IFAS News

University of Florida

As zika spreads, UF/IFAS faculty on front lines battling the virus

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research, Safety

Common Aedes Aegypti mosquito, magnified 2,000 times at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 6/28, prepares to feed on human skin. After 15 years of test on more than 3,900 compounds, Jerry Bulter, professor of entomology, has developed a safe, natural insect repellent that protects people against everything from mosquitoes to ticks and tiny "no-see-ums."  Its the first effective alternative to products containing DEET, the most widely used ingredient in insect repellent now on the market. Butler's new herbal repellent is patented by the UF and licensed to a commercial firm.(AP Photo, Jerry Bulter)

Photo of an Aedes aegypti mosquito.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty are on the front lines in the battle against the zika virus, as entomologists study the ability of at least two mosquito species to transmit the virus and ways of reducing pesticide resistance.

They’re also teaching people statewide about how to prevent spreading zika.

As of Aug. 18, 510 American residents had contracted the virus. Florida has 479 zika cases, according to the state health department; 35 people in Florida have contracted zika via local transmission, meaning they didn’t bring it back from overseas.

Scientists at the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach, Florida, have made Zika a top priority. The virus is most likely transmitted by Aedes aegypti – the yellow fever mosquito – and Aedes albopictus – the Asian tiger mosquito.

In February, when the virus started making international news, Roxanne Connelly, a professor of medical entomology and UF/IFAS Extension specialist at the FMEL, put on a statewide zika webinar to tell Extension faculty the do’s and don’ts of trying to contain zika. One of her key messages – that still holds true — was to get rid of standing water and containers that could get water in them because those are mosquito breeding grounds. The other key element was to wear repellant with DEET.

These days, Connelly is working with other UF/IFAS Extension entomologists such as Faith Oi, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and mosquito control districts on zika educational workshops and school newsletters throughout Florida.

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UF/IFAS hires Eminent Scholar to help in fight against citrus greening

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Citrus, Departments, Entomology and Nematology, IFAS, Pests

Bryony Bonning

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has added another soldier in its battle against citrus greening by hiring world-renowned entomologist Bryony Bonning. She has been named Eminent Scholar with tenure in the UF/IFAS entomology and nematology department.

Currently, Bonning is a professor of entomology at Iowa State University and director of the National Science Foundation Center for Arthropod Management Technologies, where she oversees cutting-edge research on insect physiology and pathology, and biotechnology. Bonning is a recognized authority in the development of new technologies for insect pest management, and a fellow of the Entomological Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“Dr. Bonning brings an outstanding record of accomplishment and cooperation, and we are confident she will work tirelessly to develop solutions for citrus pest management,” said Blair Siegfried, chair of the UF/IFAS entomology and nematology department. “Her combined experience and achievements make her ideally suited and deserving of the position.”

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UF/IFAS research findings could eventually save $30 million annually for strawberry growers

Topic(s): Agriculture, Cultivars, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

Strawberry economics 111015 - vance whitaker

Please see caption below the story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Strawberry growers may eventually save $30 million a year with genetic findings from a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study.

UF/IFAS researchers are looking for ways to thwart angular leaf spot, a pathogen that can destroy up to 10 percent of Florida’s $300 million-a-year strawberry crop in years with multiple freezes.

In the research, Vance Whitaker, a UF/IFAS associate professor of horticultural sciences, and a team of researchers found genetic markers they believe can lead them to develop strawberry cultivars that are more resistant to angular leaf spot. Genetic markers are short sequences of DNA used to identify a chromosome or nearby genes in a genetic map.

In two years of field trials, researchers at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center – along with colleagues from Oregon, The Netherlands and Canada – found places in strawberry genes that show promise for developing cultivars that are resistant to this disease.

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New method could quash squash pests

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

Dr. Oscar Liburd conducts research on the management of thrips in blueberries.

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida grows more zucchini squash than anywhere else in America – to the tune of $70 million a year. To help improve production, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are developing a method to keep squash pests at bay.

For a newly published study, Janine Spies, a post-doctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS entomology department, simultaneously planted buckwheat with squash and found the method kept pests away while retaining yields at current levels. Furthermore, she and her colleagues manipulated how they planted buckwheat and squash.

“Pests like whiteflies and aphids transmit viruses to squash and can significantly reduce yield, and the money we make on squash,” Spies said. “This is why it is important to reduce the number of whiteflies and aphids that land on squash and to prevent the transmission of viruses.”

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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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Q-biotype whitefly expands to 8 Florida counties

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Entomology and Nematology, Extension, IFAS, Pests

WHITEFLY 052516

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Q-biotype whitefly, a significant pest that could damage agriculture, has spread from Palm Beach to seven other Florida counties, according to a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher.

Crops that could eventually be affected include tomatoes, squash, beans, watermelons and many other vegetables and ornamentals, said Lance Osborne, an entomology professor at UF/IFAS.

The whitefly species has now been reported in homeowners’ yards and on plants in retail nurseries are destined to be planted in yards as far north as Duval County. It’s also in Broward, Highlands, Hillsborough, Martin, Pinellas and Seminole counties, Osborne said.

In April, the whitefly was found for the first time outside greenhouses and nurseries in Florida. Known scientifically as Bemisia tabaci, the Q-biotype or Mediterranean whitefly is a light-colored, tiny flying insect. This marks the first time the Q-biotype of Bemisia tabaci has been found outside a greenhouse or nursery in the United States since it was found on an ornamental plant in a greenhouse in 2004-2005, said Osborne.

