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University of Florida

Laurel wilt disease likely to increase Florida avocado prices

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

In this photo released by the University of FloridaÕs Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, agricultural economist Edward ÒGillyÓ Evans, left, and tropical fruit expert Jonathan Crane examine avocados in a research grove at UFÕs Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead Ð Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009. The pair helped write a paper on the potential economic impact of laurel wilt, a disease threatening FloridaÕs avocado crop. If the disease reaches Miami-Dade County, it could destroy half the crop and cost the state $27 million. (AP photo/University of Florida/IFAS/Thomas Wright)

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Growers in Florida’s $100 million-a-year avocado industry could see a rise in the price of avocados in the short term due to a reduction in domestic production, because of the deadly Laurel Wilt pathogen, a new University of Florida study shows.

But any noticeable price increase probably wouldn’t last because increased imports from the Dominican Republic are likely to temper any price increases.

Edward Evans, a UF/IFAS associate professor in food and resource economics, is quick to note, however, that he conducted his study before the recent discovery of a medfly outbreak in the Dominican Republic. The outbreak led the U.S. Department of Agriculture to restrict imports of green-skin avocados from that country. This avocado is similar to the type produced in the Sunshine State.

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Citrus greening research gets $1 million in state budget funding

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Citrus, IFAS, New Technology, Pests, RECs
Citrus groves at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, Florida. Oranges, fruit, trees.   UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A $1 million University of Florida research project to fight citrus greening got the green light in the state’s budget.

Nian Wang, a researcher with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, is working with a team to develop a microbial-based product, infused with patented plant-defense inducers and beneficial bacteria strains, that he hopes will cure citrus greening. (more …)

UF/IFAS scientists adapt household products to dupe and trap deadly disease-carrying insects in Africa

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

Bug Bait 070215

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Crushed seashells and vinegar could be the key ingredients in an inexpensive and readily available way to lure and trap disease-carrying insects in developing nations, according to a new UF/IFAS study.

By using these simple ingredients, insect experts can find easier ways to trap and monitor disease-carrying insects, said Nathan Burkett-Cadena, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of entomology, who led the recent study.

Mosquitoes transmit malaria, West Nile virus and chikungunya virus.  Monitoring these insects is critical to understanding when and where to control them and lessen the risk of human disease. Insect experts the world over use carbon dioxide, the same gas that humans exhale, to attract blood-feeding bugs to traps, so they can measure their abundance, test them for diseases and make decisions about whether or not to control them.

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UF/IFAS Fort Pierce quarantine facility successfully battles invasive species

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Conservation, Crops, Economics, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs, Research

Bill Overholt and Jim Cuda.  Innovation Awards Portrait.  UF/IFAS File Photo.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida officials expressed thanks Monday for the $180,000 increase in the state budget that’s slated for the quarantine research facility at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce.

With the additional funding, scientists will be able to expand foreign exploration to identify new candidate biological control agents of Florida’s worst invasive plants and insects, and support intensified laboratory studies that are required to ensure agents are safe for release, said Bill Overholt, a UF/IFAS entomology professor who works at the quarantine facility.

With biological control such as one bug eating another, scientists and growers can use a sustainable, cost-effective solution to manage invasive plant and insect problems.

“The facility needs an increase in the amount of operating funds in order to reach its full potential,” said Mary Ann Gosa-Hooks, director of UF/IFAS Government Affairs. “We can do so much more, but with costs continuing to increase, while the facility continues to function on the same budget since 2004, activities are somewhat limited.”

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Barn owls threatened by Africanized bees in South Florida

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs
Richard Raid and a barn owl in Belle Glade. Keywords: sugar cane, bio pest control, South Florida, agriculture, bird, wildlife. Photo by Eric Zamora UF/IFAS

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Belle Glade, Fla. — Throughout the past two decades, University of Florida researcher Richard Raid has seen barn owl populations in the Everglades Agricultural Area, centered around Belle Glade, expand from mere dozens to more than 400 nesting pairs.

But these beneficial raptors, currently listed as a threatened species, are now being threatened by Africanized honey bees.  Swarming as frequently as eight times per year, the invasive bees have been taking over nesting boxes Raid and students have built for the owls, using them as hives, and displacing or even killing the desired raptors. (more …)

Light trap lures more mosquitoes, fewer bugs you don’t need to kill

Topic(s): Agriculture, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Pests, Research

Mosquito light trap 060915

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers have found a light trap that monitors mosquitoes more effectively, while ferreting out bugs no one wants or needs to kill.

The finding will help mosquito control districts more quickly identify mosquitoes before decisions are made to spray, said Phil Kaufman, an associate professor and veterinary entomologist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Mosquito control districts can run 50 or more traps in a night during the mosquito season to keep track of mosquito populations.  But mosquito control officials do not want to capture insects unnecessarily, a practice that takes time and money, Kaufman said. Those unintended captures include moths, beetles and other flies.

