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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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Crops aren’t just for food, fiber and fuel. Researchers at the University of Florida are making new industrial applications possible for them as well.
They’ve developed a method to turn sugarcane bagasse — the crushed-stalk waste product of sugar production — into succinic acid that can be used to make pharmaceuticals, protective coatings and compostable bags.
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A University of Florida-led research team has been selected to participate in a five-year, $125 million energy project involving the United States and India, U.S. Department of Energy officials have announced.
Known as the Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Center, or JCERDC, the project is aimed at reducing energy consumption, cutting dependence on petroleum products and increasing use of renewable fuels.
The UF-led team will develop biofuels derived from inedible plant material. Two other research teams, led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, will focus on solar energy and energy efficiency of buildings, respectively.
Total funding for the biofuels project is about $21 million, including about $2.7 million in federal funding destined for UF.
Image of synthesized lignin nanotubes
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For the first time, University of Florida researchers have developed plant-based technology that could reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and may also help treat cancer.
Known as lignin nanotubes, these cylindrical containers are smaller than viruses and tiny enough to travel through the body, carrying cancer patients’ medicine. They can be created in biorefineries from lignin, a plant substance that is a byproduct of bioethanol production.
Bioethanol is a renewable alternative to fossil fuel created by fermenting sugar — such as that from sugarcane and sweet sorghum juices, stalks and stems.
“We’re looking at biomedical applications whereby these nanotubes are injected in the body,” said Wilfred Vermerris, an associate professor in UF’s agronomy department and Genetics Institute who was part of the team that developed the nanotubes. The team’s work is described in a March issue of the journal Nanotechnology.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Many building dedications feature a ribbon-cutting; this one included a front-end loader ceremoniously dumping a scoopful of pulverized sugarcane stalks.
It was an appropriate way to mark yesterday’s official launch of the Stan Mayfield Biorefinery Pilot Plant in Perry, a cooperative venture between the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and Buckeye Technologies Inc.
As 200 guests looked on, State Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, stepped up to the big machine and pulled a lever, delivering the first official shipment of feedstock to the biorefinery, which will develop methods for producing fuel ethanol and other compounds from inedible plant material.
The biorefinery is named for Mayfield’s late husband, a member of the state House of Representatives from 2000 until his death in 2008. A UF graduate, Mayfield was a strong advocate of renewable fuels, environmental protection and economic growth.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A breakthrough in pine tree breeding will lead to forests better adapted to climate change and bioenergy use, University of Florida researchers report.
The improved forests will stem from a genetic technique the researchers have developed that can create new tree varieties in half the time it takes current breeding methods.
The technique, detailed in a study published online Wednesday by the journal New Phytologist, is expected to increase the security and competitiveness of the U.S. forestry industry.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida-led research team has won a four-year, $5.4 million federal grant to develop methods of producing energy from a familiar southern crop, sweet sorghum.
Known as a source of table syrup and cattle feed, sweet sorghum is also one of the region’s most promising feedstocks for making fuel ethanol, said Mark McLellan, dean for research with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
The grant is part of a $47 million package announced earlier this month to support eight bioenergy projects nationwide, McLellan said. Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Energy, the package is part of a federal effort to reduce dependence on imported oil and cut greenhouse gas emissions associated with petroleum fuels.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For hundreds of years, farmers in Brazil’s Amazon Basin have hunted through dense jungles for what is called “terra preta” — mysterious plots of super-fertile black soil amid otherwise nutrient-stripped earth.
In recent decades, researchers have discovered that the rich properties of terra preta stem from the carbon-heavy leftovers of ancient cooking sites. Now, University of Florida researchers have found we can make our own version of the soil’s potent component, a form of charcoal dubbed biochar, from the remnants of renewable fuel production.
“This could possibly improve the viability of certain biofuels by giving a valuable — both economically and environmentally – byproduct from material that would otherwise just be a disposal problem,” said Bin Gao, an assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. (more …)
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In 2002, the U.S. Department of Energy set a goal that, by 2030, a third of the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels would be replaced by environmentally sound products made from plant material usually discarded as trash.
Today, despite technical hurdles and the worldwide economic recession, representatives from the University of Florida, Buckeye Technologies Inc. and the Florida Legislature broke ground for a facility that could be a significant step toward reaching that goal.
The Stan Mayfield Biorefinery Pilot Plant, slated to be operational in spring 2011, will be operated as a UF/IFAS satellite laboratory facility concentrated on the use of cellulosic biomass to produce ethanol.
“We would not be here today without the exceptional foresight and support of those who realize, even in these trying economic times, how important this work is to our future,” said UF President Bernie Machen, who led the groundbreaking ceremony. (more …)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida plant geneticist Matias Kirst is the only researcher from the state of Florida to be named a recipient of U.S. Department of Energy special funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Kirst, of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and School of Forest Resources and Conservation, will receive $873,000 over five years to conduct a radically new genetic analysis of poplar trees-an effort that may help harness the trees as a sustainable and economical fuel source.
U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced earlier this month that 69 recipients had been selected from nearly 1,800 applications nationwide to receive a total of $85 million.
This is the first such funding from the DOE’s Early Career Research Program, a program designed to “bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years.” (more …)