IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS scientists honored as UF Research Foundation professors

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biofuels, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Environment, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Nutrition, RECs, Research, Soil and Water Science

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Six University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty members, who are trying to solve global issues as wide-ranging as better alternative fuels and nutrient absorption, have been named as UF Research Foundation Professors for 2016-19.

The recognition goes to faculty who demonstrate a distinguished record of research and a strong research agenda that’s likely to continue to distinguish them in their fields.

“UF/IFAS faculty research continuously shows its value in practical ways, but these faculty members stand out because the University of Florida is recognizing their outstanding work,” said UF/IFAS Dean for Research Jackie Burns. “Their scientific research helps solve global issues ranging from potential solutions to citrus greening to growing crops in a changing climate to finding new sources of alternative energy.”

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UF/IFAS scientists closer to finding key to converting algae to biofuel

Topic(s): Biofuels, Conservation, Environment, IFAS, Research

Horticulture Professor Balasubramanian Rathinasabapathi (Saba). Experiments, beaker, laboratory. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers may have found a key to converting algae to fuel.

The scientists have found what researchers call a “transcription factor,” called ROC40. Bala Rathinasabapathi, a UF/IFAS professor of horticultural sciences, likened a transcription factor’s role in controlling the expression of many genes inside the algae cells to a policeman controlling a large crowd. To draw lipids out of algae, scientists must starve the algae of nitrogen. Among the hundreds of proteins modulated by nitrogen starvation, the synthesis of ROC40 was the most induced when the cells made the most oil. The high induction of that protein suggested to scientists that it could be playing an important biological role, said Elton Gonçalves, a former UF/IFAS doctoral student in the plant molecular and cellular biology program. In fact, the team’s research showed that ROC40 helps control lipid production when the algal cells were starved of nitrogen.

“Our discovery about the ROC40 protein suggests that it may be increasing the expression of genes involved in the synthesis of oil in microalgae,” Rathinasabapathi said. “Such information is of great importance for the development of superior strains of algae for biofuel production,” Gonçalves said. “We conducted this research due to the great socioeconomic importance of developing renewable sources of fuels as alternatives for petroleum-based fuels for future generations. In order to advance the production of algal biofuels into a large-scale, competitive scenario, it is fundamental that the biological processes in these organisms are well understood.”

Rathinasabapathi said this information is valuable for the future for engineering algae so it overproduces oil without starving the algae of nitrogen.

Lipids from microalgae provide an excellent renewable source for biofuels. The algae grow quickly, tolerate extreme weather conditions and do not pose the same issues as biofuel crops that are grown both for fuel and food.

The rub was if algae are deprived of nitrogen, the cells become stressed and begin to produce lipids, but their growth rate slows. And if alga is going to become a commercially viable fuel source, scientists must ensure that not only can it produce as much oil as possible, but also that it can grow as fast as possible.

Rathinasabapathi and Gonçalves co-authored the study, which has been accepted for publication in The Plant Journal. Other collaborators were Sixue Chen, an associate professor of biology and faculty director of the UF proteomics and mass spectrometry, part of the Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research; Jodie Johnson, an assistant scientist at the mass spectrometry facility at UF and Takuya Matsuo, an assistant professor at Nagoya University in Japan.

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Caption: UF/IAFS Horticulture Professor Balasubramanian Rathinasabapathi, seen here working in his Gainesville lab, has found what could be a big key to converting microalgae to biofuel. He and former doctoral student Elton Gonçalves found that the transcription factor ROC40 helps control lipid production when the algal cells were starved of nitrogen.

Credit: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS photography.

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

Sources: Bala Rathinasabapathi, 352-273-4847, brath@ufl.edu

Elton Gonçalves, 352-301-6049, egoncalves@newmexicoconsortium.org

6 UF/IFAS faculty named as Research Foundation professors

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biofuels, Citrus, Crops, Economics, Environment, Food Safety, Forestry, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Livestock, New Technology, RECs, Research

Robert Fletcher photographed for the 2011 FAES Awards.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler JonesRESEARCHFOUNDATION - Danyluk 041015Jim Jones (left), Bin Gao (seated), and Pratap Pullammanappallil.  Innovation Awards Portrait.  UF/IFAS File Photo.Zhenli He. Associate Professor, Soil and Water Science.Jose SantosRESEARCHFOUNDATION - Peter 041015
Pictured top (left to right) Robert Fletcher, Michelle Danyluk and Bin Gao; second row (left to right) Zhenli He, Jose Eduardo Santos and Gary Peter.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Six University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty members, who are trying to solve global issues like food safety and environmental sustainability, have been named as UF Research Foundation Professors for 2015-18.

