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IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS finding could help farmers stop potato, tomato disease

Topic(s): Crops, Economics, Pests

potato famine photo

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida scientist has pinpointed Mexico as the origin of the pathogen that caused the 1840s Irish Potato Famine, a finding that may help researchers solve the $6 billion-a-year disease that continues to evolve and torment potato and tomato growers around the world.

A disease called “late blight” killed most of Ireland’s potatoes, while today it costs Florida tomato farmers millions each year in lost yield, unmarketable crop and control expenses.

For more than a century, scientists thought the pathogen that caused late blight originated in Mexico. But a 2007 study contradicted earlier findings, concluding it came from the South American Andes.

UF plant pathology assistant professor Erica Goss wanted to clear up the confusion and after analyzing sequenced genes from four strains of the pathogen, found ancestral relationships among them that point to Mexico as the origin.

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Who’s fooling who? Species communicate, ‘eavesdrop’ and play tricks near infected trees

Topic(s): Citrus, Entomology and Nematology, Pests

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Four species communicate with and sometimes trick each other around a scent produced by greening-infected citrus trees, a new University of Florida study finds.

Communication between species is common but almost always is described between two or three species, said Lukasz Stelinski, associate professor of entomology and nematology at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.

Stelinski wanted know how a fourth species, in this case, a wasp, would vary this interaction ─  a probe that may be one of the few cases where species at four levels of the food chain use one odor to communicate with, and exploit, each other.

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Growers play vital role in UF/IFAS organic strawberry study

Topic(s): Crops, Cultivars, Economics, IFAS, Pests

Strawberries.  UF/IFAS Photo by Marisol Amador.

This UF/IFAS file photo shows Florida-grown strawberries.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – After the first year of a University of Florida study to try to develop new organic strawberry production systems, growers are playing a critical role in setting priorities for the research project’s future.

The study stemmed from several issues strawberry growers face. Rising costs of production and increased imports of strawberries threaten the sustainability of the Florida strawberry industry, one of two major production regions in the nation. Demand for organic strawberries is growing and brings a price premium for growers who can master the art and science of organic strawberry production.

Organic and conventional growers assessed parts of the first year of research, said Mickie Swisher, associate professor of sustainable agriculture in UF’s Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences and a member of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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A better bedbug trap: Made from household items for about $1

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Household Pests, New Technology, Pests

Benjamin Hottel, a University of Florida doctoral student in entomology, left, and Phil Koehler, an urban entomology professor, demonstrate how to build a do-it-yourself bedbug trap. They created a method for building an inexpensive trap to help those who

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Bug-Trap

This graphic illustrates how you can make the bedbug interceptor trap.

Video available at: http://bit.ly/1vfXPrL.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The contraption seems so simple, yet so clever, like something The Professor might have concocted on “Gilligan’s Island.”

Researchers at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have devised a bedbug trap that can be built with household items. All you need are two disposable plastic containers, masking tape and glue, said Phil Koehler, UF/IFAS urban entomology professor. The traps catch and collect the bugs when they try to travel between people and the places where bedbugs hide, he said.

“This concept of trapping works for places where people sleep and need to be protected at those locations,” Koehler said.

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UF/IFAS is crawling with excitement as annual Bug Week nears

Topic(s): Announcements, Entomology and Nematology, Household Pests, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests

Bug Week

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is hosting its second annual Bug Week May 19-23 with activities for students, families and bug lovers around the nation.

“The UF Department of Entomology and Nematology is one of the best in the country,” said Ruth Hohl Borger, assistant vice president for UF/IFAS Communications. “Bug Week is a great opportunity for our researchers to excite the imaginations of children – and children at heart – about the bugs that live among us.” (more …)

UF/IFAS researchers start to pinpoint biological control for Brazilian peppertree

Topic(s): Biocontrols, Crops, Entomology and Nematology, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests

 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A South American insect could help control the invasive Brazilian peppertree in places where it supplants critical habitat for many organisms, according to University of Florida and U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists.

Brazilian peppertree has clusters of hundreds of small, red berries, and grows about 10 feet per year, to about 30 feet. It is native to Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. The tree has moved around the world as an ornamental plant and has become invasive in several states and countries, including Florida, Texas and Hawaii as well as Australia, New Zealand and some Caribbean islands.

In Florida, Brazilian peppertree has infested nearly 700,000 acres in the central and southern regions. It has been particularly abundant in the Everglades. In general, the trees take over space where native plants should be. Animals such as white-tailed deer, the Florida panther and migratory birds that depend on native vegetation, such as mangrove, for food and shelter are deprived of that habitat.

“This can have cascading effects through the food chain,” said Bill Overholt, an entomology professor at UF’s Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce.

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UF/IFAS student presents research in Washington, D.C.

Topic(s): Green Living, Pests

hatlady

Caption below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – University of Florida Entomology and Nematology undergraduate student Sabrina White recently participated in the elite two-day “Posters on the Hill” presentation with congressional leaders and staff last week.

White presented findings from her honors thesis work with her faculty mentor, UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ insect physiologist Daniel Hahn, April 29 at the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

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UF/IFAS faculty member coordinates global pest paper contest

Topic(s): Agriculture, Household Pests, Pests
Jiri Hulcr, a University of Florida assistant professor of forest entomology, coordinates a global contest that encourages students to write original research papers about insects as pests. Courtesy: Jiri Hulcr

Jiri Hulcr, a University of Florida assistant professor of forest entomology, coordinates a global contest that encourages students to write original research papers about insects as pests.
Courtesy: Jiri Hulcr

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida entomology faculty member coordinates a global contest for students’ original insect research, and he recently announced the two winners for 2013.

The contest encourages students to research the natural history of pests, said Jiri Hulcr, a UF assistant professor in forest entomology and a member of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

For their research papers, Stephen Taerum, who attends the University of Pretoria in South Africa and Emily Meineke, a student at North Carolina State University, won the most recent contest, now in its second year, said. For winning, they shared the annual prize of  $500.

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UF/IFAS researcher co-authors beetle book

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Forestry, Pests

Xyleborini New Guinea

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Pesky beetles sit, ready to pounce on their unwitting prey: trees around the world, which sustain billions of dollars in damage because of the armored insects, says a University of Florida scientist, who has co-written a book about beetles native to Papua New Guinea.

Thousands of beetle species make their home in Papua New Guinea, a small island off the northern coast of Australia, but only two or three travel to other parts of the globe, said Jiri Hulcr, a UF assistant professor of forest entomology. First, they have to be exported, something humans do by accident, said Hulcr, a member of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ faculty.

“We put them in habitats where they shouldn’t be,” he said, by exporting wood or using it to send ship cargo. “It’s not as though these beetles have evolved as killing species. They have evolved in their native habitat.”

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UF develops first high-altitude device to help detect health threats from the sky

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

DartTestFlight017

Click here for high-resolution version. Caption at bottom.

African dust video

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.

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