IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS researchers to study how to reduce carbon dioxide in ranch soil

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Conservation, Environment, Green Living, IFAS, Livestock, Research, Soil and Water Science

A herd of beef cattle on a Florida ranch, trees, cows, grass. UF/IFAS Photo: Thomas Wright.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers hope to reduce possible pollutants emanating from soils in Florida cattle ranches by using a $710,000 federal grant to study soil microbes.

In the new study, UF/IFAS researchers will use lab and field studies to investigate how pasture management and factors such as temperature and rainfall affect soil microbes. They’ll also look for genetic markers to get a glimpse into microbial identity. Genetic markers are genes or short sequences of DNA scientists use to find other genes on a genetic map.

“The goal is to put together a model that can predict the release of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide from soils under a climate that is expected to be warmer and experience more extreme dry and wet periods across the Southeast,” said Stefan Gerber, a UF/IFAS assistant professor in soil and water sciences and one of the investigators on the new study.

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Mysterious enzyme does damage control, can help with health, environment

Topic(s): Agriculture, Environment, IFAS, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A previously mysterious family of enzymes removes abnormal versions of some very common chemicals found in all life forms, opening many possibilities for health and agricultural applications, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.

Known to scientists as DUF89, the enzymes are found in the cells of bacteria, fungi, plants and animals. Now that researchers know what the DUF89 enzymes do, they can work with these enzymes to help biomedicine and crop science, said UF/IFAS eminent scholar Andrew Hanson. For example, researchers could engineer more efficient production of biofuels, feedstocks and pharmaceuticals, he said.

On the health front, scientists can better understand how to treat hereditary diseases and perhaps some cancers, Hanson said. As for agriculture, Hanson said scientists can equip crops with enzymes like DUF89 to deal with damaged chemicals formed during the production of novel biofuels.

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UF/IFAS expert: Whitefly species likely to cause growers problems

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences expert predicts the Q-biotype whitefly discovered in April in Palm Beach County will likely cause problems for growers.

The Q-biotype whitefly – not to be confused with the B-biotype, which came to Florida in the mid-1980s – is now being seen outside greenhouses and nurseries and poses a threat to ornamental plants and agricultural crops. After the B-biotype was found in Florida in the 1980s, scientists saw big increases in the diversity and frequency of whitefly-transmitted viruses in many Florida crops, said Jane Polston, a UF/IFAS plant pathology professor. Crops like beans, tomato, watermelon and squash were hit hard by these viruses after the appearance of the B biotype.

“This Q-biotype is a pest that damages crops and resists many of the insecticides that are effective on the B-biotype, the whitefly that is common in many ornamental and vegetable crops,” Polston said. “And like other whiteflies, it is capable of transmitting viruses from one plant to another.”

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UF/IFAS Mole Cricket Biological Control Program saves state millions

Topic(s): Agriculture, Departments, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs, Research

Howard Frank,left and Tom Walker check two-part trap that uses synthesized mole cricket calls to monitor both mole crickets and the beneficial flies that locate their hosts by sounds.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In a recent study, researchers with the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences in cooperation with Florida A&M University economists estimated that a 34-year program to control invasive pest mole crickets in the state has saved cattlemen approximately 13.6 million dollars a year. Over the long term, that figure balloons to 453 million dollars.

“The partnership with the State of Florida has been crucial to controlling the mole crickets,” said Norm Leppla, a UF/IFAS professor of entomology and nematology. “The Mole Cricket Biological Control Program has been worth every penny invested by the Florida Legislature and other stakeholders in the state.”

UF/IFAS researchers remember when the mole crickets reached outbreak levels in Florida during the mid-1900s and began wreaking hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of damage to crops, pastures and turf. Cattlemen were beside themselves as they watched the tiny insects tear across their pastures like a biblical swarm of locusts. The effects were devastating, but not irreversible.

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UF/IFAS Professor Ed Gilman: A legacy of tree growth

Topic(s): Announcements, Environment, Extension, Forestry, IFAS, Research, Weather

 

Ed Gilman, a professor of environmental horticulture with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, examines the trunk of a tree toppled by hurricanes this year. He said the most important thing to remember in an urban environment is the location of the trees, planting them so their roots are not affected buildings, curbs, driveways or sidewalks.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Among his legacies, Ed Gilman wants to make sure trees don’t snap in Florida’s tropical storm-force winds.

When Gilman retires this month from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, he can point at several crowning achievements in his career.

Now, at age 62, Gilman will spend more time with family, of course, and do more woodworking, “working with dead trees instead of live trees,” he deadpanned.

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Water-wise awards honor landscaping that saves water without sparing looks

Topic(s): Environment, Extension, Florida Friendly, Green Living, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden

Winners of the Water-Wise Awards receive a garden stepping stone created by a local artist

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CLEARWATER, Fla. — Most people who look at Scott and Lisa Freeman’s yard probably assume it takes a lot of water to keep it so green and lush. They couldn’t be more wrong — this sub-tropical oasis requires nearly no water at all, thanks to its Florida-Friendly Landscaping.

The Freeman’s yard won the 2015 Water-Wise Award for single-family residence in Pinellas County. This annual award is co-sponsored by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and Tampa Bay Water.

