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.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Consumed by 3 billion people, rice is arguably the world’s most important food staple, and one reason for its popularity is that rice can be grown under flooded conditions that suppress weeds, making cultivation easier.
In some parts of the world, water is in short supply, but farmers often devote what they can to rice farming, because the crop is so important. However, research has led to a simple but profound solution that requires less water – growing rice in fields, a practice called aerobic rice production.
The practice relies on rainfall plus limited irrigation to meet the plants’ moisture needs. It requires about 40 percent less water than paddy-grown rice, according to a University of Florida study in the current issue of Agronomy Journal.
Aerobic rice production is gaining popularity in India and Southeast Asia, particularly in drought-stricken or upland areas, said Rao Mylavarapu, a professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and one of the study’s authors.
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Adult Diaprepes citrus weevil. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service. Click here for high-res image.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Diaprepes citrus weevil is often more abundant in finely textured, poorly drained flatwoods soils than in the sandy soil varieties of Florida’s Central Ridge; perhaps that’s because sandy soils seem to host more species of nematodes that prey on insects.
Researchers with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Science have taken those observations and turned them into a potential management technique, using “transplanted” soil and nematodes to grow flatwoods citrus. Their results appear in the January issue of the journal Biological Control.
In the study, researchers conducted experiments at a weevil-infested flatwoods citrus grove in Osceola County. They planted 50 trees in oversized holes filled with sand, and 50 trees in native soil, then introduced predatory nematodes to most of the trees. For the next four years, researchers monitored nematode and weevil populations and checked tree health.
The results showed there were more predatory nematodes of more species — and fewer weevils — in the root zones of trees planted in sandy soil. By the study’s end, 21 trees in native soil had died of weevil herbivory, compared with three trees in sandy soil. Surviving trees in sandy soil also had 60 percent greater trunk diameter and produced 85 percent more fruit than those in native soil.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida scientist is researching a method to freeze and preserve orchid seeds, and besides aiding producers, it might also give endangered plants a better chance at survival.
Wagner Vendrame, an associate professor of environmental horticulture with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, is trying to improve a technique known as cryopreservation, in which living cells or tissues are frozen in liquid nitrogen at minus 321 degrees Fahrenheit for later use. So far, his results from cryopreserving orchid seeds have been promising.
The Florida orchid industry generated more than $43 million in sales in 2011. It produces orchids for both the specialty and mass market using hybrid plants that can be cultivated and are thus not in danger of extinction as many orchid species are.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Repelling Western flower thrips from Florida’s bell peppers could be as simple as giving the insects a push and a pull, say researchers with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
A team at UF’s North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy is evaluating an eco-friendly approach called “push-pull.” It’s meant to push thrips away from the target crop with unpleasant stimuli, and pull the insect to another type of plant grown as a lure.
Initial findings from a two-year study at a South Florida farm suggest that push-pull could help the state’s outdoor pepper growers reduce the thrips threat, said entomologist Joe Funderburk, a UF/IFAS professor who led the study.
The Western flower thrips is native to the Southwestern United States but spread to the country’s Eastern half in the 1980s. The insect feeds on plant juices and preys on more than 500 species, including many vegetables, fruits and ornamentals. It also transmits the notorious tomato spotted wilt virus.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Protecting Florida’s $80 million blueberry crop from freeze damage is always a wintertime challenge, but a University of Florida study shows that structures called high tunnels could shield plants from cold and promote earlier fruit ripening.
Though the initial investment can run from $18,000 to $25,000 per acre plus labor, high tunnels deliver better quality fruit, bigger early yields and higher prices if growers beat competitors to market, said Bielinski Santos, an associate professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
The study, published in the current issue of HortTechnology, tracked two growing seasons on a commercial blueberry farm in Alachua County. The results showed that temperatures outside the tunnels plunged to freezing or near-freezing 61 times during the study. Temperatures fell that low just three times inside the unheated tunnels.
High tunnels may increase air and soil temperatures and protect the plants from wind and rain damage, leading to better flowering and more fruit, said Santos, based at UF’s Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The enzyme CXE1 will never be a household name, but a new University of Florida study suggests that tomato lovers owe it a debt of thanks nonetheless — without it, their favorite fruit might not be so tasty.
In a study published this week by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences announced their discovery of the enzyme and showed how the common tomato plant generates large amounts of it as the fruit ripens.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For scientists, making field observations of organisms and ecosystems can be a daunting challenge.
Travel to remote locations is costly and difficult. Observation methods are limited and must be devised so that they only capture accurate, relevant data.
Satellite imagery is one alternative for assessing wild places, and it has some advantages over boots-on-the-ground observations, said Matteo Convertino, a research scientist with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. (more …)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida is home to many types of soil and some of them lack carbon, meaning they could be used for carbon sequestration – but a new University of Florida study shows that variability in the state’s existing soil carbon levels could make the task harder.
Carbon sequestration is the practice of storing carbon; one way to accomplish it is by adding carbon-rich material to soils. Carbon sequestration aims to slow the build-up of carbon-based gases in the atmosphere, a phenomenon believed to be a cause of global climate change. Some landowners may be able to make money by allowing their properties to be used as sites for carbon sequestration.
In a presentation today at the joint meeting of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and Soil Science Society of America, researchers with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences reported early findings from a statewide study analyzing soil carbon content across areas the size of a football field.
The results confirm what researchers have suspected – that soil carbon content can vary widely on a small site, said Sabine Grunwald, a professor in UF’s soil and water science department. That means efforts to amend soil with carbon-rich biomass will need to be tailored to local carbon levels.
The results also confirm that soil carbon variability has a lot to do with how the land is used and what material covers the land, factors known as land use and land cover.