IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS Fulbright scholar to study unknown biodiversity in Poland

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, CALS, Conservation, Departments, Environment, IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For six months after she applied for a Fulbright Research Scholarship, Karolina Weclawska’s life was on hold. The University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences senior said people would ask about her plans for after graduation this spring, and all she could say was, “Well, that’s up to the Fulbright Commission.”

You can’t make alternate plans for the opportunity of a lifetime.

After months of waiting nervously while the commission deliberated over thousands of applications, the commission responded. “I almost brought down the foundation of my house jumping around and screaming,” said Weclawska, who is in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation.

Her project targets an underappreciated area of biodiversity — forest mosses. Mosses provide habitats for microscopic organisms, in turn creating miniature ecosystems. As Weclawska described it, a patch of moss is basically a tiny forest.

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Bumblebees boost blueberry yield

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Bumblebees can boost blueberry yield by 70 percent, good news for Florida growers in the heart of their blueberry season, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

The news also accentuates the need for blueberry pollinators, said Joshua Campbell, a post-doctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS entomology and nematology department.

After caging bumblebee hives with highbush blueberry bushes, researchers found that 70 percent of the flowers produced blueberries, while less than 10 percent of those without bumblebee hives produced blueberries. That’s helpful news for blueberry growers, said Campbell, co-author of a new study published in the Journal of Environmental Entomology.

“We think our findings are very relevant for growers who are growing blueberries in greenhouses and high tunnels,” Campbell said.

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Renowned plant scientist to explore relationship between plants, health for 2017 York Lecture

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, Nutrition, Safety

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Can crops be fortified to improve diets and lower the rate of chronic diseases? Cathie Martin, a world-renowned expert on plant metabolic engineering, will discuss that question at the 2017 E.T. York Lecture.

The free event will be held at 2 p.m., Thursday, April 13 in the University of Florida Emerson Alumni Hall. The UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is hosting the lecture.

Martin is a group leader at the John Innes Centre in the United Kingdom, the leading plant research institute in Europe. Also, Martin is a professor at the University of East Anglia where she researches the relationship between diet and health, and how crops can be fortified to improve diets and address the problem of escalating chronic illnesses. Her work links leading clinical and epidemiological researchers with plant breeders and metabolic engineers.

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UF hosts international symposium for Global Child Nutrition Month

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Economics, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — April is Global Child Nutrition Month and researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are working to find innovative ways to combat malnutrition worldwide.

According to 2015 UNICEF, WHO and World Bank estimates, approximately 24 percent of children in the world, roughly 159 million in 2014, suffer from chronic malnutrition, and almost half of all child deaths worldwide are linked to undernutrition.

Thus, scientists from across the globe are gathering at UF on March 29 and 30 to share experiences in research and programs, and to discuss ways to improve nutrition through animal-source foods in some of the most impoverished regions in the world. The theme of the Global Nutrition Symposium, is “Nurturing Development: Improving human nutrition with animal-source foods.”

The effects of malnutrition are devastating, said Adegbola Adesogan, director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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UF CALS student wins regional award for mosquito research and leadership in the entomology field

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, IFAS, Pests

Casey Parker

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences graduate student received the prestigious Kirby L. Hays Memorial Award. The award, from the Entomological Society of America’s southeastern branch, was presented at the branch’s 91st annual meeting in Memphis, Tenn., on March 12 to 15.

Casey Parker recently began her Ph.D. program at the Florida Medical Entomology Lab and is dual enrolled in the master of public health program. She hopes to become a leader in the field of medical and veterinary entomology.

The award honors her work as an outstanding master’s student in entomology and nematology, taking into account her teaching experience, outreach, research and past awards.

“This is a huge honor for me,” Parker said. “Before I was presented the award, the chair of the student awards committee said one of the many reasons I was chosen for this award was because of my leadership ability in teaching, research and Extension like Dr. Hays, after whom the award is named.”

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Antique turpentine still to be unveiled at UF Austin Cary Forest

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Forestry, IFAS

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If you’ve ever sipped Gatorade, eaten a Cadbury Crème Egg, put on a Band-Aid or used a Post-It note, you have a forest to thank.

These products are on a long list of items with ingredients derived from pine gum, the sticky substance that oozes from tapped pine trees, said Wayne Smith, emeritus professor with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

One hundred years ago, Florida was the world’s leading producer of pine gum, which was processed into turpentine and rosin, Smith said.

On April 1, the UF/IFAS Austin Cary Forest Campus will commemorate the turpentine industry’s impact on the state with the dedication of the A. Chester Skinner Jr. Family Turpentine Education Site. The site includes traditional and modern pine gum collection techniques, an antique turpentine still restored to historic accuracy, four educational kiosks, and ADA compliant paths connecting the site to the other buildings and trails on the campus.

The dedication will kick off the annual Spring Celebration for alumni and students of the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. Dedication, ribbon-cutting and site tours are set for 10 a.m., followed by a barbeque lunch, and the School’s annual scholarship and awards ceremony.

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UF students learn how to save environment, lessen wildfires with prescribed burns

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Assistant professor Raelene Crandall walks her 18 students into Austin Cary Forest, part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, where they will set a fire. Crandall and the students stand out in their lemon yellow shirts, forest green pants, leather boots and gloves, and hard hats—all fireproof.

“Wildfire season is starting early this year, because we’re seeing a warmer, drier spring,” said Crandall, who teaches fire ecology in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. “Experts predict an unusually bad wildfire season this year with the dry conditions and prescribed burns may help lower that number.”

The students check the plow line, which is used to contain a fire to a particular area and then start a fire along the edge. They stand back as plants begin to burn and the fire gradually progresses. “If we don’t conduct prescribed burns, we will get larger, often catastrophic fires that threaten families and structures,” Crandall explained.

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Wet ‘dry season’ damaged valuable ornamentals

Topic(s): Economics, Extension, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, RECs, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s winters are usually dry, but the wet winter of 2015-2016 helped spread pathogens that destroyed ornamental plants in Miami-Dade County. That’s a problem in an area where the industry generated an estimated $998 million annually in sales in 2015, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers say.

Damage figures are not yet available from the 2015-2016 winter rains, but UF/IFAS scientists have found the pathogens Phytophthora and Pythium caused the most destruction. Rain spreads those pathogens, said Georgina Sanahuja, a post-doctoral researcher at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida.

Meteorologists consider Florida’s “dry season” to run from Oct. 1 to March 1 and the rest of the year to be the “wet season.” But last year, the “dry season” wasn’t so dry, because of El Niño, which brought more rain than South Florida has seen since records were kept starting in 1932, a new study published in the journal HortTechnology says.

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Florida Agriculture Literacy Day Set for May 2

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Aquaculture, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Use your imagination to hop aboard ‘Ole Red’ and ‘Bobby Boat’ for a tour of Florida’s aquaculture and seafood industries, part of the 14th annual Florida Agriculture Literacy Day on Tuesday, May 2.

To celebrate, participants from many sectors of Florida’s agriculture sector, including employees and volunteers from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, will read to elementary schoolchildren in their classrooms.

They’ll read the book, “Drive Through Florida: Aquaculture and Seafood,” which features the animated red truck ‘Ole Red’ and his new friend, ‘Bobby Boat.’ Participants are encouraged to read the book ahead of time to familiarize themselves with the content before their classroom readings.

“Ag Literacy day is a great opportunity for students to learn about something they may not see in their daily lessons,” said Becky Sponholtz, executive director of Florida Agriculture in the Classroom. “Students enjoy the interaction with industry representatives, who often take the reading day as a chance to further engage students with hands-on examples of their commodities. Last year, volunteers across the state brought samples of Florida vegetables for students to taste and feel. This year some students may get to see and touch an alligator.”

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UF/IFAS to host farmer’s market food safety workshop on April 10

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Extension, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, Nutrition

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Farmer’s markets have been growing in popularity over the past decade, as consumers discover the benefits of buying farm-fresh food from local growers. However, increasing popularity has also raised food safety concerns for produce sold at farmer’s markets.

The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is hosting a one-day workshop from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday, April 10. The workshop will be held at the Power Plant Business Incubator, 2nd floor training room, 405 SE Osceola Ave., Ocala, Florida 34471.

Assistant professor Soo Ahn, in the food science and human nutrition department, and other UF/IFAS faculty will host classes on what matters most to consumers, food safety issues, safety guidelines for growers and vendors, and how to ensure products are in compliance.

Cost of attendance is $40 through March 31 for early registration; $50 starting April 1. Click here to register online. For more information, contact Soo Ahn at sahn82@ufl.edu or 352-294-3909.

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By: Beverly James, 352-273-3566, beverlymjames@ufl.edu

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

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