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IFAS News

University of Florida

Eighth annual UF Bee College event returns March 6-7

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Families and Consumers

A bee on a sunflower.  Helianthus annuus, annuals, honey bees, insects, pollination.  UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s sweetest event for all things honey bee is set for March 6-7, University of Florida officials announced this week.

The University of Florida’s Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory has organized and hosted the UF Bee College since 2008 for hobbyists, professionals and anyone interested in maintaining a healthy honey bee population. The event will be held at the UF Whitney Marine Laboratory in Marineland, Fla. (more …)

UF survey shows Floridians want to conserve water, but not if it costs too much

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Florida Friendly, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Research

PIE Center water photo 021815

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Floridians remain concerned about water and are willing to make changes to conserve it, at least until their efforts cramp their lifestyles, according to an annual University of Florida study on state residents’ attitudes about this precious resource.

For the second consecutive year, an annual online survey conducted by UF’s Center for Public Issues in Education shows that water ranks third on a list of 10 topics people consider important — behind the economy and healthcare and ahead of public education and taxes. Eighty-three percent of 749 respondents indicated water is an important or extremely important issue.

Yet while three-quarters of them said they were likely to vote to support water conservation programs and nearly as many said they would support water restrictions issued by their local government, only 42 percent were willing to take action to conserve water if it meant their lawns would suffer.

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Agricultural systems modeling group to hold meetings Feb. 23-28 at UF

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Environment, Weather
Jim Jones

Jim Jones

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In recent years, computer technology has begun to help agricultural producers solve dilemmas as old as farming itself — predicting future crop yields, supplies and prices — using sophisticated models that account for weather patterns, soil types, crop management practices and other factors.

It’s known as agricultural systems modeling, and next week, experts in this emerging field will converge on the University of Florida campus to discuss their latest findings at two meetings held by the leading professional organization in the field, the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Program, or AgMIP.

The first event, held Feb. 23-25, will focus on ways that models can account for the potential effects of global climate change on pest and disease pressures, said Jim Jones, a distinguished professor emeritus with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and one of AgMIP’s four co-principal investigators.

The second event, held Feb. 25-28, is an AgMIP global annual workshop and will feature a wide-ranging slate of activities related to agricultural systems modeling, including discussions and presentations on climate change, specific crops, economics and computer technology, he said.

AgMIP’s overall mission, Jones said, is to help scientists and producers understand how agricultural production systems should evolve to ensure food security under variable and changing climate conditions, and how modeling can guide efforts to develop more resilient and sustainable farming systems.

(more …)

UF/IFAS expert to help Australians try to control diseases transmitted by invasive mosquitoes

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

LOUNIBOS 020915

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida scientist recognized as a global expert on invasive mosquitoes will head to Australia in March to work with researchers to combat public health threats common to Florida and Queensland, Australia, such as chikungunya and dengue fever.

Phil Lounibos, an entomology professor at UF/IFAS’ Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach, has been awarded a Fulbright Specialist grant to give a series of lectures and to host seminars Down Under.

The mosquitoes that transmit chikungunya and dengue fever to humans are Aedes aegypti – sometimes referred to as the yellow fever mosquito ─ and Aedes albopictussometimes called the Asian tiger mosquito. Aedes aegypti, native to Africa, has lived in eastern Australia for more than 150 years, after arriving on sailing vessels, but is becoming less of a public health threat in parts of Queensland thanks to a novel experimental control method.

Aedes albopictus successfully colonized Florida more than 30 years ago but has not yet established itself in mainland Australia. Lounibos, a leading expert on the ecology of these two mosquito species, will bring his research-based knowledge, which has helped explain how the Asian tiger reduced the range and abundance of the yellow fever mosquito in Florida.

“We hope collaboration and knowledge from studying interactions between these species in Florida will help Australian scientists limit consequences from a feared invasion by the Asian Tiger Mosquito from the Torres Strait,” he said. The Torres Strait lies between mainland Australia and New Guinea.

The program will also benefit Florida, where several mosquito control districts are considering releasing genetically modified yellow fever mosquitoes for dengue prevention. The Eliminate Dengue Program, based in Cairns, Australia, is pioneering a non-GMO genetic control technique that causes mosquitoes of this species to become dengue-resistant by mating with released mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia, a type of bacteria.

Because of their extensive coastlines ─ which makes both areas vulnerable to the arrival of exotic animals and plants on boats and ships ─ Florida and Queensland, Australia are threatened by many invasive species, including the two mosquito species that transmit dengue and chikungunya.

In the past few years, the lay public and scientists have shifted their interest in mosquito ecology from salt marsh mosquitoes ─ major pests of the densely populated coasts of both regions ─ to invasive mosquito vectors of arboviruses, such as dengue and chikungunya.

Outbreaks of dengue fever occur regularly in northern Queensland and occasionally in South Florida, and the establishment of chikungunya in the Caribbean in late 2013 led to at least 10 cases of local transmission of this virus n Florida in 2014, Lounibos said.

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Cutline: UF/IFAS entomology professor Phil Lounibos checks for larvae of the invasive Aedes albopictus in water-holding tires used for surveillance on the grounds of the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach.

