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IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS scientist to spread knowledge at World Avocado Congress

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

Jonathan Crane, professor of horticultural sciences, inspecting an avocado tree at the Tropical Research and Education Center.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With the laurel wilt pathogen threatening the Florida avocado industry, a UF/IFAS tropical fruit scientist will lend his expertise at the World Avocado Congress in September in Lima, Peru.

Jonathan Crane, professor in horticultural sciences, will give an opening presentation titled: “The Potential for Laurel Wilt to Threaten Avocado Production is Real” at the meeting, Sept. 13-18. With this talk, Crane will provide evidence that laurel wilt will spread throughout North America and will pose a threat to native trees and to commercial avocado production.

Later, Crane will present a paper titled: “Current status and control recommendations for laurel wilt and the ambrosia beetle vectors in commercial avocado orchards in South Florida.” Crane co-authored the paper with Daniel Carrillo, assistant professor in entomology; Randy Ploetz, professor in plant pathology; Edward Evans, associate professor in food and resource economics and Aaron Palmateer, associate professor in plant pathology – all of whom work at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead. The final co-author is Don Pybas, director of the Florida Avocado Administrative Committee.

Several ambrosia beetle species transmit the laurel wilt pathogen to avocado trees, killing most of them, threatening an industry with a $100 million-a-year economic impact on Florida. The original ambrosia beetle vector of laurel wilt was discovered in the U.S. in Georgia in 2002 and since that time has spread to seven additional states. Laurel wilt has begun to slightly affect commercial avocado production in Florida.

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UF/IFAS scientists: Keep your dogs out of warm lakes

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida scientists warn against letting your dog swim in warm water bodies after they found several lakes with a pathogen that can make canines sick.

Animals, including dogs and horses, can contract pythiosis from swimming spores, said Erica Goss, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of plant pathology. About 10 cases of humans getting sick from this disease have also been reported in the U.S.

In addition to keeping their animals out of lakes, people should avoid ponds and other standing water that contains grass and aquatic vegetation, particularly in the hot months, Goss said.

“Lined ponds should be OK, because the pathogen is probably soil borne,” she said. “I believe that dogs who do not swim have also gotten it though, possibly from eating infested grass. Dogs that drink infested water can get intestinal infections.”

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UF/IFAS program highly successful in keeping phosphorus out of the Everglades

Topic(s): Agriculture, Aquaculture, Conservation, Crops, Environment, IFAS, Livestock, RECs

Wide angle scenic of Everglades National Park near Homestead, Florida.  Parks and recreation, Florida, river of grass.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A 20-year plan to dramatically reduce phosphorus levels of agricultural water entering the Florida Everglades is working, thanks to proper implementation of best management practices by growers, training by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and cooperation with state and federal agencies.

“It is a partnership that has worked,” said Samira Daroub, a professor of soil and water science at the UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade. “It is one of the success stories in the area and also in the country.” (more …)

UF/IFAS scientists warn of pharmaceutical peril for aquatic organisms in urban rivers

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — River beds in urban areas worldwide store pharmaceuticals, and University of Florida scientists warn they can pose a potential environmental danger to aquatic organisms.

UF/IFAS Post-Doctoral Researcher Yun-Ya Yang conducted a study along rural and urban areas of the Alafia River, which runs through parts of Hillsborough County and empties into the Gulf of Mexico. In her study, Yang collected sediment samples at several sites along the river and found 17 pharmaceuticals.

Yang found a lower amount of pharmaceuticals than in previous similar studies because river beds in Florida do not contain enough silt and clay, but they can still present an environmental concern.

These types of chemicals are not confined to the Alafia River or urban-area rivers in Florida, said Gurpal Toor, an associate professor in soil and water science, who supervised Yang’s study. The scientists say their findings are representative of urban rivers worldwide, partly because wastewater treatments plants, septic systems and industrial wastewater empty into water bodies. Landfill chemicals also leach into water bodies. All these sources contribute these contaminants in the environment.

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Two UF/IFAS animal sciences faculty members each earn $450K cattle research grants

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Environment, IFAS, Livestock, RECs, Research

Cliff Lamb.  Professor and coordinator, Animal Science Programs.  UF/IFAS Photographer Tyler Jones.

Geoffrey E. Dahl (Geoff), Professor and Chair, Ph.D. UF/IFAS Photo: Sally Lanigan.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Geoff Dahl wants to know why heat makes cows less prone to produce milk, even when they are not lactating.

Dahl, a UF/IFAS animal sciences professor, has won a $450,000 grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to study how to reduce mammary cell growth so he and his colleagues can develop strategies to limit the negative impact of heat stress on cows that are late in pregnancy and not producing milk, the so-called “dry cows.”

Dahl was one of two UF/IFAS animal sciences faculty members to win $450,000 NIFA grants last week. Cliff Lamb, a professor at the North Florida Research and Education Center in Marianna, Florida, will study the differences in fetal development of Bos Indicus cows compared to Bos Taurus cows.

Heat stress causes cows to eat less and reduces milk during lactation, Dahl said. But it also decreases mammary growth late in a cow’s pregnancy, when cows normally do not produce milk as they prepare for the next lactation.

