aquatic Science. “Further, this behavioral immunity keeps potential epidemics of PaV1 from occurring.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are using data from fishing tournaments to gauge how non-native largemouth bass in Africa are invading lakes and preying on smaller, native fish, a huge cost-saving measure in fisheries management.
Largemouth bass are native to North America, but they have been distributed worldwide for recreational fishing. When they’re in waters outside North America, largemouth bass can cause declines in native fish abundance, disrupting the ecosystem.
UF fisheries and aquatic sciences Professor Micheal Allen and his colleagues at UF/IFAS and in South Africa used existing fish-catch data from bass tournaments in southern Africa, where largemouth bass are non-native and invasive. Scientists examined data from 40 bass tournaments in lakes in Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. They compared that information with 41 bass tournaments in the U.S., where bass are native species, between 2011 and 2014.
They found that angler catch data were similar between southern Africa and the U.S. Their data proves that the number and weight of the fish caught by recreational fishermen can be used to monitor the spread of exotic fish that are commonly caught by anglers.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A valuable UF/IFAS program that helps save the state millions of dollars annually in controlling invasive plants and insects will likely close after a veto by Gov. Rick Scott on Monday.
An approved increase by the Legislature of $180,000 was denied, and the facility also lost all funding. The state-of-the-art lab opened in 2004 at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce with $3.9 million in state funding.
The center will probably close, and 12 positions will be eliminated, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agricultural and natural resources.
The quarantine facility is a highly secure lab where scientists conduct research on biological controls for invasive species. Scientists introduce, evaluate and release biological control agents to try to manage exotic weeds and insect pests in Florida.
Florida has the largest invasive infestations in the nation. Invasive species cost Florida approximately $100 million a year, Payne said. Scientists at the lab helped control the tropical soda apple, an invasive weed, through the release of 250,000 South American beetles. The move saved cattle ranchers about $5.75 million a year, Payne said.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida officials expressed thanks Monday for the $180,000 increase in the state budget that’s slated for the quarantine research facility at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce.
With the additional funding, scientists will be able to expand foreign exploration to identify new candidate biological control agents of Florida’s worst invasive plants and insects, and support intensified laboratory studies that are required to ensure agents are safe for release, said Bill Overholt, a UF/IFAS entomology professor who works at the quarantine facility.
With biological control such as one bug eating another, scientists and growers can use a sustainable, cost-effective solution to manage invasive plant and insect problems.
“The facility needs an increase in the amount of operating funds in order to reach its full potential,” said Mary Ann Gosa-Hooks, director of UF/IFAS Government Affairs. “We can do so much more, but with costs continuing to increase, while the facility continues to function on the same budget since 2004, activities are somewhat limited.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — First impressions are important. So much so that even armed with new information, many people won’t change their minds about genetically modified foods and global warming, a new University of Florida study shows.
In fact, some grow even more stubborn in their beliefs that GMOs are unsafe, said Brandon McFadden, an assistant professor in food and resource economics in the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
After they read scientific information stating that genetically modified foods are safe, 12 percent of the study’s participants said they felt such foods were less safe – not more, much to McFadden’s astonishment.
That’s partly because people form beliefs and often never let go of them, he said.
“This is critical and hopefully demonstrates that as a society we should be more flexible in our beliefs before collecting information from multiple sources,” McFadden said. “Also, this indicates that scientific findings about a societal risk likely have diminishing value over time.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Brain activation may reveal people who are less certain about a product and indicate they are more easily swayed by an ad, a University of Florida researcher says.
In a study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers found that activation of the prefrontal cortex of the brain identifies people who are more responsive to campaign advertisements.
Studies in social sciences, including agricultural economics, often rely on survey data, which counts on participants’ honesty. But tracking blood flow in the brain gives much more tried-and-true data, said Brandon McFadden, a UF assistant professor of food and resource economics and one of the researchers for the study. This study may help researchers understand brain function while people decide what to buy, he said.
“This allows us to peek behind the curtain,” McFadden said.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Low-altitude aerial images can detect laurel wilt, a devastating avocado disease, giving growers an early way to identify diseased trees and perhaps help reduce losses to the $100 million-a-year economic impact avocados provide Florida.
Reza Ehsani, an associate professor in agricultural and biological engineering at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, used a multi-spectral camera that distinguishes between laurel wilt-affected trees and healthy ones.
Images taken with the camera from a helicopter have significant implications in the management of this important disease and for the commercial avocado industry in Florida. Ehsani said he expects the Federal Aviation Administration to open U.S. airspace for commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles, which could be equipped with such cameras, by 2017.
“Ultimately, we think that small UAVs, equipped with the right multi-band camera, can be used for scouting for this disease, which could potentially be very cost-effective,” Ehsani said. “The results of this study will enable growers or service companies that use UAVs to detect this disease at an early stage.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A wasp the size of a pin head may control the nuisance Rugose spiraling whitefly, which leaves a sticky white mess that becomes covered in black mold on everything from plants to cars and pools, University of Florida scientists say.
“Although the Rugose spiraling whitefly damages plants, what really gets people worked up is that it’s a huge nuisance because it makes a mess,” said Catharine Mannion, an entomology professor at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida. “You get a sooty mold on everything. It’s hard to get pools cleaned. People start chopping their trees down.”
But a new breakthrough shows the tiny wasp encarsia noyesi reduces the population of the Rugose spiraling whitefly, according to a new UF/IFAS-led study funded by the Farm Bill, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Invasive stiltgrass is bad enough by itself, crowding out native plant and insect species in about 25 eastern U.S. states, including Florida. It can also inhibit tree seedling survival and growth, and it can change the availability of nitrogen in the soil.
In general, invasions of non-native plant species can reduce biodiversity and alter ecosystems. In 2013, 1,585 prescribed fires were used to burn about 290,000 acres in eight eastern U.S. states. Scientists have used prescribed fires to effectively control some invasive plants, but new evidence suggests fires may promote stiltgrass invasions.
If land managers perform prescribed fires — normally used to manage ecosystems and prevent wildfires – in stiltgrass-invaded areas, native trees can be killed by the more intense fires caused by burning stiltgrass, said Luke Flory, an assistant professor of ecology at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty have developed a new app for avocado growers that provides an irrigation schedule so users save an estimated 20 to 50 percent on the water they apply to their orchards.
“Weather changes daily, and the app takes into account these changes in the irrigation schedule it provides,” said Kati Migliaccio, an associate professor in agricultural and biological engineering at UF’s Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida.