GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida researcher is exploring whether the latest plant, animal or human health threats will come from the sky.
Using the first ever high-altitude sampling device designed to collect microorganisms from the upper atmosphere, Andrew Schuerger, an aerobiologist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, will examine the massive dust clouds that roll into Florida from Africa each year.
The maiden flight of the device, known as Dust at Altitude Recovery Technology or DART, was flown on an F-104 Starfighter jet Tuesday at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Restaurants and supermarkets could save millions of dollars by hanging on to bug zapper bulbs instead of tossing them every year as they normally do, a new University of Florida study has found.
What’s more, the benefits could extend to the environment by keeping some of the bulbs’ mercury out of the waste stream.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers have some encouraging results in the battle against citrus greening.
They have identified citrus cultivars, in this case 16 citrus rootstocks, most of which show a lower rate of infection and more tolerance to citrus greening – the dreaded disease that has wreaked havoc through Florida’s citrus industry since its arrival in the state in 2005.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For some 50 years, scientists have tried — but failed — to find a way to use microbes as a means of biological control for destructive subterranean termites.
University of Florida researchers have now discovered why termites have proven to be so disease resistant. Termites use their own feces as nest-building material. The fecal nest promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria, which in turn suppress pathogens — or in plainer words: termite poop works as a natural antibiotic.
Besides improving termite control, the findings could help pave the way for new human antibiotics.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Animal biodiversity suffers near conservation areas that border big farms, and the effects can spread for miles, according to a new study by University of Florida researchers and their colleagues.
Maintaining animal biodiversity is important as it can lead to greater control of agricultural pests and increased pollination around farmland as well as help maintain the health of an area’s ecosystem, said Robert McCleery, a study co-author.
The researchers studied small mammal populations across large-scale sugarcane production areas and adjacent to isolated pockets of conservation land in Swaziland, Africa. The study was published Monday in the online journal PLOS ONE and can be viewed here: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0074520.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — There is no evidence that pollutants from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill contributed to the “unprecedented” decline in recent Apalachicola Bay oyster populations, according to a report this week by the University of Florida.
Instead, the report by UF’s Oyster Recovery Team cites drought, insufficient rainfall and increased salinity in the bay as factors contributing to the dramatic drop-off in oyster landings beginning in September 2012 and continuing through the year, said Karl Havens, task force leader and director of Florida Sea Grant.
“There was a whole chain of circumstances that led to this situation, some of which are beyond human control,” Havens said. “Our report makes recommendations for many things that can be done to help the oyster population through management and restoration.”
Havens and other recovery team members discussed the report and findings with a crowd of about 60 residents and seafood workers Wednesday at the Apalachicola Community Center.
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.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The nationwide School of Ants has set up shop at the University of Florida, but picnickers can relax – none of its “students” are the six-legged variety.
The school is an example of citizen science, a project where ordinary people collect and submit data for experts to review and compile. Participants collect ants from their yards and neighborhoods, then entomologists identify each species and plot its location on digital maps that, eventually, will provide a snapshot of ant distribution around the country.
“Knowledge of the presence of a species of ant might help for things like quarantine and control, if the species is a problem,” said founder Andrea Lucky, an assistant scientist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “If we find a rare ant, or an ant that’s way outside its known range, we may want to keep an eye on it purely for academic purposes.”
The school was launched at North Carolina State University in 2011, a collaboration between Lucky and Rob Dunn, a biology assistant professor. Then last semester, Lucky took a position with UF’s entomology and nematology department. Though the North Carolina branch will remain active, Lucky says she’s thrilled to relocate the project headquarters to Florida, which has more ant species than any other state.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Gulf Coast farmers know that the invasive yellowmargined leaf beetle loves cooler temperatures, devouring leaves on turnips and other cole crops in fall and winter; now, a University of Florida study suggests the beetle’s cold tolerance could help it spread much further north than its current range.
Researchers report in the November 2012 issue of Annals of the Entomological Society of America that the beetle’s eggs can withstand prolonged periods at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. That means the insect might survive in Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky and Virginia, says entomologist Ron Cave, an associate professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Cutline at bottom. Click here for high-resolution image.
Cutline at bottom. Click here for high-resolution image.
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.