IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS researcher wins global award for space life sciences

Topic(s): Environment, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, New Technology, Research

FERL AWARD 072016

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A UF/IFAS horticultural sciences professor, known worldwide for research on growing plants in space, has won the 2016 Jeffries Aerospace Medicine and Life Sciences Research Award.

The award is given to a member of the aerospace exploration community who embodies the innovation and insight exemplified by American physician, John Jeffries, who was the first person — back in 1786 — to utilize aeronautics to collect scientific data.

Robert Ferl, who researches how plants can grow in space, won the award. Specifically, Ferl was cited for conducting cutting-edge space biology research and for mentoring others in spaceflight research, pushing the boundaries of where biology can travel.

“I was surprised and enormously honored to win the award,” said Ferl, who was recognized this month in Vienna, Austria. “For a space biologist, recognition by the engineers — the rocket builders, the space suit designers, the people who plan the missions — is a huge honor that acknowledges the role of fundamental science in moving life into space.”

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Entomologist joins UF/IFAS to help solve citrus greening

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Citrus, Crops, Entomology and Nematology, Extension, IFAS, New Technology, RECs, Research

Qureshi

FORT PIERCE, Fla. – An entomologist with 10 years of research focused on the state’s iconic citrus industry has joined the faculty of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Indian River Research and Education Center.

Named Entomologist of the Year in 2012 by the Florida Entomological Society, Jawwad A. Qureshi was selected for a new position as assistant professor of entomology at UF/IFAS IRREC, near Fort Pierce, Florida. The UF/IFAS Fort Pierce location is part of the university’s statewide service to agriculture, providing research, extension and education for producers.

“Dr. Qureshi is one of the world’s few entomologists who have expertise in integrated pest management focused specifically on citrus,” said UF/IFAS IRREC interim director Ronald D. Cave. “His work is much needed in the region known worldwide for the highest quality fresh citrus product.”

According to Cave, Qureshi’s expertise with insect pest management for the citrus industry is critically valuable to the state’s citrus industry at a time when huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening, has had a negative impact on the crop statewide.

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UF/IFAS-developed web tool saves money for strawberry growers in several states

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, New Technology, Pests, RECs, Research

Strawberry forecasting feature photos for the 2010 IFAS Annual Research Report.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A UF/IFAS-developed web tool – which has been shown to save Florida strawberry growers $1.7 million a year – is now being used in several other states, including Maryland, Georgia, South Carolina and California.

Florida’s strawberry crop is worth $300 million a year. It’s also important to the national economy. For example, in 2014, the United States produced 3 billion pounds of strawberries, valued at nearly $2.9 billion, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Florida ranks second to California in strawberry production.

While gaining a foothold in other states, the tool is getting more useful, thanks to work by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers. Scientists have found a promising model to simulate leaf wetness in plants of strawberries.

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New method tells growers more about citrus decay

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, Economics, Environment, IFAS, New Technology, Pests, Research, Weather

Citrus Decay Detection 063016

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With citrus growers trying to save their groves in the wake of the deadly greening disease, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher has found a new technique that could help growers answer a vexing question – why so much fruit is dropping to the ground prematurely.

If we know why fruit is dropping, we can better figure out what caused it to drop – factors such as temperature, wind, humidity, rainfall, citrus greening or other factors, said Wonsuk “Daniel” Lee, a UF/IFAS professor of agricultural and biological engineering.

While there is no known cure for greening, it’s important to know its locations and how much damage the disease caused at those sites so growers can mitigate the disease, a new study led by Lee says.

One indicator of the severity of damage is the number of dropped fruit. The other is how much the fruit has decayed once on the ground.

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UF survey shows most Floridians want to know more about genetically modified foods

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, New Technology, Nutrition, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While almost half of Floridians acknowledge buying genetically modified foods, a recent survey by the Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Florida reveals that most people want to know much more about those foods.

“The study shows that Floridians believe they don’t know much about genetically modified foods and their benefits,” said Joy Rumble, assistant professor in agricultural education and communication at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “Many people are favorable to supporting research, and they think it’s essential that government support it. Floridians see a place for GM foods, but they do have hesitations.”

