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UF School of Forest Resources and Conservation sets Spring Celebration for April 5-6

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, Biofuels, CALS, Conservation, Crops, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, Forestry, IFAS, Invasive Species, New Technology, Research

Austin Cary Memorial Forest. UF/IFAS Photo by Dawn McKinstry.

UF/IFAS file photo of Austin Cary Forest palmetto and pine, by Dawn McKinstry

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — This spring, the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation has two reasons to celebrate:

One is the annual SFRC Spring Celebration on April 5-6. Here, alumni and friends of the School reconnect, recreate and learn about SFRC’s latest achievements.

The other reason: This year’s celebration includes a special milestone — groundbreaking for the new Austin Cary Forest Learning Center at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 6.

Dignitaries speaking at the groundbreaking include UF President Bernie Machen and UF Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources Jack Payne.

“This groundbreaking marks a huge step forward for the School of Forest Resources and Conservation,” Payne said. “Thousands will benefit from activities on-site at the new Learning Center, and many programs taught here will be offered via distance education to audiences statewide and beyond.”

The 7,800 square-foot building will facilitate education and outreach events at Austin Cary Forest. It’s larger and better-equipped than the conference center it replaces, said Tim White, director of the School. That facility fell victim to a fire in July 2011.

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Soil “transplants” may hinder Diaprepes weevil in flatwoods citrus, UF/IFAS researchers say

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Citrus, Environment, Invasive Species, New Technology, Pests

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Adult Diaprepes citrus weevil. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service. Click here for high-res image.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Diaprepes citrus weevil is often more abundant in finely textured, poorly drained flatwoods soils than in the sandy soil varieties of Florida’s Central Ridge; perhaps that’s because sandy soils seem to host more species of nematodes that prey on insects.

Researchers with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Science have taken those observations and turned them into a potential management technique, using “transplanted” soil and nematodes to grow flatwoods citrus. Their results appear in the January issue of the journal Biological Control.

In the study, researchers conducted experiments at a weevil-infested flatwoods citrus grove in Osceola County. They planted 50 trees in oversized holes filled with sand, and 50 trees in native soil, then introduced predatory nematodes to most of the trees. For the next four years, researchers monitored nematode and weevil populations and checked tree health.

The results showed there were more predatory nematodes of more species — and fewer weevils — in the root zones of trees planted in sandy soil. By the study’s end, 21 trees in native soil had died of weevil herbivory, compared with three trees in sandy soil. Surviving trees in sandy soil also had 60 percent greater trunk diameter and produced 85 percent more fruit than those in native soil.

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Push-pull approach could keep Western flower thrips off peppers, UF/IFAS researchers say

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Crops, Environment, Invasive Species, New Technology, Pests

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Repelling Western flower thrips from Florida’s bell peppers could be as simple as giving the insects a push and a pull, say researchers with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

A team at UF’s North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy is evaluating an eco-friendly approach called “push-pull.” It’s meant to push thrips away from the target crop with unpleasant stimuli, and pull the insect to another type of plant grown as a lure.

Initial findings from a two-year study at a South Florida farm suggest that push-pull could help the state’s outdoor pepper growers reduce the thrips threat, said entomologist Joe Funderburk, a UF/IFAS professor who led the study.

The Western flower thrips is native to the Southwestern United States but spread to the country’s Eastern half in the 1980s. The insect feeds on plant juices and preys on more than 500 species, including many vegetables, fruits and ornamentals. It also transmits the notorious tomato spotted wilt virus.

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Beneficial bacteria control effects of Southern corn rust, aflatoxin in silage, UF/IFAS researchers find

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Environment, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, Livestock

 

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Corn silage is an important dairy feed but it sometimes harbors an unwelcome addition – Southern corn rust, a fungal disease that thrives under hot, humid conditions.

 The fungus responsible, Puccinia polysora, seems harmless to cattle. However, a Southern corn rust infection can severely reduce the yield and nutritional value of corn plants and inhibit their fermentation to silage.

 Worse, it damages corn tissue, providing a gateway for opportunistic microbes such as Aspergillis. This genus of fungi includes species that produce a toxic compound called aflatoxin, which can harm or even kill cattle that eat contaminated silage. Aflatoxin can also be transmitted to the milk of cows that eat contaminated foods; in people aflatoxin can cause cancer, other diseases and death.

