IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS Everglades REC offers free plant workshop to middle, high school teachers on Sept. 27

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Departments, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Lawn & Garden, Pests, RECs

Arabidopsis trials in the lab as part of Ana Lisa Paul's plants in space research program.  Photo taken 01/29/16.

BELLE GLADE, Fla. — Want to teach your students the good, the bad and the ugly about plants while incorporating three different sciences? Researchers at the UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center will lead the second annual workshop, “Don’t Get Caught with Your Plants Down,” from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 27.

The free workshop will be held at UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center, 3200 East Canal Street, Belle Glade, Florida. Breakfast and lunch will be provided, and in-service points for professional development will be awarded by school districts through Master Inservice Plans (MIP).

This year’s program, developed by the UF/IFAS department of plant pathology, uses resources available from the American Phytopathological Society, said Richard Raid, a professor of plant pathology and workshop organizer. Middle and high school teachers will take back vital information to students on the importance of plants in daily life, he said.

Florida is home to the most invasive species in the country, and many travel in to the state via plants, Raid explained.

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UF/IFAS researchers scramble to find cure for tenacious, costly sugarcane virus

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Departments, Entomology and Nematology, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs, Research

1-Sugarcane leaf with yellowing of lower midrib

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are working to find a cure or develop resistant varieties for a virus that is attacking sugarcane and sorghum throughout the Everglades agricultural region. Florida produces more than 50 percent of all sugarcane in the United States, making it the largest producer in the nation.

The sugarcane yellow leaf virus was first identified in Hawaii during the 1980s. The virus was found in Florida in 1993, said Philippe Rott, a professor of plant pathology at the UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade, Florida. Symptoms include a yellow stripe down the middle of sugarcane leaves, he said.

“The virus travels down the vascular bundle of the plant and interferes with the movement of nutrients,” Rott said. “This, in turn, stunts the growth of the plant.”

The virus is carried by an aphid, a tiny bug that feeds by sucking sap from plants, said Gregg Nuessly, director of UF/IFAS Everglades REC and a professor of entomology. Nuessly’s and Rott’s research has identified the carrier of the virus, and trials are in progress to see if insecticides are effective at killing the aphid.

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UF/IFAS citizen scientists work to monitor, report invasive reptile species in south Florida

Topic(s): Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species

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FORT PIERCE, Fla. — The toughest part of wrangling a Burmese python is not pinning it down, but getting the entire 7-foot long snake into the cotton snake bag, said Ellen Butler, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Master Naturalist.

“He almost got away from me,” she said. “I frankly can still not believe that I did it. Now when I’m in the field and I come across a snake, I have a lot more confidence.”

Butler is one of several Florida Master Naturalists who learned to catch Burmese pythons to complete their Master Naturalist final project on invasive reptiles. Those who complete this project can become citizen scientists in the Everglades Invasive Reptile and Amphibian Monitoring (EIRAMP) Citizen Science Program.

These citizen scientists help researchers collect data on invasive species in south Florida and educate the public about the issue. Invasive species are animals that are not native to the region and compete with native species, which can throw ecosystems out of balance.

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UF/IFAS study: Rhesus macaques may be preying on bird eggs in Silver Springs

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

Rhesus Macaques 070716

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Rhesus macaques, primates brought from Asia in the 1930s to entice more tourists to an area now known as Silver Springs State Park, likely prey on eggs of the park’s birds, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

A group of UF/IFAS researchers used camera traps next to 100 artificial bird nests baited with quail eggs near the Silver River. Researchers placed nests in shrubs and left them for 12 days, which represents the incubation period of many of the park’s songbirds, like Northern Cardinals.

Rhesus macaques preyed on 21 of the 100 nests, the study showed. Creatures other than macaques preyed on another nine nests and an unidentified predator ate eggs from five nests. The study results do not suggest rhesus macaques are destroying 21 percent of native bird nests, said Steve Johnson, a UF/IFAS associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation.

However, the study does confirm rhesus macaques in Silver Springs State Park will consume eggs when they find them in natural habitat, Johnson said.

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Radio tracking helps hunt Burmese pythons

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

Burmese Python Tracking 070616

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When invasive Burmese pythons are breeding, radio-tracking one python can help find and capture more, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.

Thus, UF/IFAS scientists say this technique can help them remove the pythons.

“This is one more tool we can add to our tool box to help us combat this invasive species,” said Brian Smith, a graduate student in the UF/IFAS wildlife ecology and conservation department and lead author of a new study documenting the radio-tagging experiment. “It is also complementary to our current removal tool, in which we drive on roads and levees to capture moving pythons. It’s complementary because it’s effective at a time of year when we do not catch pythons on the road, and also because it provides more opportunities to catch the really big, breeding females.”

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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 Mole Cricket Biological Control Program saves state millions

Topic(s): Agriculture, Departments, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs, Research

Howard Frank,left and Tom Walker check two-part trap that uses synthesized mole cricket calls to monitor both mole crickets and the beneficial flies that locate their hosts by sounds.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In a recent study, researchers with the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences in cooperation with Florida A&M University economists estimated that a 34-year program to control invasive pest mole crickets in the state has saved cattlemen approximately 13.6 million dollars a year. Over the long term, that figure balloons to 453 million dollars.

“The partnership with the State of Florida has been crucial to controlling the mole crickets,” said Norm Leppla, a UF/IFAS professor of entomology and nematology. “The Mole Cricket Biological Control Program has been worth every penny invested by the Florida Legislature and other stakeholders in the state.”

UF/IFAS researchers remember when the mole crickets reached outbreak levels in Florida during the mid-1900s and began wreaking hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of damage to crops, pastures and turf. Cattlemen were beside themselves as they watched the tiny insects tear across their pastures like a biblical swarm of locusts. The effects were devastating, but not irreversible.

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At UF/IFAS Plant Camp, science teachers learn to spread the word about invasive plants

Topic(s): Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Research

BMB hydrilla

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When Kenny Coogan, a seventh-grade science teacher at Orange Grove Middle Magnet School, took an airboat ride on Lake Tohopekaliga and saw the devastation caused by invasive plants, he knew he had to bring this information back to his classroom.

“After seeing the negative effects of the plants first-hand, I knew I needed to share this experience and ways to mitigate the invasive species with my students,” Coogan said.

Local middle and high school science teachers like Coogan are getting help in spreading the word about invasive plants, thanks to a partnership between the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Each June the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants invites 24 teachers from across the state to a five-day Plant Camp where they learn about invasive plants and how they can bring this knowledge and awareness into the classroom.

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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 scientists to present plant diagnostic data at D.C. conference

Topic(s): Crops, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests

 

Carrie Harmon photographed for the 2011 FAES Awards.  Associate In, MS.  Mycology.  Plant Pathology.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Plant Diagnostic Center will help shed light on potentially devastating plant diseases at the 4th National Meeting of the National Plant Diagnostic Network (NPDN) in Washington, D.C.

Held every three to four years, this year’s conference will take place March 8 to 12 in the nation’s capital.

Among those representing UF will be Jason Smith, a UF/IFAS associate professor of forest pathology. Smith’s topic is titled, “Holy Guacamole: Insights into the Emerging Laurel Wilt Pandemic.”

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