IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS researchers try to cut costs to control aquatic invasive plants in Florida

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Biocontrols, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species

Invasive Aquatics photo 2 062916

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Of all the invasive plants in Florida’s waterways, hydrilla costs the most to contain — $66 million over a seven-year period, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.

But UF/IFAS researchers are finding new ways to use less chemical treatment, and thus less money, to manage hydrilla.

From 2008 to 2015, state and federal water resource managers spent about $125 million to control invasive aquatic plants, according to an April Extension document co-written by Lyn Gettys, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agronomy and aquatic weed specialist. You can find the document here: http://bit.ly/28UsGoh.

Of that $125 million, about $66 million goes to control hydrilla, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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UF/IFAS, Pinellas Sheriff’s office create urban farms in Pinellas County

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Vegetables

Loften Center students learning about gardening and nutrition on Thursday, May 21st, 2015.

GAINESVILLE, Fla.— Residents in a county on Florida’s Gulf Coast are getting the help they need to access healthier foods via a collaboration between the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and the Pinellas Sheriff’s Police Athletic League. The two entities have teamed up to create an urban farm in Pinellas County.

Urban farms promote an abundance of food for people in need while raising awareness of health and wellness. “It is an opportunity to teach families and children the values of nutrition and establish a level of commerce for produce distribution,” said Mark Trujillo, a public health regional specialist for UF/IFAS Family Nutrition Program.

Trujillo introduced the executive director of the Pinellas Sheriff’s PAL, Neil Brickfield, to an empty U-Pick farm in Lealman, Florida, Pinellas County. After discovering the potential that the farm had to help the county, Brickfield then began to work with UF/IFAS to identify the needs of the farm and community.

Because Lealman, Florida is considered a food desert, the idea of an urban farm was essential for the area, Trujillo said. According to Brickfield, the citizens in Lealman are more than a mile from a local grocery store. “So, the urban farm is an opportunity for people to have fresh produce readily available,” Brickfield said.

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UF/IFAS expert: Whitefly species likely to cause growers problems

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences expert predicts the Q-biotype whitefly discovered in April in Palm Beach County will likely cause problems for growers.

The Q-biotype whitefly – not to be confused with the B-biotype, which came to Florida in the mid-1980s – is now being seen outside greenhouses and nurseries and poses a threat to ornamental plants and agricultural crops. After the B-biotype was found in Florida in the 1980s, scientists saw big increases in the diversity and frequency of whitefly-transmitted viruses in many Florida crops, said Jane Polston, a UF/IFAS plant pathology professor. Crops like beans, tomato, watermelon and squash were hit hard by these viruses after the appearance of the B biotype.

“This Q-biotype is a pest that damages crops and resists many of the insecticides that are effective on the B-biotype, the whitefly that is common in many ornamental and vegetable crops,” Polston said. “And like other whiteflies, it is capable of transmitting viruses from one plant to another.”

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UF/IFAS Mole Cricket Biological Control Program saves state millions

Topic(s): Agriculture, Departments, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs, Research

Howard Frank,left and Tom Walker check two-part trap that uses synthesized mole cricket calls to monitor both mole crickets and the beneficial flies that locate their hosts by sounds.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In a recent study, researchers with the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences in cooperation with Florida A&M University economists estimated that a 34-year program to control invasive pest mole crickets in the state has saved cattlemen approximately 13.6 million dollars a year. Over the long term, that figure balloons to 453 million dollars.

“The partnership with the State of Florida has been crucial to controlling the mole crickets,” said Norm Leppla, a UF/IFAS professor of entomology and nematology. “The Mole Cricket Biological Control Program has been worth every penny invested by the Florida Legislature and other stakeholders in the state.”

UF/IFAS researchers remember when the mole crickets reached outbreak levels in Florida during the mid-1900s and began wreaking hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of damage to crops, pastures and turf. Cattlemen were beside themselves as they watched the tiny insects tear across their pastures like a biblical swarm of locusts. The effects were devastating, but not irreversible.

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UF/IFAS method detects 83% of immature citrus; helping cut costs

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, Economics, Extension, IFAS, New Technology, Research

In this photo released from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Associate Professor Daniel Lee examines green oranges in a research grove on UF’s main campus in Gainesville – Friday, June 15, 2007. Lee is developing a computer system to recognize and count green oranges on trees. When perfected, the system could help growers manage and harvest their crops more efficiently. (AP photo/University of Florida/IFAS/Josh Wickham)

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers have found a new way to detect immature citrus 83 percent of the time, which lets growers know where to apply fertilizer and water and perhaps save on labor costs for the $10.9 billion a year Florida industry.

By detecting green, immature citrus more accurately and efficiently, growers can plan when and where to apply nutrients when fruit is growing and estimate their yield and profit before harvest, said Daniel Lee, a UF/IFAS professor of agricultural and biological engineering.

Using a consumer-grade digital camera, Lee and his colleagues calculated color differences between the fruit and non-fruit objects, and identified fruit using a pre-determined fruit template. They also removed any incorrectly detected fruit via a shape analysis, Lee said. In a newly published study, scientists took 126 images of fruit on trees and detected 83 percent immature citrus, using a camera and the new algorithm. This method is different than the previous ones, which can detect fruit from the images taken farther away from the trees.

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UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program celebrates 20 years of serving Floridians

Topic(s): Agriculture, Economics, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Vegetables

A family having a picnic for the Healthy eating calendar and IFAS branding images.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — At first, Sheila Bryant was skeptical about the cooking class offered by the University of Florida’s UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program. The program was started 20 years ago to help low-income families make better food choices to prevent chronic diseases.

