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University of Florida

UF/IFAS researchers earn $11M in federal grants to study specialty crops

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers will work to improve avocado production, develop turfgrass with improved drought responses and combat a bacterial disease riddling tomatoes, working with $11 million in recently awarded federal grants.

The grants were announced Oct. 5 by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Randy Ploetz, a plant pathology professor at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida, will use $3.4 million to study how to stem the impact of laurel wilt on avocados. Kevin Kenworthy, an associate professor of agronomy, received $4.4 million to study drought resistance in certain turf grasses, and Gary Vallad, an associate professor of plant pathology at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida, will use $3.4 million to improve the management of a bacterial disease that plagues tomato production.

(more …)

UF/IFAS helping teachers with creative biology lessons

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Need a creative way to teach students about Florida’s ecosystems?  How about tracking the journey of an invasive plant or putting together a puzzle of freshwater plants?  The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has you covered.

Fun lessons are available through The Florida Invasive Plant Education Initiative, a partnership between the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. (more …)

Strategies to keep pollutants out of your neighborhood storm water pond

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Pollution

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Many people live in subdivisions with storm water ponds, which collect water from the neighborhood and help keep pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides and pet waste from getting into the broader environment. Now, UF/IFAS researchers and Extension faculty have devised strategies to help homeowners limit their pollution contribution.

Before they crafted the strategies, outlined in a new Extension document, “Strategies to Encourage Adoption of Storm Water Pond Best Management Practices (BMPs) by Homeowners,” http://bit.ly/1M6SBrU,

UF/IFAS research and Extension faculty surveyed a large planned community in Manatee County, Florida. Among other things, they found that nearly half the homeowners either didn’t know what storm water runoff was or did not know where storm water runoff goes.

Paul Monaghan, an associate professor of agricultural education and communication and a co-author of the document, said the survey result is fairly typical of homeowners across Florida and elsewhere.

“They see the curb and gutter, and they think the water is going to be treated at a plant,” Monaghan said. “They don’t really know their water runs off into the storm water pond. It’s all accumulating. It matters what you do and what your neighbors do. If we can get homeowners to understand that and know it has an effect, we will be taking a step in the right direction.”

(more …)

Florida Sea Grant agent launches program to assess microplastic in state’s coastal waters

Topic(s): Announcements, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Pollution, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As a Florida Sea Grant  agent with the University of Florida’s Extension program, Maia McGuire has spent years educating Floridians about how plastic garbage can kill large animals such as turtles and sea birds if they eat discarded plastic items or become ensnared by them.

Now, McGuire is trying to raise awareness about microplastic, a much smaller form of seaborne garbage that threatens much smaller marine animals. Measuring 5 millimeters or less, smaller than the width of a pencil eraser, these fragments end up in coastal waters when large plastic items such as food packages break apart, or small particles such as plastic microbeads from personal-care products are washed out to sea.

To raise awareness about microplastic among Floridians, McGuire and a team of colleagues have just launched the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project, or FMAP, a one-year project funded by a $17,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program. The FMAP program aims to use a vigorous citizen-science training effort to draw attention to the problem and educate citizens on ways of reducing their potential contributions of microplastic to the environment.

One important facet of the project’s citizen-science effort is an informal microplastic assessment that will be conducted at 200 to 300 sites along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Volunteers will take water samples, then filter and analyze the samples to determine how much microplastic is present. The results will be posted on a Google Maps database, accessible through the FMAP website, http://www.plasticaware.org. (more …)

UF/IFAS study: Most homeowners can’t properly assess damage to their trees

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Forestry, Green Living, IFAS, RECs, Research, Safety

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The next time a storm tears up your yard, let an expert assess the damage to any trees. A study from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences shows that homeowners perceive the risk of a damaged tree differently than trained professionals.

The survey of tree experts and homeowners in the Tampa Bay area assessed the perceptions of both groups when it came to assessing tree damage, said Andrew Koeser, an assistant professor in environmental horticulture and study author.

“While there are a number of factors tied to tree risk, most respondents were fixated on tree defects,” Koeser said. “Only experienced professionals considered other pertinent factors—namely whether the tree was actually a threat to a person, vehicle or house.”

(more …)

Wilson named chair of UF/IFAS Department of Environmental Horticulture

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Conservation, Crops, Environment, Green Living, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Invasive Species

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — You can take the “interim” off of Sandra Wilson’s title. She’s now chair of the UF/IFAS Department of Environmental Horticulture.

Named interim chair in November 2014, Wilson was named to the permanent position in September by Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“Dr. Wilson was a natural choice to lead our Environmental Horticulture Department,” Payne said. “Combine her outstanding teaching and research record, the leadership she has shown and the fact that the faculty support her, and we knew right away Dr. Wilson would lead the department to unparalleled heights.”

Wilson came to Gainesville after 15 years as an environmental horticulture faculty member at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center.

(more …)

Florida Sea Grant offers seafood information in new Florida Trend report

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Aquaculture, Economics, Environment, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS
Grouper and assorted seafood fillets on display at a store in case. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

Grouper and assorted seafood fillets on display at a store in case. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — October is National Seafood Month, and Florida Sea Grant has spotlighted the safety and variety of the state’s seafood products with a special report published in the September issue of Florida Trend magazine.

Although the average Floridian’s seafood consumption is twice the national average  – 31 pounds per year, compared with 15 – a recent Florida Sea Grant survey indicates that 40 percent of state residents don’t eat two servings each week, as recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“With this special report, we hope to raise awareness of our state’s seafood production and the fact that seafood is a healthy, delicious dining option,” said Karl Havens, Florida Sea Grant director and a professor with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, or UF/IFAS. “We’re very fortunate in Florida to have access to a wide range of local seafood items as well as products sourced elsewhere.”

Florida is the nation’s seventh-largest seafood producing state, offering about 80 wild-caught and farm-raised items, he said. Some of the state’s best-known seafood products include grouper, snapper, oysters, spiny lobster and stone crab. (more …)

Crested floatingheart: The lovely looking lily-like plant that clogs canals

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Invasive Species, RECs, Research

Crested floatingheart 092415 (use this one)

Please see caption below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While the crested floatingheart can help beautify an aquarium or a water garden, it clogs canals and slows drainage, particularly during heavy rains.

“It’s really attractive. It looks like a water lily,” said Lyn Gettys, an aquatic plant specialist at the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center. Crested floatingheart is also easy to grow and flourishes with little effort.

Instead of freezing unwanted crested floatinghearts and bringing them to a local landfill, many homeowners toss them into canals, said Gettys, an assistant professor of agronomy with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

For about a year, Gettys has been compiling data to quantify the seriousness that crested floatingheart poses for canals. Crested floatinghearts reproduce mostly by way of ramets, an asexual form of multiplying. Gettys is trying to find out how many “babies” a single plant can make. She’s particularly interested in the effects of soil type and fertilizer on the plant’s ability to reproduce.

Preliminary data show soil has no impact. But if plants are well-fertilized, one floatingheart can produce more than 100 ramets per month. If only half of the new ramets sprout and make as many of their own babies as the original plant, that’s potentially 114,000 plants in six months, Gettys said.

(more …)

UF/IFAS research funding hits record high in FY 2015, confirming value of Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, UF/IFAS research faculty efforts

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Economics, Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS
Roman Mmanda Fortunatus conducting research in Food Science and Human Nutrition.

Roman Mmanda Fortunatus conducting research in Food Science and Human Nutrition.

Photo cutline at bottom. Click on photo for larger image.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Research funding for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences hit an all-time high in Fiscal Year 2015, at almost $125.82 million, according to figures released this month by the UF Office of Research.

The UF/IFAS total, representing funds from grant awards, contracted research, donations and other sources, exceeds last year’s figure by 23 percent; UF/IFAS records indicate it also tops the previous record, set in FY 2012.

“This is one of the proudest moments of my career so far,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “You just don’t get stronger proof that UF/IFAS is delivering results for our many constituencies and stakeholders. These results are a tribute to the leadership of Dr. Jackie Burns, UF/IFAS dean for research, and the incredible talent of our UF/IFAS faculty.”

The new figures come from a campus wide annual report on research funding. It provides numerical data on funding received by major campus units, as well as information on sources and types of funding received; the data cover July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015. (more …)

UF researchers try to reduce barotrauma deaths for deep-sea fish and sustain industry

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Economics, Environment, Extension, Research

BAROTRAUMA 092315 (2)

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Most recreational anglers who target deep-water reef fish in Florida recognize barotrauma symptoms, and University of Florida researchers think they can teach the other 30 percent to help save the fish.

By doing so, anglers would play a key role in sustaining the state’s valuable fisheries.

When anglers reel in their catch from deep waters, fish can suffer problems caused by gas pressure changes – or barotrauma. Often the gas-filled swim bladder of the fish has ruptured, releasing the gas into the fish’s body cavity.  Symptoms of barotrauma include the stomach protruding from the fish’s mouth, bulging eyes, a bloated belly and distended intestines. Fish with these symptoms find it hard to swim back down to their natural habitat, and many die as a result.

Mitigating this condition may be a key to maintaining Florida’s fisheries, said Chuck Adams, a marine economist with Florida Sea Grant. The importance of reducing this source of mortality for fish is further underscored by a recent UF/IFAS report that showed fishing and seafood products have a $565 million-a-year impact on Florida’s economy. That report can be found here: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fe969.

(more …)

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