IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS study: “Green Industry” generates nearly $200 billion; 2 million jobs nationwide

Topic(s): Economics, Extension, Families and Consumers, Green Living, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Research

Landscaped yards and homes in Florida.  Landscaping, plants, gardens, neighborhoods, communities, development.  UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — What economists call the “green industry” – nursery and greenhouse production, landscape services and horticultural product distribution − is bringing plenty of green to a lot of people across the country. A new study by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences shows that the industry generated $196 billion in revenues annually, and more than two million jobs in the United States.

“Our study demonstrated that this industry is a very large employer,” said Alan Hodges, Extension scientist with the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department and lead author of the study. “It exists in virtually every community in the U.S. The rise of large retail chain stores with garden departments has made plants and other horticultural products more readily available to consumers than ever before.”

Green industry products include sod, flowers, bedding plants, tropical foliage, trees and shrubs, among other types of plants. The industry also includes many businesses that provide services such as landscape design, installation and maintenance, plus firms — such as lawn and garden stores — for wholesale and retail distribution of horticultural products, Hodges said.

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UF/IFAS study: Hand sanitizer, antifreeze can preserve DNA for citizen scientists

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Research

Andrea Lucky in her ant research lab

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A few simple products, such as hand sanitizer and antifreeze, can preserve DNA in samples collected by lay people for scientific research, a new University of Florida study shows.

“This is great news because unlike high-concentration chemicals, such as 95 percent ethanol or pure propylene glycol – which are expensive and hard to access — these products are inexpensive and are commonly sold at grocery stores,” said Andrea Lucky, an assistant research scientist at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and supervisor of Sedonia Steininger, the masters student who led this study.

This finding is key as UF/IFAS and other agencies conduct studies involving citizen scientists, said Lucky, who runs two citizen science projects. Citizen science projects are collaborations of scientists and non-specialists. Lay people participate in studies by collecting samples or examining data to help answer research questions while learning about the science.

Good entomological research often relies on collecting and preserving the genetic material in specimens, the study says. When lay people collect samples, they may not have access to materials used to preserve the DNA in their specimens. If the specimens collected by citizen scientists are to be used for genetic analyses, the specimens must be preserved for short-term storage and shipment of insects to labs.

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UF/IFAS faculty member earns $822,000 NSF grant as early career scientist

Topic(s): Announcements, CALS, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, IFAS, Pests, Research

Christine Miller

Christine Miller

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher has won an $822,000 early-career award from the National Science Foundation recognizing her commitment to research and the integration of research into teaching undergraduate students.

The NSF honored Christine Miller, an assistant professor of entomology, with its CAREER award as part of a foundation-wide activity that supports faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars.

“It’s been a dream of mine for years to receive this award, and at some level I still can’t believe that it has actually happened,” Miller said. “I am very excited for the next five years. It will be great to involve so many undergraduate students in the cutting edge of science.”

During the five-year grant, Miller will investigate the evolution and diversification of elaborate animal weapons, such as antlers, horns and spurs, which males use to compete for females. Together with hundreds of students, Miller will determine how fighting behaviors have led to diversification of these weapons.

“This work will engage and train hundreds of students,” Miller said. “Undergraduates are often fascinated by animal behavior and weaponry, and these topics will be a fun way to engage and retain students in science.

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Two key factors control phosphorus movement from soil to groundwater

Topic(s): Agriculture, Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Pollution, RECs, Research

 

Gurpal Toor working in his lab at the Gulf Coast REC in Balm Florida.  UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — New insights into how phosphorus leaches into groundwater could help reduce its potential impact on water and the environment, a UF/IFAS scientist says.

Phosphorus poses an environmental threat when it travels from soils to open water bodies, including lakes, streams and rivers. When too much phosphorus is applied to soils, the ground cannot hold all of the chemical, said Gurpal Toor, an associate professor of soil and water science at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida. As a result, phosphorus leaches out and migrates to water bodies, lowering water quality and leading to algal blooms. Such blooms can choke off oxygen to fish and underwater plants.

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UF/IFAS hosting free annual PLANT CAMP for science and environmental primary school teachers

Topic(s): Departments, Environment, Florida Friendly, IFAS, Invasive Species, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden

The UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants is looking for 24 science and environmental educators from elementary, middle or high schools interested in attending PLANT CAMP, June 20-24, 2016 at UF.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is hosting its annual, free, week-long PLANT CAMP for science and environmental primary school teachers this summer, with lodging and meal costs covered by the program’s sponsors.

The UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants is looking for 24 science and environmental educators from elementary, middle or high schools interested in attending June 20-24, 2016, at UF. Applications are due February 21st. (more …)

UF/IFAS scientists find another clue to monitor, trap virus-spreading mosquito

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Asian tiger mosquito is attracted to flowering butterfly bushes, giving mosquito control officials another tool to monitor and trap the insect that can transmit pathogens, causing potentially deadly diseases, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

Asian tiger mosquitoes prefer to lay eggs in containers.

With that in mind, UF/IFAS researchers monitored several sized containers that they had placed indoors, in screen houses and in residential backyards. They also monitored containers placed next to butterfly bushes. They wanted to see where the Asian tiger mosquito laid more eggs. Scientists found significantly more eggs in the largest containers, and they found more eggs in containers next to flowering bushes than in containers next to bushes without flowers.

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UF/IFAS explores bringing popular South American food fish to Florida

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Have you dined on Arapaima? South Americans eat the fish regularly, and University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are studying whether it could be a viable food fish in the United States.

“It has lots of high-quality meat,” said Jeffrey Hill, a UF/IFAS associate professor of fisheries and aquatic sciences. “It’s an easy fish to sell. It’s a really good food fish. It’s one of my favorites. It’s has a good taste. It’s easy to cook.”

Hill, doctoral student Katelyn Lawson and other researchers at the UF/IFAS Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory in Ruskin, Florida, recently published two studies concerning Arapaima. One found the fish can only survive in waters that are at least 16 degrees Celsius, or about 61 degrees Fahrenheit. That means it would only survive in South Florida waters, Hill said. The other study found a low risk of Arapaima getting out of fish farms and into canals. If Arapaima wound up in canals, they would prey on other fish.

The risk analysis was published in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management, while the lethal temperature study was published in the North American Journal of Aquaculture.

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UF/IFAS study: Citizen science participation increases trust in science

Topic(s): CALS, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Research

Andrea Lucky in her ant research lab

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Lay people who participate in citizen science develop more interest in science after participating in such a project, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

“Participating in science does more than teach people about science,” said Andrea Lucky, an assistant research scientist in the UF/IFAS entomology department and co-author of the study. “It builds trust in science and helps people understand what scientific research is all about.”

Tyler Vitone, a master’s student in Lucky’s lab in the entomology and nematology department, and his co-authors wanted to understand what participants take away from the experience of being part of a citizen science research project. To do this, they looked at a group of people who had limited experience with scientific research: students in an introductory entomology course called The Insects. The course is for non-science majors and meets a biology general education requirement for students across campus, so it includes students with a diverse mix of interests, from art, English and history to finance, marketing and political science. The research team conducted assessments in the fall and spring semesters, from 2013 through 2015.

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UF/IFAS study: Mite might control pest that attacks Florida’s $125 million-a-year cucumber crop

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

IFAS Extention faculty are working to increase food safety. By following food safety guidelines, farmers and packing facilities are improving their processes, but consumers must be aware of how to select, store and serve fresh produce in order to minimize their risk of contracting food-borne illnesses. UF/IFAS Photo: Thomas Wright.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A predatory mite might feed on a pest of cucumbers, a $125 million-a-year crop in Florida, newly published University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences research shows.

This finding may help growers protect the environment because they could reduce pesticides to keep the pest – known as thrips — at bay. Growers may also save money because they may cut chemical use on their crop. In fact, because this thrips preys on many vegetable crops, the finding could save millions of dollars in pesticide use.

Armed with new data, it’s important for growers to use the mite to mitigate the pest, UF/IFAS researchers said.

“It will take some time for growers to be trained to use biological control agents in the field for maximum benefits,” said Garima Kakkar, who spearheaded the study as part of her master’s thesis when she was a graduate student at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida.

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Massive study shows climate change rapidly warming world’s lakes, UF/IFAS professor says

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Green Living, IFAS, Pollution, Research

Small Lake Alice resized

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Climate change is rapidly warming lakes around the world, threatening freshwater supplies and ecosystems, according to a new study spanning six continents.

More than 60 scientists took part in the research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and announced today at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The study authors include Karl Havens, director of the Florida Sea Grant program and a professor with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The full study, titled, “Rapid and highly variable warming of lake surface waters around the globe,” is available free of charge here, or at the following link: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2015GL066235/full.

The study showed that lakes are warming an average of 0.6 degrees Fahrenheit each decade. That’s greater than the warming rate of either the oceans or the atmosphere, and it could have profound effects, scientists say.

At the current rate, algal blooms, which can ultimately rob water of oxygen, are projected to increase 20 percent in lakes over the next century. Algal blooms that are toxic to fish and other animals would increase by 5 percent. And these rates imply that emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas with 25 times the heat-trapping capacity of carbon dioxide, will increase 4 percent over the next decade.

“Lakes are critically important to people, because they are sources of drinking water, irrigation water and fisheries,” said Havens, an ecologist with the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. (more …)

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