 Now, researchers with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have found a way to control negative effects of Southern corn rust on silage and prevent aflatoxin accumulation, by inoculating the silage with beneficial bacteria.

 The study was published in the September issue of Journal of Dairy Science.

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UF/IFAS study shows banker plants can protect greenhouse crops from whiteflies, thrips

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Crops, Environment, New Technology, Pests

 

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Keeping valuable greenhouse crops safe from whiteflies and thrips may become easier for producers, thanks to a new study on banker plants from the University of Florida and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A trend in biological pest control, banker plants provide food and shelter to natural enemies of target pests, giving the enemies a home base so they can provide continuous pest control.

 In a study posted online this week by the journal Biological Control, researchers tested three ornamental pepper varieties as host plants for the well-known predatory mite Amblyseius swirskii. The mite dramatically reduced silverleaf whitefly populations, as well as chilli thrips and Western flower thrips, on greenhouse-raised green bean plants and pepper plants.

 This approach could work for other greenhouse-grown vegetables, fruits, herbs and ornamentals, said Lance Osborne, an entomology professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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UF researchers find natural product that boosts plant defense against root pests

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

Beneficial nematodes emerging from insect.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers have discovered a natural compound to battle insect pests that plague gardeners and growers.

The compound boosts crops’ resistance to pest attacks on their roots by recruiting microscopic worms that kill the insects by eating them from the inside out.

Researchers, including members of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, made the discovery by studying chemicals released by citrus roots when they are attacked by citrus root weevil larvae. Their results are published in the June 27 edition of the online journal PLoS ONE. (more …)

UF studies show promise for biological control methods against insect

Topic(s): Biocontrols, Green Living, Invasive Species, Pests

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For years, scientists have tried to use environmentally friendly fungi to control fire ant infestations.

But the ants’ social behaviors — such as hauling their dead off to what entomologists call “bone yards” in isolated spots away from the nests — have prevented commercial development of this method. The fungus can’t spread if infected ants are continually separated from healthy ones.

A new University of Florida study shows, however, that there may be a way to make insect-killing fungi a more potent weapon against fire ants and other pests. Scientists with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences modified the fungus so that it produces a peptide that helps regulate the fire ants’ nervous system. (more …)

New IFAS study shows corn plants help control major mite pest

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Add one more entry to corn’s list of abilities: helping to biologically control pests.

Already a source of food and biofuel, University of Florida researchers report in a new study that corn plants can help sustain populations of small, flying insects known as gall midges in order to control twospotted spider mites.

Spider mites are hard-to-manage, major pests of hundreds of ornamental and vegetable crops.

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Papaya plants reduce the need for pesticides on tomatoes in Florida, new UF study finds

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Whiteflies can be biologically controlled in Florida greenhouse tomatoes, according to a new University of Florida study, which helps reduce the need for pesticide applications.

Biological control, or biocontrol, is the mitigation of pests using natural means rather than synthetic ones. Florida is the country’s top producer of fresh tomatoes, and sales of the state’s crop for 2009-2010 exceeded $402 million.

Lance Osborne, an entomology professor and associate director of UF’s Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka, led the study that found that papaya plants can be used to host a wasp that attacks silverleaf whiteflies, an insect that is a major pest of tomatoes. The findings are published in the current issue of the journal Biological Control.

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South American beetle released by UF researchers benefits Florida ranchers

Topic(s): Biocontrols, Entomology and Nematology, Invasive Species, Livestock

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Over the past two decades, Florida cattle ranchers have spent as much as $16 million a year doing battle with an invasive weed called tropical soda apple, known as TSA, that takes over pastures, elbowing out the forage grasses ranchers need for their cattle.

But a beetle released by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is taking a bite out of the problem by feeding on the weed and reducing its competitiveness. UF researchers describe the beetle’s success as a biological control agent in the current issue of the journal Florida Entomologist.

Gratiana boliviana, as the beetle is known to scientists, is a native of South America and the first biological control agent in North America to be used against TSA. The beetles are highly specific feeders whose voracious appetite is focused only on TSA but not on related plants such as eggplant, peppers or potatoes.

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