This award goes to landscapes in the Tampa Bay area that use little water but are pleasing to the eye. UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County staff will spend this coming summer visiting these landscapes to judge their water-wise design.

“The purpose of this program is primarily to promote water conservation and Florida-Friendly Landscaping principles,” said Brian Niemann, a UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County agent and one of the landscape judges.

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Want to conserve more water? Target those who already save a little

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Research

In this photo released from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, extension agent Janet Bargar checks the water flow and direction of a pop-up irrigation system at a home in Vero Beach – Friday, May 25, 2007. Bargar, a water quality expert, suggests residents check with their county extension office about local watering restrictions. She says the ideal time to water is before sunrise and that residents should check irrigation systems regularly to be sure they’re working properly and not watering the sidewalk.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers call them “water considerate” consumers because they conserve water fairly well but could stand some improvement. These water users might be the most appropriate people to target if you want to get more people to conserve water, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

Laura Warner, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication and the leader of the newly published study, worked with a team of UF/IFAS researchers to conduct an online survey of 1,063 Floridians.

“The key takeaway is that there is a group of people who really care about water but have room for improvement in their landscape water conservation practices,” Warner said.

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UF/IFAS experts available for 2016 hurricane season

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Disaster Preparedness, Economics, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Weather

Flood signage in Florida.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The following University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences sources are available to speak to news media about a range of storm- and hurricane-related topics:

Hurricane and other natural disaster preparation: Mike Spranger, a professor in family, youth and community sciences, can give tips on how to prepare for any kind of natural disaster. He adapted a Gulfwide version of the Homeowners Handbook to Prepare for Natural Hazards for Florida residents. The book has basic background on tornados, tropical storms, hurricanes, floods and wildfires, and covers everything from hurricane clips to what to keep in your pantry and what to take with you during an evacuation. 352-273-3557; spranger@ufl.edu.

Rebuilding/maintaining sand dunesDeborah Miller, a professor of wildlife ecology and conservation based at UF’s West Florida Research and Education Center in Milton, has studied the best ways to rebuild sand dunes destroyed by hurricanes. 850-983-7128, ext. 104; dlmi@ufl.edu.

Hurricane effects on Florida agriculture: Jonathan Crane, a professor and tropical-fruit crop specialist at UF’s Tropical Research & Education Center in Homestead, has studied how hurricanes affect Florida agriculture. His research covers damage to fruit crops and to grove infrastructure such as irrigation systems due to high winds and flooding. 305-246-7001, ext. 290; jhcr@ufl.edu.

Hurricanes and pets/farm animalsJohn Haven directs the UF College of Veterinary Medicine’s All Animals, All Hazards Disaster Response Team and has participated in animal care operations related to hurricanes, fires and disease outbreaks. After leading the college’s responses to Hurricanes Charlie, Frances and Jeanne, he organized this formal veterinary emergency response team consisting of faculty, staff and students. He is a member of the State Agriculture Response Team, coordinator for the State Veterinary Reserve Corps disaster response team, and an Incident Command System Instructor. 352-294-4254, ext. 3154; havenj@ufl.edu.

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

UF/IFAS researchers to present forest biotechnology promise at national conference

Topic(s): Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Forestry, IFAS, Pests, Research

Jiri Hulcr mug

Jiri Hulcr

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers will introduce genetic biotechnology as a potential means to preserve forests at a national conference next week in Washington, D.C.

Jiri Hulcr, an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation, and one of his doctoral students, Caroline Storer, will host the symposium at the North American Forest Insect Work Conference May 31 to June 3.

Hulcr sees this conference as an opportunity for the UF/IFAS forest entomology team to disseminate innovative solutions to maintain tree health.

“Exploring the use of biotechnology in tree health protection is important to us, because we are increasingly running out of other options,” Hulcr said.

Additionally, he said: “Trees and forests provide jobs and benefits for everyone. Yet, around city neighborhoods and rural forests, anyone can witness the diminishing health of trees. The culprit is exotic pests and diseases. Forget pollution or drought: It is destructive tree diseases and pests — imported by overseas travelers or business people — that are nearly eliminating some tree species from our forests and orchards.”

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Whitefly infestation only in Palm Beach County – for now

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — People in Palm Beach County can help manage a potential outbreak of the Q-biotype whitefly through early detection and identification of the insect, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.

This significant tropical and subtropical pest may threaten Florida crops such as tomatoes, squash, beans, watermelons and many other vegetables and ornamentals if immediate measures are not taken to prevent its spread. Known scientifically as Bemisia tabaci, the Q-biotype is a light-colored, flying insect slightly less than 1 millimeter in length. Thus far, the Q-biotype whitefly has been reported in all four quadrants of Palm Beach County – north, east, south and west – said Lance Osborne, a UF/IFAS entomology professor.

To find and detect this whitely, residents should first look at hibiscus plants because those are host plants to which this whitefly species will likely gravitate. They should also take a look at their poinsettia plants, Osborne said. There are two types of this whitefly species: Q-biotype and B-biotype, and they look virtually the same, so it’s critical to get a genetic analysis to determine if you have the Q-biotype whitefly.

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