IFAS News

University of Florida

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

Please see caption below story.

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.

When it comes to challenges facing endangered species, invasive species are second only to habitat loss, said Bill Haller, professor and UF/IFAS CAIP program director. Controlling invasive plants protects native plants and animals, and it’s a constant battle—which is why the next generation needs to get involved, he said.

Teachers are the best way to reach the greatest number of these youth, said Katie Walters, education initiative coordinator at UF/IFAS CAIP. The camp is aimed at educators who teach grades four through 12.

Back in 2005, the UF/IFAS Florida Invasive Plant Education Initiative began working with teachers to develop an invasive plant curriculum that included more than 100 different lesson plans and activities. However, “just developing that curriculum wasn’t enough, and the teachers requested a workshop,” said Walters.

The Plant Camp, which started in 2007, answered this need for more hands-on training. Teachers come away from the camp with a lot of material and tools to make science fun for their students, Walters said. She hopes this will ultimately make the next generation more aware of invasive plants.

The camp includes presentations by UF/IFAS faculty and FWC personnel, as well as activities such as plant identification and invasive plant removal. During each activity, teachers learn how they can translate what they are learning into their lesson plans.

Attendees also take fieldtrips to sites such as Paynes Prairie, where Chinese tallow and Japanese climbing fern have invaded. “We want to give them an idea of the scale of what an invasive problem looks like,” said Walters, and seeing how a plant can invade a landscape makes a big impact.

Tracy Jenner, science teacher at Yankeetown School, said what she learned at Plant Camp has helped her better engage her students, and they now understand that taking care of the environment is their responsibility. “The other exciting thing for me was meeting so many people that have led me to take my students on a variety of field trips that I would never have done,” Jenner said.

Applicants must submit a personal statement and letter of recommendation. Applications become available online and in paper form in January of each year. A Plant Camp diploma counts toward professional development points, which teachers need to maintain their teaching certification, Walters said.

Teachers can learn more about the UF/IFAS Plant Camp at http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/.

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Caption: A hydrilla plant, an invasive aquatic plant in Florida. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307, grenrosa@ufl.edu

Sources: Katie Walters, 352-273-3665, katie716@ufl.edu

Bill Haller, 352-392-9613, whaller@ufl.edu

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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UF/IFAS researcher: Newly-identified fungal pathogens may help control invasive grass

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have found that newly identified fungal pathogens may suppress an aggressive, invasive grass that is spreading throughout the eastern United States.

Luke Flory, an assistant professor of ecology in the agronomy department, and his team visited more than 80 sites in 18 states and conducted a multi-year field experiment. They documented the recent emergence and accumulation over time of new fungal pathogens. Flory’s results also show that the pathogens have the potential to cause declines in populations of the invasive grass, also known as microstegium vimineum.

“Invasive species, in this case an introduced grass, are often successful because they escape their natural enemies. Here, we looked for new enemies in the introduced range—pathogens that might attack the invasive species,” Flory explained. “We found that pathogens are actually reducing the growth and reproduction of the invasive grass. These results are exciting because the invasive grass may not need to be managed by other means.”

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UF/IFAS officials credit teamwork for victory over invasive Oriental fruit fly; end of quarantine means return to business as usual for Miami-Dade County growers

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small Bactrocera_dorsalis

Female Oriental fruit fly. Click on image for high-res version. Cutline at bottom.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The lifting of an agricultural quarantine in Miami-Dade County on Feb. 13 signaled victory over the invasive Oriental fruit fly and a return to business as usual for growers within a 99 square-mile area that includes vegetable farms, nurseries, packing houses, residential neighborhoods and much of the state’s commercial tropical fruit acreage.

Officials with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences credit the success story to determination and teamwork by a partnership of growers, landscapers, homeowners, government officials and agency personnel, and UF/IFAS Extension faculty.

“Our personnel played a vital role in bringing the quarantine to a quick ending, by facilitating clear communication between producers and agency personnel,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “The good guys won, and we’re proud that we helped make it happen.”

Numerous UF/IFAS Extension faculty took part in a statewide effort known as the Oriental Fruit Fly Eradication Program, or OFF Program, he said. Funded and overseen by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the OFF Program also included representatives of the FDACS Division of Plant Industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection — Plant Protection Quarantine, the Miami-Dade County Agricultural Manager’s office, Miami-Dade County officials and growers’ organizations.

