IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS study: Most homeowners can’t properly assess damage to their trees

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Forestry, Green Living, IFAS, RECs, Research, Safety

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The next time a storm tears up your yard, let an expert assess the damage to any trees. A study from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences shows that homeowners perceive the risk of a damaged tree differently than trained professionals.

The survey of tree experts and homeowners in the Tampa Bay area assessed the perceptions of both groups when it came to assessing tree damage, said Andrew Koeser, an assistant professor in environmental horticulture and study author.

“While there are a number of factors tied to tree risk, most respondents were fixated on tree defects,” Koeser said. “Only experienced professionals considered other pertinent factors—namely whether the tree was actually a threat to a person, vehicle or house.”

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Wilson named chair of UF/IFAS Department of Environmental Horticulture

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Conservation, Crops, Environment, Green Living, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Invasive Species

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — You can take the “interim” off of Sandra Wilson’s title. She’s now chair of the UF/IFAS Department of Environmental Horticulture.

Named interim chair in November 2014, Wilson was named to the permanent position in September by Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“Dr. Wilson was a natural choice to lead our Environmental Horticulture Department,” Payne said. “Combine her outstanding teaching and research record, the leadership she has shown and the fact that the faculty support her, and we knew right away Dr. Wilson would lead the department to unparalleled heights.”

Wilson came to Gainesville after 15 years as an environmental horticulture faculty member at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center.

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Crested floatingheart: The lovely looking lily-like plant that clogs canals

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Invasive Species, RECs, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While the crested floatingheart can help beautify an aquarium or a water garden, it clogs canals and slows drainage, particularly during heavy rains.

“It’s really attractive. It looks like a water lily,” said Lyn Gettys, an aquatic plant specialist at the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center. Crested floatingheart is also easy to grow and flourishes with little effort.

Instead of freezing unwanted crested floatinghearts and bringing them to a local landfill, many homeowners toss them into canals, said Gettys, an assistant professor of agronomy with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

For about a year, Gettys has been compiling data to quantify the seriousness that crested floatingheart poses for canals. Crested floatinghearts reproduce mostly by way of ramets, an asexual form of multiplying. Gettys is trying to find out how many “babies” a single plant can make. She’s particularly interested in the effects of soil type and fertilizer on the plant’s ability to reproduce.

Preliminary data show soil has no impact. But if plants are well-fertilized, one floatingheart can produce more than 100 ramets per month. If only half of the new ramets sprout and make as many of their own babies as the original plant, that’s potentially 114,000 plants in six months, Gettys said.

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UF/IFAS forestry professor earns top global award

Topic(s): Announcements, Conservation, Environment, Forestry, Honors and Appointments, IFAS

Eric Jokela and a UF researcher measuring the growth of a tree.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — After three decades of outstanding forestry research, A UF/IFAS professor will receive one of the top global awards in his field.

Eric J. Jokela, a professor of silviculture – managing and producing better forests — and forest nutrition will receive the Barrington Moore Memorial Award in Biological Science by the Society of American Foresters (SAF). Since 1955, this annual award recognizes “distinguished individual research in any branch of the biological sciences that has resulted in substantial advances in forestry,” according to a release from the society.

“Being the recipient of this award is indeed very humbling as I reflect back on the previous awardees who have made lasting contributions to the field of forest science,” Jokela said. “I find it especially gratifying to know that results from our long-term, cooperative research efforts have found strong applications and also contributed to the advancement of sustainable forest management systems used in the South and elsewhere.”

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UF/IFAS program highly successful in keeping phosphorus out of the Everglades

Topic(s): Agriculture, Aquaculture, Conservation, Crops, Environment, IFAS, Livestock, RECs, Soil and Water Science

Wide angle scenic of Everglades National Park near Homestead, Florida.  Parks and recreation, Florida, river of grass.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A 20-year plan to dramatically reduce phosphorus levels of agricultural water entering the Florida Everglades is working, thanks to proper implementation of best management practices by growers, training by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and cooperation with state and federal agencies.

