IFAS News

University of Florida

Applications open for 2017 UF/IFAS Plant Camp for educators

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Are you a teacher who has always wanted to incorporate lessons on plants in your classroom? The University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants is hosting its free Plant Camp, a five-day workshop, from June 12 to 16, 2017.

Applications will be accepted from Dec. 14th to Feb. 19, 2017. To apply, click here.

The workshop is designed for teachers—4th through 12th grade—interested in learning more about the 130-plus invasive plant species invading Florida’s natural areas and neighborhoods, as well as the native flora and fauna that make our state so unique.

“Invasive plants cost Florida taxpayers more than $80 million a year. They can block flood control devices and bridges, harbor mosquitoes, and cover valuable fish and wildlife habitats,” said Dehlia Albrecht, education initiative coordinator at the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. “Prevention and education are needed to protect our waters and natural areas.”

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UF/IFAS, agencies collaborate to help landowners fight invasive species

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Forestry, IFAS, Invasive Species, Livestock, Pests

North Florida cattle rancher . UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It took a few years for Buzz Eaves to notice that tropical soda apple shrubs were overtaking his 1,200-acre cattle ranch near Fort Pierce, Florida. The prickly plant, with fruit the size of a golf ball and the color of unripen watermelon, was creating a barrier to the cattle’s grazing ground and displacing native plants.

“I was spending close to $6,000 a year on fertilizer and it wasn’t working that well,” Eaves said. “Then I heard about a program through the University of Florida that helps get rid of invasive species, so I turned to the school for help,” Eaves said. “It was the best thing I ever did.”

The UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences joined a dozen other organizations to form the Florida Invasive Species Partnership (FISP). The members work across boundaries to address invasive species challenges across the state, said Chris Demers, UF/IFAS Extension statewide program manager.

FISP began as a working group to address invasive species on state and federal land. The program expanded to include privately owned land, Demers said. “UF/IFAS Extension faculty provide various resources on invasive species, control and prevention,” he said. “We work across all species, plants, animals and fungus.”

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UF/IFAS researchers head to Cuba for scientific exchange to benefit Florida agriculture

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

Bill Messina, agricultural economist with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, surveyes a map of Cuban farming areas, Tuesday 3/24, that could compete with Florida producers if and when the United States trade embargo against Cuba is lifted. During the past four years, he has led a team of UF researchers working with the University of Havana to study the economic impact of lifting the embargo.   Photography by, Thomas Wright  UF/IFAS

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is sending an inter-departmental team of scientists to Cuba as part of a grant that is believed to be the first federally-funded project for scientific field research in Cuba.

The project’s principal investigator (PI), associate professor Damian Adams; project co-PIs assistant professor Jiri Hulcr and postdoctoral associates Paloma Carton de Grammont and José Soto, and other UF/IFAS research scientists and graduate students from the School of Forest Resources & Conservation, the Entomology and Nematology Department, the Food and Resource Economics Department, and the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering will travel to Cuba for this research, funded by a $228,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The project team is traveling to Cuba to fulfill several missions:

  • Conduct research to identify wood-boring pest species in Cuba that could pose high-risk threats to U.S. agriculture and forests.
  • Train Cuban scientists on state-of-the-art methods to accurately identify these wood-boring pests in Cuba in an effort to reduce the possibility of transmission of these pests to Florida agriculture and forests.
  • Understand how Cuba’s plant protection programs and policies impact pest movement, particularly to the United States.
  • Estimate the potential economic impact of a pest invasion from Cuba to the United States.

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Screwworm life cycle and habits contribute to insect’s threat, UF experts say

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, CALS, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Livestock, Pests, Research
A cow grazing in a beef cattle pasure at the Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona, Florida.

A cow grazing in a beef cattle pasture at the Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona, Florida. Photo by Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida residents curious or skeptical about the threat posed by the parasitic screwworm fly Cochliomiya hominivorax can rest assured the insect merits all the attention it has received after an outbreak was detected in the Florida Keys earlier this month, say experts with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Commonly known as the primary screwworm fly or New World screwworm fly, the insect threatens the health of warm-blooded animals and people in areas where it is well-established, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“To put it plainly, a full-blown screwworm infestation is a death sentence for the host animal,” Payne said. “This pest can kill a previously healthy cow or bull in a matter of weeks if the problem isn’t treated properly. It’s that serious.”

