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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are using data from fishing tournaments to gauge how non-native largemouth bass in Africa are invading lakes and preying on smaller, native fish, a huge cost-saving measure in fisheries management.
Largemouth bass are native to North America, but they have been distributed worldwide for recreational fishing. When they’re in waters outside North America, largemouth bass can cause declines in native fish abundance, disrupting the ecosystem.
UF fisheries and aquatic sciences Professor Micheal Allen and his colleagues at UF/IFAS and in South Africa used existing fish-catch data from bass tournaments in southern Africa, where largemouth bass are non-native and invasive. Scientists examined data from 40 bass tournaments in lakes in Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. They compared that information with 41 bass tournaments in the U.S., where bass are native species, between 2011 and 2014.
They found that angler catch data were similar between southern Africa and the U.S. Their data proves that the number and weight of the fish caught by recreational fishermen can be used to monitor the spread of exotic fish that are commonly caught by anglers.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A valuable UF/IFAS program that helps save the state millions of dollars annually in controlling invasive plants and insects will likely close after a veto by Gov. Rick Scott on Monday.
An approved increase by the Legislature of $180,000 was denied, and the facility also lost all funding. The state-of-the-art lab opened in 2004 at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce with $3.9 million in state funding.
The center will probably close, and 12 positions will be eliminated, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agricultural and natural resources.
The quarantine facility is a highly secure lab where scientists conduct research on biological controls for invasive species. Scientists introduce, evaluate and release biological control agents to try to manage exotic weeds and insect pests in Florida.
Florida has the largest invasive infestations in the nation. Invasive species cost Florida approximately $100 million a year, Payne said. Scientists at the lab helped control the tropical soda apple, an invasive weed, through the release of 250,000 South American beetles. The move saved cattle ranchers about $5.75 million a year, Payne said.
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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Belle Glade, Fla. — Throughout the past two decades, University of Florida researcher Richard Raid has seen barn owl populations in the Everglades Agricultural Area, centered around Belle Glade, expand from mere dozens to more than 400 nesting pairs.
But these beneficial raptors, currently listed as a threatened species, are now being threatened by Africanized honey bees. Swarming as frequently as eight times per year, the invasive bees have been taking over nesting boxes Raid and students have built for the owls, using them as hives, and displacing or even killing the desired raptors. (more …)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Have you always wanted to see what real, college-level, science research projects are like – and maybe even participate in one? Now is your chance with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ annual Bug Week.
Citizen science projects are a great way for kids of any age to help researchers in Florida – and throughout the country – understand what is taking place in their own neighborhoods. The projects can involve bug or animal counts, capturing specimens or creating habitats and reporting what shows up.
“Citizen science is a win-win for everyone involved,” said Andrea Lucky, an evolutionary biologist and biodiversity scientist with UF’s Department of Entomology and Nematology. “Participants have the opportunity to get involved in ongoing research and learn about the process of science and, at the same time, scientists benefit from partnering with diverse audiences.” (more …)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida campus is aflutter with activity as it gears up for Bug Week 2015, with various online and campus activities for students of all ages and their families.
“Bugs are serious business in Florida,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “Learning about bugs, though, should be fun. That’s why we have Bug Week.”
Bug Week 2015 is scheduled for May 18-23. To get started, check out the Bug Week website at http://bugs.ufl.edu/. UF/IFAS has a number of online resources there to explore including bug photos, feature stories, and the popular “Bug of the Day” and “Bug Word of the Day” items. Citizen science projects – in which anyone can participate – are spotlighted on the website, along with videos about everything from ants and butterflies to spiders and ticks. (more …)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Invasive stiltgrass is bad enough by itself, crowding out native plant and insect species in about 25 eastern U.S. states, including Florida. It can also inhibit tree seedling survival and growth, and it can change the availability of nitrogen in the soil.
In general, invasions of non-native plant species can reduce biodiversity and alter ecosystems. In 2013, 1,585 prescribed fires were used to burn about 290,000 acres in eight eastern U.S. states. Scientists have used prescribed fires to effectively control some invasive plants, but new evidence suggests fires may promote stiltgrass invasions.
If land managers perform prescribed fires — normally used to manage ecosystems and prevent wildfires – in stiltgrass-invaded areas, native trees can be killed by the more intense fires caused by burning stiltgrass, said Luke Flory, an assistant professor of ecology at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Deep in the soil, underneath your pretty trees, shrubs, plants and vegetables, lurks a fungus lethal to all of them. But University of Florida plant pathologist G. Shad Ali has a tiny silver bullet to kill it.
Ali and a team of researchers with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, along with the University of Central Florida and the New Jersey Institute of Technology, have found that silver nanoparticles produced with an extract of wormwood, can stop several strains of the fungus phytophthora dead in its tracks.
Phytophthora attacks the leaves and roots of more than 400 plants and tree varieties – everything from tomato plants to oak trees – threatening the Florida’s $15 billion-a-year ornamental horticulture industry.
“The silver nanoparticles are extremely effective in eliminating the fungus in all stages of its life cycle,” Ali said. “In addition, it had no adverse effects on plant growth.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — St. Lucie County ranchers have saved an estimated $850,000 a year, thanks to University of Florida experts who taught them how to release a beetle to eat an invasive plant that normally elbows out valuable cattle forage.
“Using the Tropical Soda Apple beetle has resulted in significant cost savings for ranchers while at the same time protecting the environment by reducing the need to use herbicides,” said St. Lucie County Extension agent Ken Gioeli, part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
The program, which uses beetles to biologically control the Tropical Soda Apple (TSA) on St. Lucie County ranches, has won the Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals National Innovative Program Award. That’s the fourth straight year UF’s St. Lucie County Extension Office has won a national award.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Floridians would likely support a 1 percent sales tax bump to prevent and eradicate disruptive invasive species, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences public opinion survey shows.
The survey also shows that residents say they’re not as up to speed on endangered and invasive species as they would like to be.