IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS research could lead to more and healthier sorghum

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biofuels, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Extension, IFAS, Research

Dr. Wilfred Vermerri, associate professor, Department of Agronomy, performs detailed compositional analyses of improved bioenergy sorghums using a mass spectrometer in his laboratory at the University of Florida Genetics Institute.  2010 Annual Research Report Photo.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher has identified two areas of the sorghum genome that could boost the plant’s resistance to the anthracnose disease.

This finding could be a key to expanding sorghum production in the Southeast, said Wilfred Vermerris, an associate professor of microbiology and cell science with UF/IFAS. Most sorghum does not grow well in the Southeast because the hot and humid weather provides ideal conditions for the growth of the fungus that causes anthracnose, with leaf blight and stem rot as its symptoms.

Sorghum is a source for table syrup and cattle feed that also shows great potential as a source for biofuel. It a huge grain: By acreage, it’s the fifth largest cereal crop in the world and the third largest in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2014, the U.S. was the largest producer of sorghum in the world.

For the latest study, Vermerris and other UF scientists used ‘Bk7,’ an anthracnose-resistant grain sorghum developed by Dan Gorbet, a professor emeritus of agronomy at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center.

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UF/IFAS-developed web tool saves money for strawberry growers in several states

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

Strawberry forecasting feature photos for the 2010 IFAS Annual Research Report.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A UF/IFAS-developed web tool – which has been shown to save Florida strawberry growers $1.7 million a year – is now being used in several other states, including Maryland, Georgia, South Carolina and California.

Florida’s strawberry crop is worth $300 million a year. It’s also important to the national economy. For example, in 2014, the United States produced 3 billion pounds of strawberries, valued at nearly $2.9 billion, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Florida ranks second to California in strawberry production.

While gaining a foothold in other states, the tool is getting more useful, thanks to work by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers. Scientists have found a promising model to simulate leaf wetness in plants of strawberries.

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Finding Dory: UF/IFAS researchers find first-ever method to farm Pacific Blue Tang

Topic(s): Announcements, Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS, RECs, Research
Blue Tang breeding in captivity news release on Tuesday, July 19th, 2016. Photo by Tyler Jones.

Blue Tang breeding in captivity./Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Finally, it may be possible for regular folks to find their own Dory, as researchers with the University of Florida Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory have successfully raised the Pacific Blue Tang in captivity. This is the first time that researchers have been able to raise the blue fish that now stars in a Disney movie.

“Like many research successes, it took a team of two UF biologists, faculty, graduate students and other staff to make it happen,” said Craig Watson, director of the UF Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory, which is part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “We worked with Rising Tide Conservation and the SeaWorld-Busch Gardens Conservation Fund to find a way to successfully breed Pacific Blue Tangs. It was a delicate, time-intensive endeavor, but one that has paid off.”

The project began approximately six years ago, when Watson was approached by Judy St. Leger from Rising Tide Conservation, Watson said. The program’s primary goal is to develop production technologies for key marine ornamental species, including Pacific Blue Tang, he said.

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Celebrate Florida agriculture and natural resources, cheer on the Florida Gators Oct. 15

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS

Spectators and fans in the stands of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium during a UF football game.  Photo taken 11-07-15

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Farmers, ranchers, landscapers – and everyone in between – are invited to celebrate Agriculture and Gardening Day at the University of Florida’s homecoming football game, Oct. 15, 2016.

UF Athletics and the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are hosting the event and offering discounted tickets to anyone connected to agriculture in the state, including their families and friends.

“Florida’s agricultural, natural resources and related food industries add $140 billion to our economy and employ nearly 300,000 people,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “The industry is second only to tourism in Florida, and this is a great way to honor and recognize those who work so hard to put food on our tables and plants and flowers in our yards.”

The Gators are playing the University of Missouri Tigers, and tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis, with limited seating available in the upper south end zone for $35 and the upper north end zone for $20.

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UF/IFAS researcher: Taller, thinner crop beds save money, water, other resources

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Crops, Economics, Environment, IFAS, RECs, Research

Environmental portrait of Sanjay Shukla working with raised plant beds at the SWFREC on May 21, 2015.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Looking out over thousands of acres of tomatoes, Miguel Talavera, director of East Coast growing operations at Pacific Tomato Grower, Ltd., marvels at the narrow lanes of fruit that are thriving in the hot Florida sun. Talavera credits increase in yield and a decrease in the use of fumigants to a collaboration with researchers and Extension faculty at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Three years ago, Talavera began working with Sanjay Shukla, a professor in the agricultural and biological engineering department based at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, Florida. Shukla was researching what he calls “compact bed geometry,” which is used in plasticulture. Plasticulture – the use of plastic in agriculture – is used globally to produce high-value vegetable (e.g. tomato, pepper, eggplant) and some fruit crops.

The crops are grown on raised soils beds that are covered with plastic. The plastic mulch protects the crops from pests including weeds, provides a warmer soil environment and protects the fertilizer from being washed away, Shukla said. The end result is a high yield and consistent fruit quality, he said.

