IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS, agencies collaborate to help landowners fight invasive species

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Forestry, IFAS, Invasive Species, Livestock, Pests

North Florida cattle rancher . UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It took a few years for Buzz Eaves to notice that tropical soda apple shrubs were overtaking his 1,200-acre cattle ranch near Fort Pierce, Florida. The prickly plant, with fruit the size of a golf ball and the color of unripen watermelon, was creating a barrier to the cattle’s grazing ground and displacing native plants.

“I was spending close to $6,000 a year on fertilizer and it wasn’t working that well,” Eaves said. “Then I heard about a program through the University of Florida that helps get rid of invasive species, so I turned to the school for help,” Eaves said. “It was the best thing I ever did.”

The UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences joined a dozen other organizations to form the Florida Invasive Species Partnership (FISP). The members work across boundaries to address invasive species challenges across the state, said Chris Demers, UF/IFAS Extension statewide program manager.

FISP began as a working group to address invasive species on state and federal land. The program expanded to include privately owned land, Demers said. “UF/IFAS Extension faculty provide various resources on invasive species, control and prevention,” he said. “We work across all species, plants, animals and fungus.”

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Nature already dramatically impacted by climate change, study reveals

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Departments, Environment, Forestry, IFAS, Pollution, Safety, Weather

Lake Alice, trees, nature, water, landscape.    UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Global climate change has already impacted every aspect of life on Earth, from genes to entire ecosystems, according to a new study by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and in cooperation with a broad international partner group, published in the prestigious journal Science.

“We now have evidence that, with only a ~1 degree Celsius of warming globally, major impacts are already being felt in natural systems,” said study lead author Brett Scheffers, an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS department of wildlife, ecology and conservation. “Genes are changing, species’ physiology and physical features such as body size are changing, species are shifting their ranges and we see clear signs of entire ecosystems under stress, all in response to changes in climate on land and in the ocean.”

During this research, Scheffers, a conservation ecologist, collaborated with a team of researchers from 10 countries, spread across the globe. They discovered that more than 80 percent of ecological processes that form the foundation for healthy marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems already show signs of responses to climate change.

“Some people didn’t expect this level of change for decades,” said co-author James Watson, of the University of Queensland in Australia. “The impacts of climate change are being felt with no ecosystem on Earth being spared.“

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UF/IFAS helps landowners protect forests for future generations

Topic(s): Agriculture, Departments, Extension, Forestry, IFAS

Bob Reid, part of the UF/IFAS Land Stewardship Program, walking through the forest on his property. Photo taken 04/06/16.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When veterinarian Bill Bennett first bought his 1,200 acres of land in Levy County, he wasn’t sure what he would do with it. “I didn’t know anything about working the land, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” he said.

Bennett heard about the Florida Forest Stewardship program—a collaboration of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and various state agencies—and decided to give organizers a call. Chris Demers, a UF/IFAS Extension program manager who oversees the university’s participation in the program, suggested that Bennett attend workshops to gain knowledge.

“I knew I loved pine trees, but I had absolutely no knowledge of how to go about building a pine tree plantation,” Bennett said. “Everything I know, I learned through the stewardship program or through other participants. It has been invaluable to my success as a landowner.”

The Florida Forest Stewardship program was created in 1990 by the U.S. Forest Service to encourage private landowners to manage their forest resources for multiple benefits, said Demers, who is with the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. “UF/IFAS’ role is to coordinate educational programming and outreach,” he said.

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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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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

pinemap-award

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.

Please see caption below the story.

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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Homeowners prefer property value boost brought about by city trees

Topic(s): Extension, Forestry, Green Living, IFAS, Research

 

planting live oak trees, 4-H, shovel, teenage girl. UF/IFAS Photo: Thomas Wright.

Please see caption below the story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If a city plants trees near a residential area, most homeowners value the likely subsequent boost to their property values, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

And they’re willing to pay an average of $7 more per month in taxes for public trees planted in their city.

In the UF/IFAS study, 1,052 surveyed Florida homeowners said they’d like the trees on their land to provide shade and to be healthy, but they’d prefer an increase of $1,600 in their home’s value.

Residents were separated into two surveys. One asked them to consider a hypothetical home improvement project to better the trees on their property, while the other asked a similar referendum question regarding a city program that would increase their utility tax to increase urban forests in public areas near their homes. There were 526 responses to each survey.

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UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County 4-H team headed to national forestry competition

Topic(s): 4-H, Agriculture, Extension, Families and Consumers, Forestry

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AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Henry Keating, 15, and Cayla and Jeremy Smith, 15 and 17, can tell a fir tree from a spruce — no small feat for three kids who grew up in St. Johns County, Florida, where firs and spruces don’t grow.

As part of the UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County 4-H forestry team, it’s been several years since these three could walk into a forest and simply see “trees.” Instead, they see features such as leaf shape and branching pattern, clues to the trees’ species. For example, “spruces have rounder needles, while firs have flatter ones,” said Jeremy.

Keating and the Smiths won this year’s Florida 4-H state forestry competition and are now headed to the National 4-H Forestry Invitational in Jackson’s Mill, West Virginia. The competition is set for July 31 to Aug. 4.

The St. Johns team will compete with other 4-H teams from across the country, demonstrating mastery of various skills, such as estimating the amount of timber in a tree and planning the development of forested land. They will also need to identify 81 tree species, including fir and spruce, nearly twice the number of trees they had to know at the state level.

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UF/IFAS Professor Ed Gilman: A legacy of tree growth

Topic(s): Announcements, Environment, Extension, Forestry, IFAS, Research, Weather

 

Ed Gilman, a professor of environmental horticulture with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, examines the trunk of a tree toppled by hurricanes this year. He said the most important thing to remember in an urban environment is the location of the trees, planting them so their roots are not affected buildings, curbs, driveways or sidewalks.

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Among his legacies, Ed Gilman wants to make sure trees don’t snap in Florida’s tropical storm-force winds.

When Gilman retires this month from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, he can point at several crowning achievements in his career.

Now, at age 62, Gilman will spend more time with family, of course, and do more woodworking, “working with dead trees instead of live trees,” he deadpanned.

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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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