“It is a partnership that has worked,” said Samira Daroub, a professor of soil and water science at the UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade. “It is one of the success stories in the area and also in the country.” (more …)

UF/IFAS scientists warn of pharmaceutical peril for aquatic organisms in urban rivers

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Pollution, RECs, Research, Safety, Soil and Water Science

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — River beds in urban areas worldwide store pharmaceuticals, and University of Florida scientists warn they can pose a potential environmental danger to aquatic organisms.

UF/IFAS Post-Doctoral Researcher Yun-Ya Yang conducted a study along rural and urban areas of the Alafia River, which runs through parts of Hillsborough County and empties into the Gulf of Mexico. In her study, Yang collected sediment samples at several sites along the river and found 17 pharmaceuticals.

Yang found a lower amount of pharmaceuticals than in previous similar studies because river beds in Florida do not contain enough silt and clay, but they can still present an environmental concern.

These types of chemicals are not confined to the Alafia River or urban-area rivers in Florida, said Gurpal Toor, an associate professor in soil and water science, who supervised Yang’s study. The scientists say their findings are representative of urban rivers worldwide, partly because wastewater treatments plants, septic systems and industrial wastewater empty into water bodies. Landfill chemicals also leach into water bodies. All these sources contribute these contaminants in the environment.

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UF/IFAS apps give irrigation, growing tips and more

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Green Living, IFAS, New Technology, Research, Weather

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Looking to save money and water when you irrigate? UF/IFAS scientists have developed an app for that. Want to know what plants to grow in your garden? You guessed it: UF/IFAS has an app for that as well.

UF/IFAS’ so-called “smart irrigation apps” include an urban lawn app that estimates how long you’ll need to water your lawn to meet current plant water demand. It uses a simplified approach for automated irrigation systems. This urban lawn model uses meteorological data to compute a simple, real-time weekly water balance, said Kati Migliaccio, UF/IFAS associate professor in agricultural and biological engineering and lead designer of the app. Find these apps and others at Smartirrigationapps.org.

“The turf app provides a free resource to determine a schedule to apply the right amount of water to landscapes, which is personalized based on user inputs,” Migliaccio said.

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UF/IFAS research finds ways to save water, strawberries and money during cold temps

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Crops, Economics, Environment, IFAS, Research, Weather

Organic strawberry e-book Javier L. - Jan28,2014 - Citra - Focus grup assessment - Open field (45)-X2

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s strawberry producers must protect their multimillion-dollar annual crop from freeze damage. Traditional methods involve constant spraying of water during a cold snap. Growers are looking for ways to use less water, yet produce the same amount of crop.

New University of Florida research shows growers can keep using both their current sprinkler spacing and low pressure or enhanced real-time irrigation control to save water – and they can produce the same strawberry crop yield during mild freezes.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Michael Dukes, a UF/IFAS professor of agricultural and biological engineering and the lead author on the study. The improvement? An automated control treatment that used real-time dew point measurements – rather than temperatures — to turn the system on and off, he 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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UF/IFAS scientists study how, why butterflies survive fires

Topic(s): Conservation, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Forestry, IFAS, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Deciding how often and when to use prescribed fire can be tricky, especially when managing for rare butterflies, University of Florida scientists say.

That realization stems from a UF Institute of Food and Agricultural study in which researchers experimented with pupae — insects in their immature form between larvae and adults — of butterflies known to frequent fire-prone habitats of Florida.

Prescribed burns and wildfires can damage animals and plants in their paths. But they can also promote species and create habitat, maintaining the ecological balance of the forest and the region’s most frequent natural disturbance over the long term. Immature butterflies may die immediately following controlled burns, but populations can recover over time, with the amount of time depending on the species.

Scientists are concerned that butterflies with small, isolated populations may be in severe peril if their habitats are burned too frequently and in large blocks at a time, which can mean that butterfly refugia – unburned areas that provide refuge — are limited.

In the UF/IFAS study, scientists wanted to know how and why some butterflies survive wildfires and prescribed burns, particularly where the insect feeds and lays eggs on fire-adapted plants.

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