University of Florida

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


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


Please see caption below story.

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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UF/IFAS study could help cities improve tree planting

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

Urban forestry in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Please see caption below story.

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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UF/IFAS Celebrates Arbor Day with an art contest in Seffner

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Environment, Extension, Forestry, IFAS

A pond at the UF/IFAS Santa Fe Beef Teaching Unit.  Photo taken 09-24-15.

GAINESVILLE, Fla.— Arbor Day is approaching and Seffner, Florida, residents are geared up to celebrate with an Arbor Day mail art contest presented by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Hillsborough County.

National Arbor Day, April 29, is a time for the global community to come together and celebrate the importance of trees by planting new ones and taking care of the trees already in existence. Trees play an essential part in the ecosystem because they provide clean air and water as well as slow climate change. They also prevent species loss and alleviate poverty and hunger.

This year’s Arbor Day theme for the mail art contest is titled “I appreciate trees because…” Contestants will submit their art, along with their name, age and number, to the Extension office for a chance to be one of three winners. The categories are divided by three age groups: child, youth and adult. Three winners will receive a tree planting kit worth $100, and their art work will be displayed in the lobby of the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County office.

The winners from each age group will be chosen before Arbor Day, and they must be present at Kerby’s Nursery on April 29 at 6 p.m. to receive their prizes.


By: Brinkley Clark, 954-600-8257, brinkleycclark@ufl.edu

Source: Nicole Pinson, 813-744-5519, nicolepinson@ufl.edu

Study: Rare wetland fires can help, hurt habitat

Topic(s): Environment, Forestry, IFAS, Research, Safety, Weather


Great Blue Heron. Big Cypress National Preserve along Loop Road. Shot 03/22/02.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When you think of wildfires, you may not think of wetlands. But the seldom-seen blazes may help some endangered species, according to a newly published study by a former UF/IFAS researcher.

Severe wetland fires — so rare they occur only a few times per century – also can change vegetation and patterns of water movement, said Adam Watts, who led the study as a post-doctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation.

During a smoldering fire, wetlands can become deeper if the fires burn muck or peat soils.

“In some cases, this could help improve habitat for endangered species, such as wood storks,” said Watts, now a research assistant professor at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada. But wetland fires can also kill many trees and shrubs, causing changes to the vegetation that returns.

(more …)

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