“The traps are returned to the mosquito control district office, and people have to sort through all of the moths, beetles and more to find and remove the mosquitoes that have to be identified to see which species are a problem or to test them for West Nile and other viruses,” Kaufman said. “Having fewer non-target insects makes their job easier.”

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Low-altitude aerial images allow early detection of devastating avocado disease

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, IFAS, New Technology, Pests, RECs, Research

LAUREL WILT - CAMERA STUDY - 052015 (over Homestead) (2)

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Low-altitude aerial images can detect laurel wilt, a devastating avocado disease, giving growers an early way to identify diseased trees and perhaps help reduce losses to the $100 million-a-year economic impact avocados provide Florida.

Reza Ehsani, an associate professor in agricultural and biological engineering at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, used a multi-spectral camera that distinguishes between laurel wilt-affected trees and healthy ones.

Images taken with the camera from a helicopter have significant implications in the management of this important disease and for the commercial avocado industry in Florida. Ehsani said he expects the Federal Aviation Administration to open U.S. airspace for commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles, which could be equipped with such cameras, by 2017.

“Ultimately, we think that small UAVs, equipped with the right multi-band camera, can be used for scouting for this disease, which could potentially be very cost-effective,” Ehsani said. “The results of this study will enable growers or service companies that use UAVs to detect this disease at an early stage.”

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UF/IFAS scientists zero in on Brown Dog Tick control

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

A petri dish contains several brown dog ticks, a species researchers believe has become resistant to the most commonly used pesticides.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

Brown Dog Ticks

click here for video: http://bit.ly/1PujWam

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A little pest can really tick off dogs and their owners.

In addition to homeowners and canines, the pesticide industry has also been trying to find a way to vanquish the Brown Dog Tick for years.

But help is on the way, courtesy of University of Florida scientists.

Dogs and their owners who battle the Brown Dog Tick sometimes go to desperate measures ─ including getting rid of their dogs, fumigating their homes, throwing many possessions out or even moving ─ to control the pesky bugs, which breed indoors and hide in places that are practically impossible to reach.

Phil Kaufman, an associate professor of veterinary entomology at UF/IFAS, is one of several investigators who have just published two studies. One shows the tick is resistant to the most commonly used chemical applied directly between the dog’s shoulder blades. The other shows the effectiveness of carbon dioxide as a lure for baiting ticks to bed bug traps.

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Dealing with Florida’s rare tick diseases

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, Household Pests, IFAS, Pests, Research


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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Though uncommon, Floridians can get tick diseases.

“The biggest myth about tick-borne diseases is that every tick carries the Lyme disease pathogen, when in fact, only one tick species in the Eastern U.S. is capable of transmitting the pathogen, Ixodes scapularis, the black-legged or deer tick,” said Phil Kaufman, a University of Florida veterinary entomologist.

Kaufman, an associate professor at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, cited three tick-borne diseases we should know about. Those diseases are:

  •  Lyme disease: In Florida, 673 cases of Lyme disease were reported from 2002 to 2011, according to the Florida Department of Health. That’s only 67 cases per year, compared to 27,000 cases in the U.S. in 2013. Of the Florida cases, 77 percent were acquired by people when traveling to other states.
  •  Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: In Florida, the reported incidence has increased markedly in recent years, possibly due to increased disease awareness and reporting, Kaufman said. Some 163 cases of the fever were reported from 2002 through 2011, and 77 percent were acquired in Florida. Again, most were in north and central Florida. Cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are reported year-round, though peak transmission is typically during the summer.
  •  Ehrlichiosis (HME)/Anaplasmosis (HGE):  In Florida, 89 cases of Ehrlichiosis/HME were reported from 2002 through 2011. Of those, 33 cases of Anaplasmosis/HGA were reported. The majority of HME cases – 73 percent — are reported as being acquired in Florida, primarily in the north and central parts of the state. Like Lyme disease, HGA has less than half — 45 percent — of cases classified as Florida-acquired.

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UF/IFAS study: Tiny wasp controls nuisance whitefly

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Economics, Environment, Pests, Research


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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A wasp the size of a pin head may control the nuisance Rugose spiraling whitefly, which leaves a sticky white mess that becomes covered in black mold on everything from plants to cars and pools, University of Florida scientists say.

“Although the Rugose spiraling whitefly damages plants, what really gets people worked up is that it’s a huge nuisance because it makes a mess,” said Catharine Mannion, an entomology professor at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida. “You get a sooty mold on everything. It’s hard to get pools cleaned. People start chopping their trees down.”

But a new breakthrough shows the tiny wasp encarsia noyesi reduces the population of the Rugose spiraling whitefly, according to a new UF/IFAS-led study funded by the Farm Bill, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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