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IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS study: Tiny wasp controls nuisance whitefly

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Economics, Environment, Pests, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A wasp the size of a pin head may control the nuisance Rugose spiraling whitefly, which leaves a sticky white mess that becomes covered in black mold on everything from plants to cars and pools, University of Florida scientists say.

“Although the Rugose spiraling whitefly damages plants, what really gets people worked up is that it’s a huge nuisance because it makes a mess,” said Catharine Mannion, an entomology professor at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida. “You get a sooty mold on everything. It’s hard to get pools cleaned. People start chopping their trees down.”

But a new breakthrough shows the tiny wasp encarsia noyesi reduces the population of the Rugose spiraling whitefly, according to a new UF/IFAS-led study funded by the Farm Bill, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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UF/IFAS is all about the bugs during Bug Week 2015, May 18-23

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, Environment, Families and Consumers, Household Pests, IFAS, Invasive Species, Lawn & Garden, Pests

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida campus is aflutter with activity as it gears up for Bug Week 2015, with various online and campus activities for students of all ages and their families.

“Bugs are serious business in Florida,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “Learning about bugs, though, should be fun. That’s why we have Bug Week.”

Bug Week 2015 is scheduled for May 18-23. To get started, check out the Bug Week website at http://bugs.ufl.edu/. UF/IFAS has a number of online resources there to explore including bug photos, feature stories, and the popular “Bug of the Day” and “Bug Word of the Day” items. Citizen science projects – in which anyone can participate – are spotlighted on the website, along with videos about everything from ants and butterflies to spiders and ticks. (more …)

UF/IFAS study: Non-native grass invasion, prescribed fires, deadly ecological combination

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Conservation, Economics, Environment, Forestry, Green Living, Invasive Species, Research

 

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Invasive stiltgrass is bad enough by itself, crowding out native plant and insect species in about 25 eastern U.S. states, including Florida. It can also inhibit tree seedling survival and growth, and it can change the availability of nitrogen in the soil.

In general, invasions of non-native plant species can reduce biodiversity and alter ecosystems. In 2013, 1,585 prescribed fires were used to burn about 290,000 acres in eight eastern U.S. states. Scientists have used prescribed fires to effectively control some invasive plants, but new evidence suggests fires may promote stiltgrass invasions.

If land managers perform prescribed fires — normally used to manage ecosystems and prevent wildfires – in stiltgrass-invaded areas, native trees can be killed by the more intense fires caused by burning stiltgrass, said Luke Flory, an assistant professor of ecology at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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UF/IFAS Extension program to control Tropical Soda Apple earns national award

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, Economics, Environment, Extension, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Invasive Species

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — St. Lucie County ranchers have saved an estimated $850,000 a year, thanks to University of Florida experts who taught them how to release a beetle to eat an invasive plant that normally elbows out valuable cattle forage.

“Using the Tropical Soda Apple beetle has resulted in significant cost savings for ranchers while at the same time protecting the environment by reducing the need to use herbicides,” said St. Lucie County Extension agent Ken Gioeli, part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The program, which uses beetles to biologically control the Tropical Soda Apple (TSA) on St. Lucie County ranches, has won the Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals National Innovative Program Award. That’s the fourth straight year UF’s St. Lucie County Extension Office has won a national award.

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UF/IFAS scientists find potential biological control for avocado-ravaging disease

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Crops, Economics, Pests, RECs

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida scientists believe they’ve found what could be the first biological control strategy against laurel wilt, a disease that threatens the state’s $54 million-a-year avocado industry.

Red ambrosia beetles bore holes into healthy avocado trees, bringing with them the pathogen that causes laurel wilt. Growers control the beetles that carry and spread laurel wilt by spraying insecticides on the trees, said Daniel Carrillo, an entomology research assistant professor at the Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead.

But a team of researchers from the Tropical REC and the Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce have identified a potential biological control to use against redbay ambrosia beetles that could help growers use less insecticide.

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UF/IFAS researcher finds inexpensive, easy way to filter arsenic from water

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Environment, IFAS, Pollution, Research
UF/IFAS Researcher Bin Gao has developed an inexpensive and easy way to filter arsenic from water.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida professor has developed a quick, cheap and easy way to filter from water one of the world’s most common pollutants: arsenic.

Bin Gao’s team used iron-enhanced carbon cooked from hickory chips, called biochar, to remove the toxin. He is an associate professor with the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ in agricultural and biological engineering. (more …)

UF/IFAS study: Florida’s climate boosts soil-carbon storage, cuts greenhouse emissions

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

Sabine Grunwald. Associate Professor, Ph.D.  Soil and Water Science.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Warm temperatures and a wet landscape increase soil’s ability to store carbon, which in turn helps mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new University of Florida study covering 45 years of data.

Soil-stored carbon can slow the build-up of carbon-based gases in the atmosphere, a phenomenon believed to be a cause of global climate change. So it’s vital to preserve soil carbon, said Sabine Grunwald, a UF soil and water science professor who led the research.

“The conservation of the ‘black gold’ below our feet, which is not only a natural part of Florida’s soils but also helps to improve our climate and agricultural production, is a hidden treasure,” said Grunwald, a member of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty. “Soils serve as a natural container to hold carbon that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere as greenhouse gases that accelerate global climate change.”

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UF/IFAS researchers start to pinpoint biological control for Brazilian peppertree

Topic(s): Biocontrols, Crops, Entomology and Nematology, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests

 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A South American insect could help control the invasive Brazilian peppertree in places where it supplants critical habitat for many organisms, according to University of Florida and U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists.

Brazilian peppertree has clusters of hundreds of small, red berries, and grows about 10 feet per year, to about 30 feet. It is native to Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. The tree has moved around the world as an ornamental plant and has become invasive in several states and countries, including Florida, Texas and Hawaii as well as Australia, New Zealand and some Caribbean islands.

In Florida, Brazilian peppertree has infested nearly 700,000 acres in the central and southern regions. It has been particularly abundant in the Everglades. In general, the trees take over space where native plants should be. Animals such as white-tailed deer, the Florida panther and migratory birds that depend on native vegetation, such as mangrove, for food and shelter are deprived of that habitat.

“This can have cascading effects through the food chain,” said Bill Overholt, an entomology professor at UF’s Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce.

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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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