Inspectors from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services are in the process of tracing the flies back to the wholesale nurseries that shipped the plants to the retail stores. From there, nurseries can work with UF/IFAS on appropriate management practices.

If homeowners suspect they have a Q-biotype whitefly in their yard, they should use soap and oils that are sold as insecticides or just call a professional exterminator.

Researchers with UF/IFAS are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service and FDACS to manage the whitefly. The following measures are recommended to control the spread of Q-biotype whitefly:

 

  • Homeowners who suspect they have a whitefly infestation should contact their UF/IFAS Extension county office. Office locations may be found at http://bit.ly/1Q8wguw.
  • For identification purposes, infested leaves and dead insect specimens should be brought to local Extension offices. Wrap in a dry paper towel and place in a seal-able plastic bag and then in an envelope. Freezing the specimen overnight before transport is highly recommended. Live insects should not be transported.
  • The collection information should be included with the sample. Date, location, what type of vegetation is affected, number of suspected whiteflies, and any information about whether a pesticide has been used on the plant, is helpful information to managing the pest.  For steps on how to submit a sample to FDACS DPI, visit http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Plant-Industry/Business-Services/Submit-a-Sample-for-Identification.
  • Because new populations have built up resistance to chemicals, it is recommended that suspected whitefly infestations be confirmed before chemically treating the insects, as it may be needless to spray pesticides.
  • Landscapers and pest control operators should inspect for signs of whitefly pests, communicate with neighboring properties and homeowners associations, employ good management and growing practices, and implement whitefly management guidelines available at http://mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/lso/bemisia/bemisia.htm.
  • Nurseries that suspect whitefly infestations should contact Cindy McKenzie at cindy.mckenzie@ars.usda.gov. She will only report positive finds to the county level. Growers will not be identified. Please also check out the UF/IFAS whitefly management program at http://mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/lso/bemisia/DOCUMENTS/WhiteflyManagementProgram_1-15-15.pdf).

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Caption: The Q-biotype whitefly, a significant pest that could damage agriculture, has spread from Palm Beach to seven other Florida counties, according to a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher. Crops that could eventually be affected include tomatoes, squash, beans, watermelons and many other vegetables and ornamentals, said Lance Osborne, an entomology professor at UF/IFAS.

Credit: UF/IFAS file.

By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Sources: Lance Osborne, 407-461-8329, lsosborn@ufl.edu

Adrian Hunsberger, 305-248-3311, aghu@ufl.edu

Fruit fly outbreak cost growers $4.1 million; could have been much worse

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

Oriental Fruit Fly Damage 070516

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences economists estimate the Oriental fruit fly outbreak last year caused at least $4.1 million in direct crop damages in Miami-Dade County, but the damage could have been far worse, UF/IFAS researchers say.

In the new report, UF/IFAS researchers and the chief economist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, compiled three scenarios for crop losses: optimistic, mid-range and pessimistic. So, although the optimistic scenario reports direct crop damage at $4.1 million, the pessimistic one shows that the loss could have been $23 million.

Edward “Gilly” Evans, a UF/IFAS professor of food and resource economics, said the $4.1 million loss that he and his colleagues estimated was a conservative one and does not reflect the full economic impact on the economy due to the multiplier effect. In addition to these costs, approximately $1.5 million was spent by state and local agencies in a joint effort to control the outbreak.

The direct crop losses came as a result of the quarantine protocol and a potential non-planting response by growers in Miami-Dade County.

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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

Please see caption below story.

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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Science teachers to explore what makes plants sick, healthy at UF/IFAS workshops

Topic(s): Agriculture, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The work of a plant pathologist, or plant doctor, is much like that of a regular doctor—you have sick patients who need treatment, said Monica Elliott, professor of plant pathology at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, who has organized a free plant pathology workshop for middle and high school teachers.

However, there is one crucial difference between curing plants and curing people that should put the more squeamish of the attendees at ease, Elliott said. “There’s no blood!”

Over the next few weeks, educators will spend the day at one of several UF/IFAS Research and Education Centers across the state learning the basics of plant pathology and the role it plays in growing healthy crops. The workshops are designed to give teachers material they can bring back to their classrooms.

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UF/IFAS expert: Whitefly species likely to cause growers problems

Topic(s): Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Pests, Research

WHITEFLY 052516

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences expert predicts the Q-biotype whitefly discovered in April in Palm Beach County will likely cause problems for growers.

The Q-biotype whitefly – not to be confused with the B-biotype, which came to Florida in the mid-1980s – is now being seen outside greenhouses and nurseries and poses a threat to ornamental plants and agricultural crops. After the B-biotype was found in Florida in the 1980s, scientists saw big increases in the diversity and frequency of whitefly-transmitted viruses in many Florida crops, said Jane Polston, a UF/IFAS plant pathology professor. Crops like beans, tomato, watermelon and squash were hit hard by these viruses after the appearance of the B biotype.

“This Q-biotype is a pest that damages crops and resists many of the insecticides that are effective on the B-biotype, the whitefly that is common in many ornamental and vegetable crops,” Polston said. “And like other whiteflies, it is capable of transmitting viruses from one plant to another.”

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