The recognition goes to faculty who demonstrate a distinguished record of research and a strong research agenda that’s likely to continue to distinguish them in their fields.

“When I look at the breadth of research exemplified by these talented scientists, I am reminded of the complexity and breadth of the IFAS mission, and how fortunate we are to have people of such high caliber working in a university that places such a high value on research and invests so heavily in the research enterprise,” said Doug Archer, UF/IFAS associate dean of research.

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UF/IFAS process can convert human-generated waste into fuel in space

Topic(s): Biofuels, Environment, New Technology, Research

Pratap Pullammanappallil poses in his lab next to an anaerobic digester, which turns human waste into rocket fuel on October, 24, 2014.

See cutline below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Human waste may have a new use: sending NASA spacecraft from the moon back to Earth.

Until now, the waste has been collected to burn up on re-entry. What’s more, like so many other things developed for the space program, the process could well turn up on Earth, said Pratap Pullammanappallil, a University of Florida associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering.

“It could be used on campus or around town, or anywhere, to convert waste into fuel,” Pullammanappallil said.

In 2006, NASA began making plans to build an inhabited facility on the moon’s surface between 2019 and 2024. As part of NASA’s moon-base goal, the agency wanted to reduce the weight of spacecraft retuning to Earth. Historically, waste generated during spaceflight would not be used further. NASA stores it in containers until it’s loaded into space cargo vehicles that burn as they pass back through the Earth’s atmosphere. For future long-term missions, though, it would be impractical to bring all the stored waste back to Earth.

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UF/IFAS researchers target eucalyptus as source of fuel for biomass production

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers working to produce ethanol from plant material are taking a hard look at eucalyptus as a possible source for the clean fuel.

Joe Sagues, director of operations at the University of Florida’s Stan Mayfield Biorefinery Pilot Plant in Perry, Florida, and Ismael Uriel Nieves, project director at the plant, recently switched the focus of their lab-scale research from sugarcane and sorghum to eucalyptus for this study. They say the tree, most commonly associated with Australia and food for koalas, is a fast-growing hardwood that is easier to store and transport. (more …)

Two new citrus cultivars among 13 approved by UF/IFAS

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biofuels, Citrus, Cultivars

For photos, please contact Brad Buck at bradbuck@ufl.edu

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Two new citrus cultivars with high industry interest are among 13 recently approved for release by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The UF/IFAS Cultivar Release Committee voted April 15 to release UF 711 and RBB 7-34, two new citrus cultivars. Fred Gmitter, a citrus genetics and breeding professor at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, told the panel growers are excited to field-trial the two cultivars.

UF 711 is an easy-to-peel mandarin, while RBB 7-34 is a new navel orange-like variety with much more color and flavor than ordinary Florida navels, Gmitter said. Both varieties were deemed to be good-tasting, as well.

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UF/IFAS researcher named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biofuels, IFAS, New Technology

Lonnie INgram

GAINESVILLE, Fla.— The National Academy of Inventors named as a Fellow this month Lonnie O. Ingram, a distinguished professor in the University of Florida’s microbiology and cell science department.

Academic inventors and innovators elected to the rank of NAI Fellow were nominated by their peers and it is considered a high professional distinction. NAI members chose Ingram because he has “demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society.”

“It’s an unexpected honor and I’m happy to be included among this group,” Ingram said Thursday. (more …)

Grants to help UF researchers grow pine trees faster, produce more energy

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biofuels, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Forestry

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – University of Florida researchers will use $1.45 million in federal grants to develop trait-prediction models and accelerate the growth of loblolly pine trees to produce more bioenergy.

In his grant application, UF associate professor Matias Kirst, the principal investigator for the study, said Southern pines can be used as renewable biomass for bioenergy and renewable chemicals. However, for pines to meet their potential as a bioenergy crop, researchers must develop more productive cultivars that can be efficiently converted into liquid fuels, said Kirst, who teaches in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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UF/IFAS study finds algal cells create fat more quickly than thought, could aid biofuel research

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Biofuels, Economics, Environment, IFAS, New Technology, Research

Flasks of biofuel algae in a labortory.  Alternative energy and fuels.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

Click here for high-resolution image. Caption at bottom.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Many scientists see great promise in algae as a new source of oil — a sustainable, environmentally sound way to break the world’s fossil fuel dependence.

Algal lipids from microalgae are one of the best sources for biofuels – algae grow quickly, tolerate extreme weather conditions, and do not pose the same issues as biofuel crops that are grown both for fuel and food.

Many research teams in academia and private industry are struggling, however, with one vexing problem with algae as a fuel source: The conditions that promote algal growth aren’t the same as the conditions that allow the algae to create the maximum amount of oil.

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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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