“That depression of mammary growth translates to less milk throughout the next lactation, and thus reduced efficiency and profitability for dairy producers,” said Dahl, who’s also chair of the Department of Animal Sciences.

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Book examines the use of predatory mites for biological control

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Biological control of pests, weeds, plants and animals gives “the best hope to providing lasting, environmentally sound and socially acceptable pest management,” according to a new book edited by two UF/IFAS scientists.

The book, “Prospects for Biological Control of Plant Feeding Mites and Other Harmful Organisms,” was recently published by Springer Science. It includes chapters by scientists in California, Kenya, Benin, Brazil, Colombia, Greece, Spain and New Zealand.

Research compiled in the book examines how predatory mites can be used to control other plant-eating mites and other harmful organisms such as stable flies, mushrooms flies and some soil pests, said Daniel Carrillo, a UF/IFAS assistant professor in entomology. The book serves as an important resource for anyone searching for efficient and sustainable biological methods of pest control. Biological control is vital because pests become more difficult to control as they build resistance to pesticides.

“So, biological control is a sound alternative,” Carrillo said. “You can release predatory mites to control spider mites, whiteflies and thrips, among other pests. People use them in greenhouses mostly.”

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It’s a bug-eat-bug world out there for strawberry growers

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new University of Florida scientist is trying to find an insect that will eat the fly that’s damaging such fruit as strawberries and blueberries in the Sunshine State.

Such a finding would be critical in Florida, where the strawberry harvest brought in $267 million in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Justin Renkema, an assistant professor in entomology, recently developed tools to help determine whether he’s found a biological control for the Drosophila suzukii, commonly called the spotted wing drosophila.

Among other goals of the experiments, Renkema and his co-authors wanted to detect the DNA of spotted wing drosophila after it’s been eaten by a predatory rove beetle. This is a critical test to know whether one insect has eaten another, he said.

“The molecular tools we developed should be useful for testing whether other predators inhabiting fruit and berry fields consume spotted wing drosophila,” said Renkema, a new faculty member at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm.

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UF/IFAS scientists: Keep up your guard for West Nile virus

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

 

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for more information and a video, click here: http://bit.ly/1IrtbSv

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While Florida has never experienced a serious West Nile virus epidemic, UF/IFAS scientists caution the public to remain vigilant about this dangerous mosquito-borne illness.

Meanwhile, UF/IFAS researchers continue to study ways to nip the virus in the bud and monitor its spread. Researchers at the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology in Vero Beach track rainfall, groundwater levels, mosquito abundance, wild bird populations and virus transmission to animals including horses and sentinel chickens. Researchers use these data to track the virus transmission between mosquitoes and wild birds, noting when mosquito infection rates reach the levels that can infect humans.

West Nile virus, first detected in the U.S. in New York City in 1999, and in Florida in 2001, has been confirmed hundreds of times nationally, and it can be lethal. For example, 779 cases (with 28 deaths) were reported in California in 2004, most from three southern California counties. The next summer, 880 cases (with 19 deaths) were reported in counties across the state.

The environmental conditions that favor West Nile virus transmission in Florida include very dry winter and early spring months, followed by heavy rainfall and short periods of drought – usually 10 to 14 days — in the late spring and early to mid-summer months.

Low winter temperatures also help to predict epidemic risk, especially in south Florida, said Jonathan Day, a professor at the UF/IFAS lab in Vero Beach. Years when exceptionally cold periods were reported in south Florida, such as 1977 and 1989, were followed by mosquito-borne virus epidemics.

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Downy mildew confirmed on popular purple velvet plants

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Downy mildew, a disease known to damage dozens of plant species in Florida, has now been found on purple velvet plants in South Florida, UF/IFAS scientists say.

Purple velvet plants are popularly used for foliage and cut flowers, said Aaron Palmateer, associate professor in plant pathology at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead.

“The upside to reporting any disease, especially aggressive diseases like downy mildew, is to get the word out,” said Palmateer, who co-authored a paper on the finding that appears online in the journal Plant Disease. “This allows growers to take preventive action and to start applying fungicides labeled for downy mildew before a disease outbreak, which is the ideal approach for disease management.

“The downside is the added expense of applying additional fungicides to control the downy mildew,” he said. “This is a disease that can kill the plant, so it’s a definite game-changer.”

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UF/IFAS study sheds light on how willing we are to adjust our energy bills

Topic(s): Economics, Environment, Families and Consumers, Finances, Green Living, IFAS, Research, Weather

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — All it takes is six questions. You answer those, and University of Florida researchers say contractors will know how willing you are to upgrade your home for energy efficiency and whether you can afford the improvements.

Heating and cooling make up 54 percent of American households’ utility bills, a primary concern for Randy Cantrell, a UF/IFAS assistant professor and Extension specialist in housing and community development. For some people, their monthly energy bill comes as sticker shock. But we all react differently when we open the envelope, and Cantrell calls that response “botheredness.”

Cantrell wanted to know two things: how bothered people are by their energy bill and whether they can afford to do something about it. So he and Brad Sewell, a graduate research assistant, used a web-based survey of about 1,000 American homeowners to divide them into groups based on utility bill botheredness and budgetary constraints for household upgrades.

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