Payne urges all livestock and pet owners to educate themselves about the symptoms of screwworm infestation and seek veterinary care for animals exhibiting tell-tale indications such as open wounds that do not heal, running sores, listlessness, loss of appetite or sudden weight loss.

The fly’s larvae must consume the tissue of a live warm-blooded animal to develop, so adult females lay their eggs on livestock and wildlife with superficial wounds, said veterinary entomologist Phil Kaufman, an associate professor with the UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department.

“From a strictly scientific point of view, screwworm larvae are incredibly well-adapted parasites,” Kaufman said. “That’s why this species was a constant menace to Florida’s cattle industry up through about 1960, when it was eradicated from the state.” (more …)

New UF/IFAS document profiles destructive screwworm fly recently detected in Florida Keys

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Livestock, Pests

screwworm

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — To educate Florida agricultural producers, livestock owners, pet owners and concerned residents about the destructive screwworm fly recently detected in the Florida Keys, experts with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have published a profile on the insect, available online at http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/livestock/primary_screwworm.htm.

The free resource provides a scientific overview of Cochliomiya hominivorax, commonly known as the primary screwworm fly or New World screwworm fly, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. The species was a major challenge for Florida ranchers until the late 1950s, when it was eradicated from the state with controlled releases of sterile male flies.

“Since the announcement earlier this week that this pest had re-emerged, we’ve had people working virtually around the clock to get accurate information to producers, pet owners and the public – this document is yet another example of UF/IFAS at work,” Payne said. “Knowledge is power, and state residents can aid the eradication effort by learning to recognize the symptoms of infection.”

A member of the blow fly family Calliphoridae, the primary screwworm fly is a threat to warm-blooded animals, including people, because its larvae feed on living tissue to develop, said Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman, an associate Extension scientist with the UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department and one of the profile’s authors.

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Florida residents should be vigilant for signs of screwworm on livestock and pets, UF experts say

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Livestock, Pests
Adult horses grazing in a pasture at the Horse Teaching Unit.

Adult horses grazing in a pasture at the Horse Teaching Unit.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Screwworms infecting wild deer in the Florida Keys have captured headlines, and experts with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine say livestock and pet owners in Peninsular Florida should keep a watchful eye for signs of infection in their animals, to aid in the eradication effort.

Florida residents who own cattle, horses, goats, sheep, dogs, cats, poultry, exotic birds or other warm-blooded animals should know the symptoms animals exhibit when infected by the larvae of the New World screwworm fly, said Jack Payne, Ph.D., UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“We have every reason to believe that the current outbreak will be contained and eradicated,” Payne said. “Our UF/IFAS Extension Monroe County office is doing a terrific job of informing residents and interfacing with all the key players, there are relatively few livestock animals in the Keys, and the eradication effort uses proven, effective methods. Having said all that, we need state residents to provide an extra measure of protection, just by observing their animals.”

James Lloyd, D.V.M., Ph.D., dean of the UF veterinary college, explained that screwworm infestations occur when an adult female screwworm flies lays eggs on an open wound or mucous membranes in a warm-blooded animal. When the eggs hatch, screwworm larvae burrow into the host animal’s flesh to feed. Infestations can strike otherwise healthy animals, he noted.

“The symptoms of a screwworm infestation might include a festering wound or sore or an unexplained lump under the skin, particularly if there’s a discharge or foul smell associated with it,” Lloyd said. “Also, you may observe fly larvae on the animal or in its quarters.”

Any animal with a suspected screwworm infection should be evaluated by a veterinarian immediately, said Wendy Mandese, a clinical assistant professor with the UF veterinary college’s Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences.

“Open wounds and unexplained lumps can indicate serious health issues other than screwworm infection, so the key point is to get treatment for the animal as soon as possible,” Mandese said.

Time is of the essence from an entomological perspective as well as a veterinary one, because delayed treatment gives screwworm larvae more time to develop and cause damage to the host animals, said veterinary entomologist Phil Kaufman, an associate professor with the UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department.