Credit: UF/IFAS file photo by Marisol Amador

By Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Source: Phil Lounibos, 772-778-7200, ext. 146, lounibos@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS, others improving health of marine life and coastal economies

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Conservation, Economics, Environment, IFAS

CRAIG WATSON

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – University of Florida researchers will work with other scientists to study how to make the water and marine life in Tampa Bay healthier, which in turn could help protect Florida’s offshore ecosystems and fishing economy.

Scientists with UF/IFAS are the first researchers at the Center for Conservation, part of an alliance comprised of UF/IFAS, Tampa’s Florida Aquarium, Tampa Electric Co. and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The partnership came about after Tampa Electric, a subsidiary of TECO Energy, offered the Florida Aquarium 20 acres in Apollo Beach for off-site quarantine and animal holding in 2012-13, said Craig Watson, director of the UF/IFAS Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory in Ruskin. Watson suggested the partners bring FWC aboard because the agency was looking for marine enhancement centers, Watson said.

Then TECO, the Florida Aquarium, UF/IFAS and FWC formed an alliance to create the Center for Conservation on the Apollo Beach site, he said. The site is also near TECO’s Manatee Viewing Center. The CFC will try to solve aquatic resource problems, Watson said.

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One fish, two fish ─ Camera counts freshwater fish, which could help combat hydrilla

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Conservation, Economics, Environment, IFAS
FISHCAMERA photo 012215

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A camera can accurately count freshwater fish, even in the thickest of underwater vegetation, a key finding for those who manage fisheries and control the invasive plant hydrilla, new University of Florida research shows.

The finding by UF/IFAS scientists can help researchers understand how many and which fish species are using dense plant habitats, said former UF/IFAS graduate student Kyle Wilson.

While cameras have been used to document fish behavior – including eating and breeding ─ this marks the first time scientists have used video to count fish in underwater plant habitats, Wilson said. In addition, no prior studies that used cameras to count fish verified their fish populations.

“It is commonly assumed that dense and invasive plants, like hydrilla, can drastically change fish habitat quality, primarily through changes in dissolved oxygen levels, water chemistry and habitat structure,” Wilson said. “Whether these changes are good or bad for fish has previously remained uncertain due to sampling problems in dense plant habitats. Using underwater cameras, we have shown that fish can and do use habitats we previously thought were too stressful for fish habitat.”

This is a big problem, especially with hydrilla, a plant that has invaded lakes throughout Florida, much of the U.S., Central America, South Africa and Australia, Wilson said. He estimated Florida spent up to $14 million per year throughout the 2000s to manage hydrilla, while the U.S. spent about $100 million per year in the 2000s for aquatic plant management.

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Bicyclists willing to ride up to 3 miles to catch bus, train, UF/IFAS study shows

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

Students commute on bicycles through campus.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – If three American metro areas are any indication, few people ride their bicycles to a bus or train station to commute to work, and those who do only travel an average of 1 to 2 miles. That suggests to a University of Florida researcher that American cities should make the 2-mile radius around transit hubs more bike-friendly.

Methods to do so could include installing bicycle lanes separated from vehicular traffic, adding off-street multipurpose paths for pedestrians and bicyclists and converting car lanes to bike-only lanes, said UF geomatics Associate Professor Henry Hochmair.

Hochmair reached his conclusions by studying data collected by transit agencies from passengers who rode trains and buses in three metro areas – Atlanta, Los Angeles and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

From those who completed the survey, Hochmair analyzed trips from 157 people in Los Angeles, 66 in Atlanta and 99 in Minneapolis who rode their bikes to access transit – 2.3 percent, 0.3 percent, and 4.2 percent, respectively. In Hochmair’s data analysis, those who opted to ride a bike to a transit hub cycled an average of 1 to 2 miles in Atlanta and the Twin Cities and 3 miles in Los Angeles.

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UF/IFAS study: Wheat yield to decline as temperatures increase

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Environment, Research, Weather

Research Assistant Jeremy Hall examines newly planted wheat at the UF/IFAS Plant Science Research & Education Unit Tuesday, January 13, 2015 in Citra, FLa.

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See video here: bit.ly/1Cbois7

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – For every degree Celsius that the temperature increases, the world loses 6 percent of its wheat crop, according to a new global study led by a University of Florida scientist. That’s one fourth of the annual global wheat trade, which reached 147 million tons in 2013.

Senthold Asseng, a UF professor of agricultural and biological engineering, used a computer model approach to reach the finding of temperature increases and wheat production.

“We started this with wheat, as wheat is one of the world’s most important food crops,” said Asseng, whose team’s study was published online Dec. 22 in the journal Nature Climate Change. “The simulations with the multi-crop models showed that warming is already slowing yield gains, despite observed yield increases in the past, at a majority of wheat-growing locations across the globe.”

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UF/IFAS Extension and Bok Tower Gardens are partnering to teach a new generation about plants, gardening and the environment

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Nutrition, Vegetables

Bok Tower

LAKE WALES, Fla. — Among the music of carillon bells, beneath a lush oak canopy, a new partnership is emerging between the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and historic Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, FL.

The partnership between the state’s preeminent land-grant university and this historic garden will provide onsite demonstration gardens, education programs and conservation research, as well as outreach programs to help people better see, appreciate, and connect with plants. A new school and community gardens program has already begun operations to teach food gardening to students and residents. (more …)

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