The plants are watered though plastic drip tubes which also carries fertilizer with them. Fumigants are mixed in the soil bed to protect the crop from disease, Shukla said. And, the wider the bed, the more the fumigant is needed, he added.

Instead of planting crops on beds that were normally 6 to 8 inches high and about 3 feet across, Shukla planted them 10 inches to a foot high and 1 ½ to 2 feet across. The crops were more narrow and higher.

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UF/IFAS researchers to present findings on critical ecosystem habitats at international conference

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Conservation, Environment, Green Living, IFAS, Research, Soil and Water Science

Mangrove tunnels at Weedon Island Preserve in Pinellas County, Florida.

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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Two University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers will be among those presenting new data at a conference addressing mangrove ecosystems, which are critical for many things, including seafood habitat and erosion prevention.

Todd Osborne and Rupesh Bhomia, both with the UF/IFAS soil and water sciences department, will make presentations at the Mangrove Macrobenthos Meeting in St. Augustine, Florida, July 18 to July 22. This is the fourth meeting of these global mangrove experts and the first time it’s being held in the United States.

“We chose to have it in St. Augustine because we felt a lot of the mangrove research community would appreciate seeing this area of expansion of mangroves into the marshy habitats,” said Osborne, an assistant professor who works at UF’s Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience in St. Augustine, and a co-host of the conference.

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UF/IFAS citizen scientists work to monitor, report invasive reptile species in south Florida

Topic(s): Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species

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FORT PIERCE, Fla. — The toughest part of wrangling a Burmese python is not pinning it down, but getting the entire 7-foot long snake into the cotton snake bag, said Ellen Butler, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Master Naturalist.

“He almost got away from me,” she said. “I frankly can still not believe that I did it. Now when I’m in the field and I come across a snake, I have a lot more confidence.”

Butler is one of several Florida Master Naturalists who learned to catch Burmese pythons to complete their Master Naturalist final project on invasive reptiles. Those who complete this project can become citizen scientists in the Everglades Invasive Reptile and Amphibian Monitoring (EIRAMP) Citizen Science Program.

These citizen scientists help researchers collect data on invasive species in south Florida and educate the public about the issue. Invasive species are animals that are not native to the region and compete with native species, which can throw ecosystems out of balance.

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At UF/IFAS Extension youth camp, weather is more than a conversation starter

Topic(s): 4-H, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS

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NAPLES, Fla. — The quietest kid at the Southwest Florida Weather Camp beamed as his miniature hot air balloon rose above the other balloons launched by his fellow campers.

“His balloon went up the highest and went farther than anyone else’s,” said Tish Roland, 4-H agent at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Collier County. “Everyone was running over to him asking him how he did it.”

Over the last two years, Roland has organized the Southwest Florida Weather Camp with the help of Mike Mogil, director of the National Weather Camp Program and experienced meteorologist. “Mike has worked with kids all over the country, but he is from Naples and wanted to have Weather Camp in his own community,” Roland said.

This year’s Weather Camp is set for July 11 through July 15, and goes from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day. Activities will take place at the UF/IFAS Extension Collier County office in Naples, Florida. The registration fee includes lunch and snacks. Go to http://bit.ly/29nJk00 to register.

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UF/IFAS study: Rhesus macaques may be preying on bird eggs in Silver Springs

Topic(s): Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Research

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Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Rhesus macaques, primates brought from Asia in the 1930s to entice more tourists to an area now known as Silver Springs State Park, likely prey on eggs of the park’s birds, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

A group of UF/IFAS researchers used camera traps next to 100 artificial bird nests baited with quail eggs near the Silver River. Researchers placed nests in shrubs and left them for 12 days, which represents the incubation period of many of the park’s songbirds, like Northern Cardinals.

Rhesus macaques preyed on 21 of the 100 nests, the study showed. Creatures other than macaques preyed on another nine nests and an unidentified predator ate eggs from five nests. The study results do not suggest rhesus macaques are destroying 21 percent of native bird nests, said Steve Johnson, a UF/IFAS associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation.

However, the study does confirm rhesus macaques in Silver Springs State Park will consume eggs when they find them in natural habitat, Johnson said.

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Radio tracking helps hunt Burmese pythons

Topic(s): Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, RECs, Research

Burmese Python Tracking 070616

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When invasive Burmese pythons are breeding, radio-tracking one python can help find and capture more, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.

Thus, UF/IFAS scientists say this technique can help them remove the pythons.

“This is one more tool we can add to our tool box to help us combat this invasive species,” said Brian Smith, a graduate student in the UF/IFAS wildlife ecology and conservation department and lead author of a new study documenting the radio-tagging experiment. “It is also complementary to our current removal tool, in which we drive on roads and levees to capture moving pythons. It’s complementary because it’s effective at a time of year when we do not catch pythons on the road, and also because it provides more opportunities to catch the really big, breeding females.”

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