IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS researchers try to cut costs to control aquatic invasive plants in Florida

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Biocontrols, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species

Invasive Aquatics photo 2 062916

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Of all the invasive plants in Florida’s waterways, hydrilla costs the most to contain — $66 million over a seven-year period, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.

But UF/IFAS researchers are finding new ways to use less chemical treatment, and thus less money, to manage hydrilla.

From 2008 to 2015, state and federal water resource managers spent about $125 million to control invasive aquatic plants, according to an April Extension document co-written by Lyn Gettys, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agronomy and aquatic weed specialist. You can find the document here: http://bit.ly/28UsGoh.

Of that $125 million, about $66 million goes to control hydrilla, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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UF/IFAS Bug Week focuses on “Big Money Bugs” that generate economic damages, benefits

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Citrus, Crops, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Families and Consumers, Household Pests, IFAS, Invasive Species, Lawn & Garden, Pests
The invasive Asian citrus psyllid.

The invasive Asian citrus psyllid. UF/IFAS photo by Michael Rogers. Click for high-red image.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Call them Florida’s “Big Money Bugs” – the insects responsible for the greatest economic damages, costs and benefits that arthropods generate in the Sunshine State.

This year, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) focuses on Big Money Bugs for its annual Bug Week, May 21 to 27. The event offers educational outreach for the public while showcasing UF/IFAS’ entomology and nematology program, one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive.

Visit the Bug Week website at http://bugs.ufl.edu for more information, including profiles on six of the state’s most economically significant arthropods. Among these species are the destructive Asian citrus psyllid and Formosan subterranean termite, topics of great concern, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“In recent years, pest insects have had enormous negative impacts on our state,” Payne said. “Bug Week is the perfect opportunity for UF/IFAS to raise awareness about the challenges these pests bring about, in terms of lost agricultural and natural resources production, management costs, and even human and veterinary healthcare issues, in some instances.”

Species profiled on the Bug Week website include:

*The Asian citrus psyllid, which cost the state’s citrus industry $7.8 billion in total economic contributions from crop losses during the 2006-07 through 2012-13 growing seasons;

*The Formosan subterranean termite, the most destructive widespread termite species in Florida;

*Invasive yellow fever and Asian tiger mosquitoes, which are known to transmit viral diseases in Florida and believed to transmit Zika virus in other countries;

*Beneficial honeybees, which help make Florida the nation’s third-largest honey producer as well as a top source of rental honey bee colonies used to pollinate crops. (more …)

UF/IFAS researcher: Newly-identified fungal pathogens may help control invasive grass

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have found that newly identified fungal pathogens may suppress an aggressive, invasive grass that is spreading throughout the eastern United States.

Luke Flory, an assistant professor of ecology in the agronomy department, and his team visited more than 80 sites in 18 states and conducted a multi-year field experiment. They documented the recent emergence and accumulation over time of new fungal pathogens. Flory’s results also show that the pathogens have the potential to cause declines in populations of the invasive grass, also known as microstegium vimineum.

“Invasive species, in this case an introduced grass, are often successful because they escape their natural enemies. Here, we looked for new enemies in the introduced range—pathogens that might attack the invasive species,” Flory explained. “We found that pathogens are actually reducing the growth and reproduction of the invasive grass. These results are exciting because the invasive grass may not need to be managed by other means.”

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Hulcr selected to win UF/IFAS’ Richard L. Jones research award

Topic(s): Announcements, Biocontrols, Conservation, Environment, IFAS, Pests, Research

Jiri Hulcr mug

Jiri Hulcr

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A UF/IFAS forest entomologist who – among other activities – is working to help stop pests that sicken trees, has been selected to receive the Richard L. Jones Award for promising research at UF/IFAS.

The 2016 award goes to Jiri Hulcr. It is presented by the UF/IFAS dean for research and director of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station to an outstanding early career scientist. Like previous winners, Hulcr will receive the award at the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station Annual Awards Reception in May 2016.

The recipient gets a one-time $2,500 annual salary supplement and a $2,500 grant to support his or her research.

Hulcr, an assistant professor with a dual appointment in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation and the Department of Entomology and Nematology, joined UF/IFAS in 2012.

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UF Field and Fork Pantry dedicated; facility will feed campus community members in need

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Field to Fork Pantry grand opening ceremony on September 1st, 2015.