“Our faculty helped growers and regulators understand each other’s point of view,” Payne said. “Both sides were very motivated and once they recognized the need for cooperation, it wasn’t difficult to build consensus on a science-based plan to eradicate the fly.” Continue reading

UF/IFAS researchers in fight to keep Valentine’s Day rosy

Topic(s): Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Invasive Species, Research

roses

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Roses are usually the flower of choice for Valentine’s Day, and researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences want to keep it that way. Scientists are racing to develop a plan to prevent or treat rose rosette disease, which is decimating the rose industry in other states.

“Rose rosette is a devastating disease and one of the worst things to come along,” said Gary Knox, professor of environmental horticulture and Extension specialist in nursery crops. “So, we joined a multistate comprehensive project to find a management plan.”

The challenge is in detecting the virus before symptoms arrive, Knox said. “A nursery might not know it has the disease and sell rose plants to unsuspecting customers. Months later, the disease shows up,” he said. “The major issue is being able to detect the virus before it shows up.”

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UF/IFAS hosting free annual PLANT CAMP for science and environmental primary school teachers

Topic(s): Departments, Environment, Florida Friendly, IFAS, Invasive Species, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden

The UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants is looking for 24 science and environmental educators from elementary, middle or high schools interested in attending PLANT CAMP, June 20-24, 2016 at UF.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is hosting its annual, free, week-long PLANT CAMP for science and environmental primary school teachers this summer, with lodging and meal costs covered by the program’s sponsors.

The UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants is looking for 24 science and environmental educators from elementary, middle or high schools interested in attending June 20-24, 2016, at UF. Applications are due February 21st. (more …)

UF/IFAS explores bringing popular South American food fish to Florida

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

Arapaima 122215 (3)

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Have you dined on Arapaima? South Americans eat the fish regularly, and University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are studying whether it could be a viable food fish in the United States.

“It has lots of high-quality meat,” said Jeffrey Hill, a UF/IFAS associate professor of fisheries and aquatic sciences. “It’s an easy fish to sell. It’s a really good food fish. It’s one of my favorites. It’s has a good taste. It’s easy to cook.”

Hill, doctoral student Katelyn Lawson and other researchers at the UF/IFAS Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory in Ruskin, Florida, recently published two studies concerning Arapaima. One found the fish can only survive in waters that are at least 16 degrees Celsius, or about 61 degrees Fahrenheit. That means it would only survive in South Florida waters, Hill said. The other study found a low risk of Arapaima getting out of fish farms and into canals. If Arapaima wound up in canals, they would prey on other fish.

The risk analysis was published in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management, while the lethal temperature study was published in the North American Journal of Aquaculture.

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New UF/IFAS Extension publication can help owners protect horses from creeping indigo

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

Horse in pasture -- small

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Recent news accounts of horses falling ill or dying after consuming the weed creeping indigo have raised concerns among horse owners. So, University of Florida experts have released a new publication to educate the public and help prevent future incidents.

It’s the latest in a series of educational efforts on creeping indigo led by faculty members with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine, said weed scientist Jason Ferrell, a UF/IFAS agronomy professor. For the past year, Ferrell and colleagues have been giving live presentations to horse owners and reaching out to veterinarians, Extension agents and fellow scientists with information.

“We want to heighten people’s sense of awareness, heighten their vigilance, teach them about good pasture management practices and improve their horses’ health,” Ferrell said.

The publication is available free at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ag399. It provides color photos of creeping indigo, along with information on its toxic effects, preventive steps to discourage establishment of the plant, and herbicide recommendations for treating infested pastures. The publication is part of the UF/IFAS online Extension library known as the Electronic Data Information Source, or EDIS. (more …)

UF/IFAS helping homeowners across Florida deal with coyotes

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

Coyotes are becoming a nuisance in some parts of Florida.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Coyotes were introduced in Florida in the 1920s for hunting and, today, they live in every county in the state and are becoming a nuisance in some areas.

Lisa Hickey, an Extension agent for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, is hosting a workshop from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Friday, Oct. 16, at the Anna Maria Public Library to help residents understand the precautions they can take to reduce coyote encounters. The library is located at 5701 Marina Drive on Holmes Beach (Manatee County). (more …)

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