GAINESVILLE, Fla. – University of Florida researchers will use $1.45 million in federal grants to develop trait-prediction models and accelerate the growth of loblolly pine trees to produce more bioenergy.
In his grant application, UF associate professor Matias Kirst, the principal investigator for the study, said Southern pines can be used as renewable biomass for bioenergy and renewable chemicals. However, for pines to meet their potential as a bioenergy crop, researchers must develop more productive cultivars that can be efficiently converted into liquid fuels, said Kirst, who teaches in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
GAINESVILLE — Using boomboxes to amplify predator bird sounds in the wild, University of Florida researchers have found that smaller birds listen to vocal cues to avoid areas populated by predators.
In her study, doctoral student Fangyuan Hua set up above-ground boomboxes mounted in camouflaged boxes on half-acre plots at the Ordway-Swisher Biological Station near Melrose.
Powered by car batteries, these boomboxes were programmed for four months to broadcast predator sounds according to a schedule that simulated when and how predators would normally call.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Despite a soggy summer, water supply remains a critical issue in the Sunshine State. University of Florida researchers now say that reducing plant material, or biomass, in forests could significantly increase water supplied to streams, lakes and aquifers.
Researchers with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences made the finding by creating computer models that analyzed the effects of reduced forest biomass on regional hydrological supplies. Their results will be published in the August issue of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association.
In one 4,000-acre tract in Central Florida, the model predicted that converting a densely planted pine forest to one managed with slightly fewer trees per acre could supply an additional 400,000 to 1.6 million gallons of water per day to the regional water supply.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s agriculture, natural resources and related food industries provided a $104 billion impact on the state in 2011 and have continued to improve since the 2008 recession, according to a new University of Florida study.
The study is the latest report from researchers in UF’s food and resource economics department — part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences — on the industries’ economic contributions. It can be viewed here: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FE/FE93500.pdf.
The industries include crop, livestock, forestry and fisheries production; agricultural product and service providers; food product manufacturing; forest product manufacturing; food distribution; mining and nature-based recreation.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new era began for the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation April 6 as ground was broken for the Austin Cary Forest Learning Center, a 7,800-square-foot education and outreach complex in the heart of the UF-owned forest northeast of Gainesville.
The learning center will succeed and surpass the Austin Cary Forest Conference Center, destroyed by fire in July 2011. Fundraising and recovery efforts began immediately after the fire, and at the groundbreaking event, UF Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources Jack Payne expressed awe at their rapid progress.
“I never thought we’d be here two years later,” said Payne, who noted the importance of forest products to the state’s economy — $15 billion and 90,000 jobs. Speaking to a crowd of about 400 supporters, he discussed the Austin Cary Forest’s role as an essential link between natural resources and agriculture, and the role that pine trees may play in providing more of the world’s biofuel and fiber needs.
Construction for the learning center is slated to begin immediately and should be completed in less than one year, SFRC Director Tim White told attendees. The learning center will greatly enhance the school’s ability to provide distance education from Austin Cary Forest and accommodate large in-person events there, he said.
“This is a community resource, not an SFRC resource,” White said. “Tell people we want it to be used.”
UF/IFAS file photo of Austin Cary Forest palmetto and pine, by Dawn McKinstry
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — This spring, the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation has two reasons to celebrate:
One is the annual SFRC Spring Celebration on April 5-6. Here, alumni and friends of the School reconnect, recreate and learn about SFRC’s latest achievements.
The other reason: This year’s celebration includes a special milestone — groundbreaking for the new Austin Cary Forest Learning Center at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 6.
Dignitaries speaking at the groundbreaking include UF President Bernie Machen and UF Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources Jack Payne.
“This groundbreaking marks a huge step forward for the School of Forest Resources and Conservation,” Payne said. “Thousands will benefit from activities on-site at the new Learning Center, and many programs taught here will be offered via distance education to audiences statewide and beyond.”
The 7,800 square-foot building will facilitate education and outreach events at Austin Cary Forest. It’s larger and better-equipped than the conference center it replaces, said Tim White, director of the School. That facility fell victim to a fire in July 2011.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Forest industry professionals know it’s important to screen pine seeds for the presence of the fungus that causes pitch canker disease – so important that many countries require screening before importing seeds.
But the screening method currently endorsed by the International Seed Testing Association is slow and yields uncertain results, according to a research team that developed an alternative method and reported it in the October 2012 issue of the journal Forest Pathology.
That method, known as the blotter paper test, involves culturing fungus spores present in pine seed, then examining any suspect fungal colonies to determine if they contain the pitch canker pathogen, Fusarium circinatum.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — To the owner, a tract of timberland may be a wise investment or a family legacy. Unfortunately, to others that same acreage may look like a great place to cook methamphetamine, poach deer or steal a few truckloads of logs.
To help North Florida residents prevent illegal activity on their land, the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has joined forces with Florida’s Forest Stewardship Program and state agencies to present a one-day workshop, called Timberland Security for Owners.
It happens 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7 at the UF/IFAS Columbia County Extension Office in Lake City.
“We have a great program that’s dynamic and interesting, and covers material that every forest landowner should know for their own protection and protection of the community,” said Chris Demers, Forest Stewardship Program coordinator in Gainesville.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — An 80-year search for a tree killer has ended, says a University of Florida forest pathologist who helped identify the fungus that virtually wiped out the Florida Torreya and fears it may threaten other species.
The fungus infects more than 90 percent of wild Florida Torreyas in their native range, which covers parts of North Florida and South Georgia close to the Apalachicola River, said Jason Smith, an associate professor with UF’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation, part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Smith is part of a research team that discovered the fungus, Fusarium torreyae, and formally described it in the journal Mycologia. Personnel from Atlanta Botanical Garden and the state Department of Environmental Protection are also involved.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — To help the University of Florida raise $1.5 million needed to build the new Austin Cary Forest Learning Center, the Jacksonville-based forest products company Rayonier has donated $75,000.
The donation was celebrated at a ceremony today in the 2,040-acre Austin Cary Forest, located about six miles northeast of Gainesville. It was attended by Rayonier executives and administrators from UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
The funds will support a 7,800 square-foot building that includes a spacious conference room, a classroom, library, kitchen, gallery and large wrap-around porch. It will include an elevated deck built out over the surface of Lake Mize. With high ceilings, clean lines and large timbers, the building is designed to complement its natural surroundings.
The learning center is needed to replace the Austin Cary Forest Conference Center that opened in 1986, remembered by thousands of current and former Alachua County residents as a place where UF classes met and special events were held. That building was destroyed by fire in July 2011.