Click on image for high-res version. Photo cutline below.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Vowing that hunger should never be a barrier to education, University of Florida officials dedicated the campus’ newest enterprise addressing hunger within the UF community, the Field and Fork Pantry, with a ceremony Sept. 1 that was light-hearted and celebratory yet charged with a sense of urgency and purpose.

“It doesn’t get any better than this, this is a special morning,” President Kent Fuchs said as he addressed the audience of about 150 gathered under a large tent next to the food pantry, located by the Food Science and Human Nutrition building on the central UF campus. “With (the organizers’ shared desire to help the needy) and with your remarkable spirit of optimism and action, I feel that there’s no limit to what we can create together for our campus, our community, our country and, indeed, actually, for the planet.”

The 40-minute event occurred almost four months to the day after the facility’s groundbreaking May 5, and followed a year-long effort by several campus units to establish a campuswide food pantry for students and employees, Fuchs said.

The president credited the project’s success to enthusiastic cooperation among participants that included the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the Dean of Students Office, the Division of Student Affairs, the Office of the Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, UF Student Government, the College of Engineering, the Office for Student Financial Affairs, Gator Dining Services and Aramark, the UF International Center, members of the University-Wide Pantry Planning Committee, and members of the food pantry’s parent organization, the Field and Fork Campus Food Program. The Bread of the Mighty Food Bank was a significant community partner as well, Fuchs noted.

Next to speak was Jack Payne, UF’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and the top administrator for UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, or UF/IFAS, which provides programmatic and financial support for the project. Payne related how he’d become aware two years ago that food pantries had been established at other universities, and was spurred to request an exploratory survey on hunger at UF. Researchers found that of 1,800 students responding, 10 percent said they had gone hungry at least once during the previous academic year.

Moved by this revelation, Payne began considering how UF/IFAS could help; he then contacted several key campus units and learned that similar plans were being contemplated or developed by other top administrators. Recognizing their common purpose, everyone agreed to collaborate.

Before concluding his remarks, Payne provided a pleasant surprise, an informal announcement that Alan and Cathy Hitchcock, former owners of the Hitchcock’s supermarket chain, had pledged a leadership gift to help support the $290,000 second phase of construction for the food pantry. The food pantry currently occupies a 900-square-foot building that cost $172,000 to renovate and prepare for use; adjacent space for build-out is available. The Hitchcocks will also provide organizers with valuable advice on supermarket design, to help with expansions.

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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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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 invasives research facility likely to close

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Economics, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, RECs, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A valuable UF/IFAS program that helps save the state millions of dollars annually in controlling invasive plants and insects will likely close after a veto by Gov. Rick Scott on Monday.

An approved increase by the Legislature of $180,000 was denied, and the facility also lost all funding. The state-of-the-art lab opened in 2004 at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce with $3.9 million in state funding.

The center will probably close, and 12 positions will be eliminated, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agricultural and natural resources.

The quarantine facility is a highly secure lab where scientists conduct research on biological controls for invasive species. Scientists introduce, evaluate and release biological control agents to try to manage exotic weeds and insect pests in Florida.

Florida has the largest invasive infestations in the nation. Invasive species cost Florida approximately $100 million a year, Payne said. Scientists at the lab helped control the tropical soda apple, an invasive weed, through the release of 250,000 South American beetles. The move saved cattle ranchers about $5.75 million a year, Payne said.

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UF/IFAS Fort Pierce quarantine facility successfully battles invasive species

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Conservation, Crops, Economics, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs, Research

Bill Overholt and Jim Cuda.  Innovation Awards Portrait.  UF/IFAS File Photo.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida officials expressed thanks Monday for the $180,000 increase in the state budget that’s slated for the quarantine research facility at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce.

With the additional funding, scientists will be able to expand foreign exploration to identify new candidate biological control agents of Florida’s worst invasive plants and insects, and support intensified laboratory studies that are required to ensure agents are safe for release, said Bill Overholt, a UF/IFAS entomology professor who works at the quarantine facility.

With biological control such as one bug eating another, scientists and growers can use a sustainable, cost-effective solution to manage invasive plant and insect problems.

“The facility needs an increase in the amount of operating funds in order to reach its full potential,” said Mary Ann Gosa-Hooks, director of UF/IFAS Government Affairs. “We can do so much more, but with costs continuing to increase, while the facility continues to function on the same budget since 2004, activities are somewhat limited.”

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