“The pest we’re talking about, the New World screwworm fly, Cochliomiya hominivorax, is not something you can ignore, because there’s no such thing as a tolerable infestation,” Kaufman said. “The larvae of this species consume healthy tissue – they create wounds. They are also capable of burrowing deep into the host’s body tissues to reach previously uninfected areas. Untreated cases can lead to death within a matter of weeks, maybe less.”

Clinical treatment of infected animals typically involves application of medication to the animal’s wounds to kill the larvae, larvae removal, administration of antibiotics and general supportive care, Mandese said.

“When caught in time, screwworm infections are treatable,” she said. “Even if it turns out your animal has a different health issue, immediate attention is appropriate for any unusual wound, sore or persistent discomfort you notice in a pet or livestock animal.”

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Contacts

Writer: Tom Nordlie, 352-273-3567, tnordlie@ufl.edu

Sources: For interview requests, please contact Tom Nordlie at 352-273-3567 or after hours at  352-375-1415 or tnordlie@ufl.edu, or contact Sarah Carey at 352-294-4242 or careysk@ufl.edu or after hours at 352-273-5810

UF experts addressing outbreak of New World screwworm fly in Florida Keys

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Livestock, Pests

screwworm-larva

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Responding to the announcement yesterday that the New World screwworm fly has been detected in Florida for the first time in a half-century, experts with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and College of Veterinary Medicine are taking steps to educate ranchers, property owners and residents about the pest, and assist in eradication efforts in the Florida Keys, where the fly’s larvae were found infesting wild deer.

Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, noted that the outbreak appears to be limited to a small area but affirmed that strong, immediate action is needed to manage the outbreak and resolve the situation. He confirmed that UF/IFAS personnel will be assisting colleagues with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which made the initial announcement in a news release found at http://www.freshfromflorida.com/News-Events/Press-Releases/2016-Press-Releases/USDA-Confirms-New-World-Screwworm-Cases-in-Big-Pine-Key.

“Florida producers know all too well that we can almost never completely rule out the reappearance of pests and pathogens that were believed to be eradicated,” Payne said. “The good news is, UF/IFAS has dealt with this kind of unexpected crisis before and we’re already fully engaged in this effort.”

James Lloyd, D.V.M., Ph.D., dean of the UF College of Veterinary Medicine echoed Payne’s sentiments and noted that a member of the college’s faculty, parasitologist Heather Walden, was involved in confirming the initial identification of specimens collected from infected deer.

“There’s no cause for alarm, but we are very concerned because the New World screwworm fly, historically, was one of the most serious pests affecting Florida livestock production,” Lloyd said. He added that no screwworm cases have been reported in livestock or people as part of this outbreak.

Known scientifically as Cochliomiya hominivorax, the New World screwworm fly is a significant pest of domestic animals, wildlife and even people in areas where the insect is well-established. It has not been widely present in the U.S. since the 1960s but is still found in most of South America and in five Caribbean countries.

Adult females lay eggs on open wounds or mucous membranes in live warm-blooded animals, and the fly’s larvae consume flesh from the host, which can lead to disability or death. The fly is not considered a serious vector for pathogens, but tissue damage caused by larvae can make affected animals more susceptible to opportunistic infections.

Payne noted that entomologists are preparing a background document for the UF/IFAS online library, the Electronic Data Information Source, or EDIS. When completed and posted later this week, the document will detail the appearance, life cycle, habits, and ecology of the New World screwworm fly.

Extension personnel are being informed about the screwworm outbreak and information on management will be distributed to UF/IFAS Extension county offices statewide, so that Extension personnel can address concerns from ranchers, livestock owners and concerned residents.

Numerous faculty members with UF/IFAS academic departments and Extension offices, and clinical faculty with the UF College of Veterinary Medicine are working on the situation and are potentially available for interviews with reporters, as their schedules allow.

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Contacts

Writer: Tom Nordlie, 352-273-3567, tnordlie@ufl.edu

Sources: For interview requests, please contact Tom Nordlie at 352-273-3567 or after hours at  352-375-1415 or tnordlie@ufl.edu, or contact Sarah Carey at 352-294-4242 or careysk@ufl.edu or after hours at 352-273-5810

 

Photo by Heather Walden, UF College of Veterinary Medicine

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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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