The PIE Center surveyed 500 Floridians on their perceptions of genetically modified foods. Respondents were largely unsure about the potential benefits of genetically modified food, with more than 40 percent neither agreeing nor disagreeing that food technology such as GMOs allows people to live longer or better lives.

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New test can detect plant viruses faster, cheaper

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, IFAS, New Technology, Research

A virus that could devastate the Florida and southern U.S. tomato crop has been detected for the first time in the U.S. by University of Florida researchers. Here, Jane Polston, UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences associate professor of pathology, examines a plant infected with tomato yellow leaf curl virus. Regulators are working to pull all infected plants from retailer shelves.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new test could save time and money diagnosing plant viruses, some of which can destroy millions of dollars in crops each year in Florida, says a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher.

In a newly published study, Jane Polston, a UF/IFAS plant pathology professor, examined several ways to detect the DNA genome of begomoviruses. These viruses have emerged over the last 30 years to become plant pathogens that threaten crop production in tropical and sub-tropical regions globally.

Polston and her research colleagues found that a certain test called “recombinase polymerase amplification” identified the cause of a disease faster and cheaper than the commonly used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test – or “assay,” as scientists call them.

UF/IFAS scientists learned of this new type of test that’s fast, sensitive and cheaper than some other methods, and they adapted the new technology and modified it to test for several whitefly-transmitted viruses found in Florida, Polston said.

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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 short course cultivates relationships millions of years in the making

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Environment, Extension, Green Living, IFAS, New Technology, Research

Mycorrhiziae under a microscope

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Not all fungal infections are bad for plants—in fact, some of them are critical for plant survival, according University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.

The UF/IFAS Applications and Analyses of Mycorrhizal Associations course teaches participants how to harness the power of these beneficial fungi. Andy Ogram, professor of soil and water sciences, and Abid Al Agely, senior biological scientist, co-founded the course.

Mycorrhizal fungi live in the soil and have a symbiotic relationship with plants. “The fungi actually function like part of the root systems,” and can be cooperative with 90 percent of plants, said Ogram. This mutually beneficial relationship is called a mycorrhizal association and is technically an infection, though a positive one.

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New method may help detect avocado pathogen earlier

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Environment, IFAS, New Technology, Pests

 

In this photo released by the University of FloridaÕs Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, agricultural economist Edward ÒGillyÓ Evans, left, and tropical fruit expert Jonathan Crane examine avocados in a research grove at UFÕs Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead Ð Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009. The pair helped write a paper on the potential economic impact of laurel wilt, a disease threatening FloridaÕs avocado crop. If the disease reaches Miami-Dade County, it could destroy half the crop and cost the state $27 million. (AP photo/University of Florida/IFAS/Thomas Wright)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers have found an algorithm to help them detect laurel wilt, the deadly pathogen that threatens Florida’s $100 million-a-year avocado industry.

Reza Ehsani, an associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, said the algorithm finds laurel wilt-infected avocado trees before symptoms are visible to the naked eye. About 500 growers produce Florida’s avocado crop annually, and more than 98 percent of the fruit is grown in Miami-Dade County. UF scientists estimate laurel wilt could severely reduce the commercial avocado industry if they don’t find control strategies for the pathogen and ambrosia beetles.

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Saving green: UF/IFAS computer program saves nurseries water, plants and money

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Economics, Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, New Technology, Research

 

Poinsettia. Rapid urban growth in Florida and the Southeast creates a huge demand for a wide range of container-grown ornamental plants and trees for residential and commericial landscapes.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A web-based irrigation system developed by researchers at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences saved 21 percent in water use without reducing growth of container-grown landscape plants, a new study shows.

While UF/IFAS scientists say a Virginia nursery is the only one utilizing the system so far, they hope similar businesses take advantage of the software, so they can reap its benefits in saved water and money. For now, scientists are interested in the irrigation needs of container-grown plants such as anise, gardenias, azaleas, junipers, roses and more.

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