University of Florida

In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, UF/IFAS Extension faculty step up as ‘second responders’

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Extension, IFAS, Livestock, Safety


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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As Hurricane Matthew dumped water and wind on Florida’s east coast last week, it wasn’t long before several alligators were spotted roaming the parking lot at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Brevard County office. But alligators or no alligators, the two faculty members hunkered down in the facility weren’t about to leave their posts any time soon.

“We have a very large generator at the office that we needed to keep running during the storm in case people at the county facilities lost power and had to move to our facility,” said Linda Seals, director of UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County.

Seals’ staff weren’t the only ones hard at work helping residents and emergency personnel weather the storm. From housing evacuated livestock to manning the phones at local emergency operations centers, UF/IFAS Extension faculty across the state put in many long hours and a few sleepless nights keeping people safe and informed.

“We serve 20 million Floridians year-round in our day jobs, but in a crisis we work 24/7 to help those most in need” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “We demonstrated all weekend long how much we value our relationships. Our actions told our communities that this isn’t just a job to us. This was about helping friends, neighbors and community members.”

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UF/IFAS Extension prepared to help Floridians facing Hurricane Matthew

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Disaster Preparedness, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Safety

Rivers and lakes overflowing after a severe storm or hurricane hits. (UF/Ifas photo: Marisol Amador)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension is working closely with Florida’s emergency operation centers to provide emergency information and assistance to those in the path of Hurricane Matthew.

“The local UF/IFAS Extension office is a disaster response resource in every community in Florida,” said Angie Lindsey, assistant professor of family, youth and community sciences. Lindsey is the UF/IFAS point of contact for the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN), a national organization of Extension educators who work to prepare communities for disasters.

Lindsey, who works with the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources, helps UF/IFAS Extension agents develop disaster response tools and further collaboration between agents and local officials.

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UF/IFAS-led team finds faster, better way to detect salmonella in meat, chicken

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, New Technology, Research, Safety

2013 Small Farms Conference on Friday, August 2nd.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A team of scientists led by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers has found a faster and more precise way to detect salmonella in beef and chicken, a finding that could help prevent major illnesses.

Salmonella is the lauding cause of bacteria-associated foodborne illnesses in the United States, according to the study. Thus, early detection of the pathogen, by a rapid and sensitive test is important to prevent the illness.

In a newly published study, researchers artificially contaminated food with salmonella. They then tested the food samples using Salmonella-specific antibodies combined with a unique signal amplification technique. Their test found salmonella present after 15 hours and removed other microorganisms that sometimes clutter laboratory results. This is shorter than the two to three days it takes to detect salmonella in a culture, the study shows.

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UF/IFAS researchers share safest ways to spray for Zika mosquitoes, protect bees

Topic(s): Agriculture, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Pests, Safety

A beekeeper holding a hive

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida beekeepers are concerned after 2.5 million bees that were killed during an aerial spraying with Naled/Dibrom for Zika-carrying mosquitoes in Dorchester County, S.C. Now, Floridians are looking for ways to avoid the same tragedy. Florida is the third-largest beekeeping state in the nation.

Researchers are not surprised that the South Carolina incident has Florida beekeepers worried, said Fred Fishel, professor of agronomy and director of the Pesticide Information Office.

“With the Zika cases in south Florida, and now that scientists have identified mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus, we would expect beekeepers to be concerned about increased pesticide application,” Fishel said. “But, registered beekeepers should be notified before an application of pesticides. That gives them time to protect their bees while spraying is conducted.”

There are pesticides that will not harm bees, but will kill mosquitoes, says William Kern, associate professor of urban entomology at the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center.

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UF/IFAS offers tips for surviving the tropical storm

Topic(s): Disaster Preparedness, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Safety, Weather

Rivers and lakes overflowing after a severe storm or hurricane hits. (UF/Ifas photo: Marisol Amador)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With a tropical storm bringing hurricane-like winds to central Florida, residents are looking to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension service for tips on how to make it through.

In Florida alone, 16 disasters including hurricanes, tropical storms, tornados, flooding, severe storms and straight line winds were declared between 2004 and 2013, says Angela Lindsey, the UF/IFAS Extension representative for the Extension Disaster Education Network. Many UF/IFAS Extension agents are members of their counties Emergency Operation Centers, and are ready to help residents across the state.

Lindsey, an assistant professor in family, youth and community sciences, says it’s not too late to prepare for the worst. She offers the following tips:

  • Stock at least one gallon of water per person per day for three days.
  • Buy nonperishable and packaged foods that require little or no cooking. If the power goes out, food in the refrigerator may spoil.
  • Buy flashlights and extra batteries.
  • Make sure you have a first-aid kit handy.
  • Have all emergency numbers available in case utilities go out.
  • Get a battery-operated radio so that you can keep abreast of updates.
  • Fill up your car with gas before the lines get too long.

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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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Globally recognized entomologist named interim director of UF/IFAS Indian River REC

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, Cultivars, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, RECs, Research, Safety

Cave interim director IRREC 050416

Ron Cave

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — An entomologist recognized internationally as a specialist in biological control of insect pests has been named interim director of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Indian River Research and Education Center.

Ronald Cave will serve as the sixth leader of the Indian River REC.

From the Indian River REC’s 1947 start as the Indian River Field Laboratory, it has served agricultural and natural resources interests with research, Extension and education programs.

Cave was appointed to his new position by Jack Payne, UF senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources.

“In this challenging time for the citrus industry and for other agricultural commodities, we cannot afford a leadership gap even for a few months,” Payne said. “Ron Cave is the right leader for this transition because of his accomplishments as a scientist, his dedication as a mentor and his familiarity with the center. It’s this combination of excellence and stability that makes him an ideal choice for this important role.”

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UF/IFAS hosting March 30 FDA seminar on Food Safety Modernization Act rules

Topic(s): Agriculture, IFAS, RECs, Safety

Cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli and onions in a fresh salad. Food, vegetables, healthy eating. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is holding one of only five national educational seminars on the Food and Drug Administration’s new final food safety rules. The FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act covers produce safety, preventive controls for human and animal food and foreign supplier verification.

The seminar, which provides an opportunity for the industry and public to give input before the guidance documents are issued, is free and open to the public.

The seminar is scheduled for March 30, from 9:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Everglades Research and Education Center, 3200 E. Palm Beach Road, Belle Glade, Florida. Lunch will be served to those who have pre-registered for the event. (more …)

UF/IFAS study: Pesticide-induced mosquito death outweighs fitness advantage of survivors

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

Larvicide - Aedes aegypti larva2 - photo courtesy Catherine Zettel Nalen, UF-IFAS 021216

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A common toxin used to kill yellow fever mosquito larvae – the most prevalent transmitter of dengue, chikungunya and zika viruses – is highly effective. While there are some fitness advantages to surviving adults, this is still an effective way to control the damaging health impacts of these mosquito-borne diseases, a new University of Florida study shows.

Scientists and mosquito control officials want to kill mosquitoes during the larval, or juvenile stage, before they grow into adulthood and transmit these dangerous diseases. Dengue and chikungunya viruses are regarded as two of the most important mosquito-borne viral illnesses, said Barry Alto, a UF/IFAS assistant professor in entomology at the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach, Florida.

The few mosquitos that do survive after exposure to the toxin gain a fitness advantage in adulthood, but their numbers are so small that their trait improvements, including enhanced size and ability to reproduce, are unlikely to outweigh the benefit of the rest of the mosquitoes that die from the pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti), Alto said.

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