IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS Extension program collects mosquito repellent for the homeless

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

Skeeter Stop

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BROOKSVILLE, Fla. — Experts agree that one effective way to protect yourself against mosquitoes —and the diseases they can transmit — is to wear mosquito repellent. But for homeless people, getting access to this kind of protection can be difficult.

In response, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science Extension Hernando County has launched Operation Skeeter Stop. Organizers will collect donated containers of mosquito repellent and distribute them to the Hernando County homeless community.

The program is accepting donations until Oct. 31, and staffers hope to collect at least 500 containers of repellent. During this time, the UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/HernandoExt/) will post weekly updates charting the progress toward this goal.

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UF/IFAS Extension fills five new positions to tackle water sustainability

Topic(s): Environment, Extension, IFAS

Citra, Pivot irrigation watering fields. UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Though counties and water management districts may operate within set boundaries, water doesn’t stick to a jurisdiction. To address this reality, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension has created five new faculty positions to facilitate partnerships among various stakeholders, including agriculture, state agencies, water management districts and the public.

Each of these new water resource regional specialized agents (RSAs) is assigned to one of the five UF/IFAS Extension districts.

“We are extremely pleased to be able to now have five regional specialized agents geographically dispersed across the state to lead proactive educational programs related to water quality and quantity,” said Nick Place, dean of UF/IFAS Extension. “I envision that these faculty will enable UF/IFAS Extension to lead educational efforts across our rural and urban sectors, which will lead toward implementation of improved best practices. With the ever-increasing pressure on water, these faculty will enable us to take steps across the state that will ensure greater sustainability of our critical water resources.”

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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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What’s easier: Turning off water indoors or outside?

Topic(s): Economics, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Landscaping

Setting the sprinkler head for an irrigation system. UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Apparently, it’s more convenient to Florida residents to save water while brushing their teeth than to cut back on lawn irrigation, according to a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension report.

Alexa Lamm, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication and Extension specialist, surveyed 932 people deemed to be high-water users in Orlando, Tampa/Sarasota and Miami/Fort Lauderdale.

Respondents were asked how often they engage in water-related behaviors. Among the results, 68 percent saved water when brushing their teeth, but only 29 percent reduced irrigating their lawns in the summer, according to the document, http://bit.ly/2bjQGSm.

To put this data into context, about 50 percent of Floridians’ daily water use is for outdoor purposes, such as landscape irrigation, according to the South Florida Water Management District. The 50 percent figure is 20 percent more than the national average, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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Homeowners prefer property value boost brought about by city trees

Topic(s): Extension, Forestry, Green Living, IFAS, Research

 

planting live oak trees, 4-H, shovel, teenage girl. UF/IFAS Photo: Thomas Wright.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If a city plants trees near a residential area, most homeowners value the likely subsequent boost to their property values, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

And they’re willing to pay an average of $7 more per month in taxes for public trees planted in their city.

In the UF/IFAS study, 1,052 surveyed Florida homeowners said they’d like the trees on their land to provide shade and to be healthy, but they’d prefer an increase of $1,600 in their home’s value.

Residents were separated into two surveys. One asked them to consider a hypothetical home improvement project to better the trees on their property, while the other asked a similar referendum question regarding a city program that would increase their utility tax to increase urban forests in public areas near their homes. There were 526 responses to each survey.

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Citizen scientists count scallops in Pensacola Bay system, aid fishery research

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

SCALLOP PROJECT.2016

PENSACOLA, Fla. — The morning of Aug. 6, snorkelers began combing the waters of Big Lagoon, an inlet southwest of Pensacola, in search of scallops. The week before, another group had done the same at various points along the Santa Rosa Sound. However, neither was interested in harvesting the shellfish, a pastime now prohibited due to the decline in scallop populations off Florida’s Gulf Coast over the last few decades.

These snorkelers are volunteer citizen scientists in the Great Scallop Search, a program co-sponsored by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension, Florida Sea Grant, the U.S. National Park Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

The volunteers’ task was to count and record the scallops they found on the sea floor. “This data will go to FWC and help officials understand the scallop population in the Pensacola Bay system,” said Rick O’Connor, Sea Grant agent with UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County and co-organizer of the program.

“Knowing how many scallops are there will inform any future efforts by FWC to reseed the area and try to bring the population back,” O’Connor said.

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UF/IFAS research findings could eventually save $30 million annually for strawberry growers

Topic(s): Agriculture, Cultivars, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

Strawberry economics 111015 - vance whitaker

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Strawberry growers may eventually save $30 million a year with genetic findings from a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study.

UF/IFAS researchers are looking for ways to thwart angular leaf spot, a pathogen that can destroy up to 10 percent of Florida’s $300 million-a-year strawberry crop in years with multiple freezes.

In the research, Vance Whitaker, a UF/IFAS associate professor of horticultural sciences, and a team of researchers found genetic markers they believe can lead them to develop strawberry cultivars that are more resistant to angular leaf spot. Genetic markers are short sequences of DNA used to identify a chromosome or nearby genes in a genetic map.

In two years of field trials, researchers at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center – along with colleagues from Oregon, The Netherlands and Canada – found places in strawberry genes that show promise for developing cultivars that are resistant to this disease.

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UF/IFAS study: Sweet potato crop shows promise as feed and fuel

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biofuels, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Livestock, Research, Soil and Water Science

Sweet potato fuel 081516

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As some Florida growers try to find new crops and the demand for biofuel stock increases globally, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers have found that sweet potato vines, usually thrown out during harvest, can serve well as livestock feed while the roots are an ideal source for biofuel.

This could be a key finding for the agriculture industry in Florida and to biofuel needs worldwide, said post-doctoral researcher Wendy Mussoline.

“The agriculture industry in Florida is looking to find new, viable crops to replace the citrus groves that have been diminished by the greening disease,” Mussoline said. “Potato farmers are also trying to find new crops that offer both biofuel alternatives as well as food and/or animal feed opportunities. They are conducting field trials on several varieties of sweet potatoes to determine if they are an economically viable crop that they can market.”

According to a newly published study by professor Ann Wilkie and Mussoline, an industrial sweet potato variety (CX-1) may do the trick.

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UF/IFAS researcher wins global award for space life sciences

Topic(s): Environment, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, New Technology, Research

FERL AWARD 072016

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A UF/IFAS horticultural sciences professor, known worldwide for research on growing plants in space, has won the 2016 Jeffries Aerospace Medicine and Life Sciences Research Award.

The award is given to a member of the aerospace exploration community who embodies the innovation and insight exemplified by American physician, John Jeffries, who was the first person — back in 1786 — to utilize aeronautics to collect scientific data.

Robert Ferl, who researches how plants can grow in space, won the award. Specifically, Ferl was cited for conducting cutting-edge space biology research and for mentoring others in spaceflight research, pushing the boundaries of where biology can travel.

“I was surprised and enormously honored to win the award,” said Ferl, who was recognized this month in Vienna, Austria. “For a space biologist, recognition by the engineers — the rocket builders, the space suit designers, the people who plan the missions — is a huge honor that acknowledges the role of fundamental science in moving life into space.”

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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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