GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Although the Zika virus is spreading, even into Florida, it does not appear to have been transmitted from mosquito to person or person to person in Florida. But that could happen any time, University of Florida scientists say. Thus, they urge everyone to stay alert.
“We should remain vigilant and informed,” said Jorge Rey, entomology professor and interim director of the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory (FMEL) in Vero Beach, Florida, part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Public concerns about Zika triggered UF/IFAS scientists to write a new Extension document to explain the virus. The paper can be found at http://bit.ly/1QTLDqO. FMEL scientists also have crafted a new question-and-answer document for their website, http://bit.ly/1O0eLbi.
BELLE GLADE, Fla. — University of Florida scientists at the Everglades Research and Education Center have found an important way to control the destructive rice water weevil, one of the major pests in rice production.
UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher Ron Cherry and his team discovered that shallow flooding of rice fields can help reduce rice water weevil populations during Florida’s growing season, between April and September. Previous studies of the effect of flood depth on the pest have been inconsistent. (more …)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher has won an $822,000 early-career award from the National Science Foundation recognizing her commitment to research and the integration of research into teaching undergraduate students.
The NSF honored Christine Miller, an assistant professor of entomology, with its CAREER award as part of a foundation-wide activity that supports faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars.
“It’s been a dream of mine for years to receive this award, and at some level I still can’t believe that it has actually happened,” Miller said. “I am very excited for the next five years. It will be great to involve so many undergraduate students in the cutting edge of science.”
During the five-year grant, Miller will investigate the evolution and diversification of elaborate animal weapons, such as antlers, horns and spurs, which males use to compete for females. Together with hundreds of students, Miller will determine how fighting behaviors have led to diversification of these weapons.
“This work will engage and train hundreds of students,” Miller said. “Undergraduates are often fascinated by animal behavior and weaponry, and these topics will be a fun way to engage and retain students in science.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Asian tiger mosquito is attracted to flowering butterfly bushes, giving mosquito control officials another tool to monitor and trap the insect that can transmit pathogens, causing potentially deadly diseases, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.
Asian tiger mosquitoes prefer to lay eggs in containers.
With that in mind, UF/IFAS researchers monitored several sized containers that they had placed indoors, in screen houses and in residential backyards. They also monitored containers placed next to butterfly bushes. They wanted to see where the Asian tiger mosquito laid more eggs. Scientists found significantly more eggs in the largest containers, and they found more eggs in containers next to flowering bushes than in containers next to bushes without flowers.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A predatory mite might feed on a pest of cucumbers, a $125 million-a-year crop in Florida, newly published University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences research shows.
This finding may help growers protect the environment because they could reduce pesticides to keep the pest – known as thrips — at bay. Growers may also save money because they may cut chemical use on their crop. In fact, because this thrips preys on many vegetable crops, the finding could save millions of dollars in pesticide use.
Armed with new data, it’s important for growers to use the mite to mitigate the pest, UF/IFAS researchers said.
“It will take some time for growers to be trained to use biological control agents in the field for maximum benefits,” said Garima Kakkar, who spearheaded the study as part of her master’s thesis when she was a graduate student at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences global authority on the genetic basis of plant disease resistance has been named a Fellow of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Frank White, professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, was named a Fellow last month.
“It is an honor to be recognized by your fellow scientists,” White said. “I was very pleased when notified. Of course, much credit goes to the many outstanding young scientists who worked in my group and numerous excellent mentors and collaborators during my career.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Jumping spiders, voracious predators that eat pests around the world, can learn to distinguish the color red in their prey, thus allowing them to avoid toxicity in what they consume, according to new research led by a UF/IFAS scientist.
That means they can stay alive longer and eat pests ranging from caterpillars to beetles to flies, many of which damage agricultural products, said Lisa Taylor, an assistant research scientist in entomology at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Because jumping spiders consume most small agricultural pests, growers can avoid using some chemical treatments on their crops.
Jumping spiders are fairly ubiquitous: More than 5,000 species are found on every continent except Antarctica, Taylor said.
In a new study in the journal Behavioral Ecology, Taylor and her colleagues from the University of Pittsburgh found that Habronattus pyrrithrix, a species of jumping spiders, could be trained to prefer or avoid red. That’s important because many pests emit that color to signal toxicity, Taylor said.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A UF/IFAS forest entomologist who – among other activities – is working to help stop pests that sicken trees, has been selected to receive the Richard L. Jones Award for promising research at UF/IFAS.
The 2016 award goes to Jiri Hulcr. It is presented by the UF/IFAS dean for research and director of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station to an outstanding early career scientist. Like previous winners, Hulcr will receive the award at the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station Annual Awards Reception in May 2016.
The recipient gets a one-time $2,500 annual salary supplement and a $2,500 grant to support his or her research.
Hulcr, an assistant professor with a dual appointment in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation and the Department of Entomology and Nematology, joined UF/IFAS in 2012.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers have found an algorithm to help them detect laurel wilt, the deadly pathogen that threatens Florida’s $100 million-a-year avocado industry.
Reza Ehsani, an associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, said the algorithm finds laurel wilt-infected avocado trees before symptoms are visible to the naked eye. About 500 growers produce Florida’s avocado crop annually, and more than 98 percent of the fruit is grown in Miami-Dade County. UF scientists estimate laurel wilt could severely reduce the commercial avocado industry if they don’t find control strategies for the pathogen and ambrosia beetles.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When growers, Extension agents and scientists gather for the Nov. 4 Florida Ag Expo in Balm, Florida, they’ll celebrate two anniversaries: the 90th year of the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center and the 10th year of the expo.
The Gulf Coast REC serves as an invaluable tool to growers and grower groups, said Tony DiMare, vice president of the DiMare Company and former chairman of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, among other groups. He’s currently chairman of the Florida Tomato Committee.
“Because of the subtropical climate in Florida, which we grow in, and the continual introduction of new pests and diseases, we continue to face many challenges as growers that jeopardize the sustainability of our business and industry,” DiMare said. “Without the research to help identify new pests and diseases, and without furthering the work on the existing problems to help find solutions to minimize or eliminate the issues, we would not be able to stay competitive and survive.