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IFAS News

University of Florida

With a little help, citizen scientists can be good proxies, research shows

Topic(s): Agriculture, Environment, Families and Consumers, Household Pests, Lawn & Garden, Pests

LuckyCitizenScience015 (2)

See cutline and link to photo gallery below.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Anyone can collect ant data as accurately as experts, if they have a bit of guidance and the right tools: cookies, index cards and plastic zip-top bags.

In a joint project between the University of Florida and North Carolina State University called the School of Ants, participants collected the insects at their homes, work or school. Using cookies to lure the insects, they bagged them, froze them, then sent them to labs so that ant experts could identify them and incorporate them into a national ants map.

Researchers at UF and N.C. State examined participants’ errors against mistakes of researchers trained in an N.C. State lab. Data from the two groups were virtually the same. Scientists say the similar findings came because the lay people followed their system.

The finding boosts the field of what’s called citizen science, a rapidly expanding area of data collection, said Andrea Lucky, an assistant scientist in entomology and nematology at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Lucky started the School of Ants in 2011, while a postdoctoral researcher at N.C. State, and brought the project with her to UF. The project is still going at both universities.

(more …)

UF/IFAS strategies give forest owners, managers disaster-coping methods

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Forestry, Pests, Weather

Forest strategies

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Scientists believe climate change means more erratic weather patterns for the future, and that doesn’t bode well for forests in the Southeastern U.S.

Two things trees don’t need are damaging hurricane-force winds and wildfires, and they believe those climate change-related weather patterns portend more of both.

University of Florida researchers, including postdoctoral research associate Andres Susaeta, built a computer model that simulates various climate scenarios in hopes of minimizing the potentially cataclysmic damage to forests on privately owned forest land.

“Climate change is likely to affect forest productivity and exacerbate the impacts of big disasters on forest ecosystems in the South,” Susaeta said.

(more …)

UF/IFAS researchers find chemicals that treat citrus greening in the lab

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, IFAS, Pests, Research
A citrus tree sapling hosts the Asian citrus pyllid, which spreads citrus greening disease through a bacteria it carries.

see photo caption below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida research team is cautiously optimistic after finding a possible treatment in the lab for citrus greening, a disease devastating Florida’s $9 billion citrus industry. It is the first step in a years-long process to bring a treatment to market.

Claudio Gonzalez and Graciela Lorca led the research team at UF that examined three biochemical treatments: phloretin, hexestrol and benzbromarone.

The team sprayed greenhouse tree shoots separately with one of the three biochemicals and were successful in stopping the bacteria’s spread, particularly with benzbromarone, which halted the bacteria in 80 percent of the infected trees’ shoots. They expect to begin field experiments with this treatment later this year. Their research was published in late April by the online open access journal PLOS Pathogens. (more …)

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.

(more …)

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.

(more …)

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.

(more …)

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.

(more …)

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

Topic(s): Green Living, Pests

hatlady

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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.

(more …)

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