Bryant, who attended the “Cooking that Matters” class in Gainesville, Florida, believed that decades of eating her own cooking was probably good enough. But she walked away a convert to healthier eating.

“Oh my, I learned so much: how to cut down on fat, incorporate more vegetables and lean meats in my meals, and how to make better choices,” Bryant said. “Now, instead of ordering Chinese food, I make my own stir-fry and invite my neighbors and friends over for a feast. I’ve spread the gospel of the Family Nutrition Program to anyone I meet.”

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UF/IFAS experts available for 2016 hurricane season

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Disaster Preparedness, Economics, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Weather

Flood signage in Florida.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The following University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences sources are available to speak to news media about a range of storm- and hurricane-related topics:

Hurricane and other natural disaster preparation: Mike Spranger, a professor in family, youth and community sciences, can give tips on how to prepare for any kind of natural disaster. He adapted a Gulfwide version of the Homeowners Handbook to Prepare for Natural Hazards for Florida residents. The book has basic background on tornados, tropical storms, hurricanes, floods and wildfires, and covers everything from hurricane clips to what to keep in your pantry and what to take with you during an evacuation. 352-273-3557; spranger@ufl.edu.

Rebuilding/maintaining sand dunesDeborah Miller, a professor of wildlife ecology and conservation based at UF’s West Florida Research and Education Center in Milton, has studied the best ways to rebuild sand dunes destroyed by hurricanes. 850-983-7128, ext. 104; dlmi@ufl.edu.

Hurricane effects on Florida agriculture: Jonathan Crane, a professor and tropical-fruit crop specialist at UF’s Tropical Research & Education Center in Homestead, has studied how hurricanes affect Florida agriculture. His research covers damage to fruit crops and to grove infrastructure such as irrigation systems due to high winds and flooding. 305-246-7001, ext. 290; jhcr@ufl.edu.

Hurricanes and pets/farm animalsJohn Haven directs the UF College of Veterinary Medicine’s All Animals, All Hazards Disaster Response Team and has participated in animal care operations related to hurricanes, fires and disease outbreaks. After leading the college’s responses to Hurricanes Charlie, Frances and Jeanne, he organized this formal veterinary emergency response team consisting of faculty, staff and students. He is a member of the State Agriculture Response Team, coordinator for the State Veterinary Reserve Corps disaster response team, and an Incident Command System Instructor. 352-294-4254, ext. 3154; havenj@ufl.edu.

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By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS researchers to present forest biotechnology promise at national conference

Topic(s): Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Forestry, IFAS, Pests, Research

Jiri Hulcr mug

Jiri Hulcr

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers will introduce genetic biotechnology as a potential means to preserve forests at a national conference next week in Washington, D.C.

Jiri Hulcr, an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation, and one of his doctoral students, Caroline Storer, will host the symposium at the North American Forest Insect Work Conference May 31 to June 3.

Hulcr sees this conference as an opportunity for the UF/IFAS forest entomology team to disseminate innovative solutions to maintain tree health.

“Exploring the use of biotechnology in tree health protection is important to us, because we are increasingly running out of other options,” Hulcr said.

Additionally, he said: “Trees and forests provide jobs and benefits for everyone. Yet, around city neighborhoods and rural forests, anyone can witness the diminishing health of trees. The culprit is exotic pests and diseases. Forget pollution or drought: It is destructive tree diseases and pests — imported by overseas travelers or business people — that are nearly eliminating some tree species from our forests and orchards.”

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Whitefly infestation only in Palm Beach County – for now

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Pests, RECs

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — People in Palm Beach County can help manage a potential outbreak of the Q-biotype whitefly through early detection and identification of the insect, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.

This significant tropical and subtropical pest may threaten Florida crops such as tomatoes, squash, beans, watermelons and many other vegetables and ornamentals if immediate measures are not taken to prevent its spread. Known scientifically as Bemisia tabaci, the Q-biotype is a light-colored, flying insect slightly less than 1 millimeter in length. Thus far, the Q-biotype whitefly has been reported in all four quadrants of Palm Beach County – north, east, south and west – said Lance Osborne, a UF/IFAS entomology professor.

To find and detect this whitely, residents should first look at hibiscus plants because those are host plants to which this whitefly species will likely gravitate. They should also take a look at their poinsettia plants, Osborne said. There are two types of this whitefly species: Q-biotype and B-biotype, and they look virtually the same, so it’s critical to get a genetic analysis to determine if you have the Q-biotype whitefly.

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UF/IFAS study could help cities improve tree planting

Topic(s): Conservation, Economics, Environment, Forestry, Green Living, Pests

Urban forestry in Tampa Bay, Florida.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Heat from city sidewalks, streets, and parking lots, along with insect pests, can damage trees planted in urban landscapes. Thus, it is critical to plant trees in the right places so they will do well in harsh urban environments, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.

More than half the world’s people and 80 percent of the U.S. population live in urban areas. Trees benefit these residents by filtering the air, reducing temperatures and beautifying landscapes. According to a new study led by Adam Dale, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of entomology, these benefits are reduced when trees are planted in unsuitable urban landscapes. However, guidelines can be developed to lead urban tree- planting decisions in a more sustainable direction.

Dale spearheaded the study while at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. Previous research by Dale and his colleagues found that impervious surfaces raise temperatures, which increase pest abundance and tree stress, ultimately reducing tree health. He and his team examined the so-called “gloomy scale insect,” which feeds on tree sap and appears as small bumps on the bark of trees.

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