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UF/IFAS research findings shed light on seagrass needs

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, IFAS, Pollution, Research

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Cutline: Tom Frazer, professor of aquatic ecology and director of the UF School of Natural Resources and Environment at UF/IFAS, collects seagrass off Florida’s Gulf Coast in this UF/IFAS file photo. Frazer helped supervise a UF/IFAS graduate student’s thesis that examined how much sunlight is needed to keep seagrass healthy off the coast of Florida’s Big Bend.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Seagrass beds represent critical and threatened coastal habitats around the world, and a new University of Florida study shows how much sunlight seagrass needs to stay healthy.

Loss of seagrass means fish, crabs and other animals lose their homes and manatees and sea turtles lose a source of food. Nutrients, such as phosphorous, may prevent seagrass from getting the sunlight it needs to thrive. Nutrients may come from many sources, among them fertilizers used in agriculture, golf courses and suburban lawns, pet waste and septic tank waste.

Scientists often use seagrass to judge coastal ecosystems’ vitality, said Chuck Jacoby, a courtesy associate professor in the Department of Soil and Water Science and co-author of a new UF study that examines light and seagrass health.

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Water management district, UF/IFAS and UF Water Institute team up to examine springs

Topic(s): Announcements, Aquaculture, Environment, IFAS, Pollution
The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and the St. Johns River Water Management District, along with UF's Water Institute, are teaming up under a $3 million grant from the state to examine the deteriorating health of Florida's springs.

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March 18, 2014

GAINESVILLE, Fla. –The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is joining forces with two entities as part of a $3 million, three-year contract to provide scientific data to help protect and restore the state’s springs system. UF/IFAS’ partners in the effort are the St. Johns River Water Management District, which is funding the project, and UF’s Water Institute. (more …)

To the root of the matter – keeping nitrogen out of small streams

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Conservation, IFAS, Pollution, Research

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Feb. 25, 2014

GAINESVLLE, Fla. – For years, scientists tried to find out why some small streams carry only minute concentrations of nitrogen.

Now Stefan Gerber, a University of Florida researcher with the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and Jack Brookshire, an assistant professor of biogeochemistry from Montana State University, believe they have solved the mystery. (more …)

UF Oyster Recovery Team issues findings: Drought and salinity major issues, not oil

Topic(s): Agriculture, Aquaculture, Conservation, Cultivars, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, New Technology, Pests, Pollution, Research, Weather

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — There is no evidence that pollutants from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill contributed to the “unprecedented” decline in recent Apalachicola Bay oyster populations, according to a report this week by the University of Florida.

Instead, the report by UF’s Oyster Recovery Team cites drought, insufficient rainfall and increased salinity in the bay as factors contributing to the dramatic drop-off in oyster landings beginning in September 2012 and continuing through the year, said Karl Havens, task force leader and director of Florida Sea Grant.

“There was a whole chain of circumstances that led to this situation, some of which are beyond human control,” Havens said. “Our report makes recommendations for many things that can be done to help the oyster population through management and restoration.”

Havens and other recovery team members discussed the report and findings with a crowd of about 60 residents and seafood workers Wednesday at the Apalachicola Community Center.

The full report and a summary are available at the UF/IFAS Franklin County Extension office or its website, http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu.

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UF/IFAS Family Day at the Dairy Farm offers education, fun

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Economics, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, Livestock, New Technology, Pollution, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Milk may be sold in supermarkets, but it comes from cows – that’s the lesson being offered this Saturday at Family Day at the Dairy Farm, a free open-house event at the University of Florida’s dairy farm in Hague, 20 minutes northwest of Gainesville.

From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., dairy researchers and Extension specialists with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences will showcase the farm’s operations and explain how their work helps commercial dairy producers. For directions, see http://tinyurl.com/d3a5626.

Visitors can watch cows being fed and milked, learn about cattle nutrition and health-care practices, pet live calves, tour barns, sample dairy products and make their own butter.

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Florida soil a patchwork quilt for carbon content, UF/IFAS researchers find

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Environment, New Technology, Pollution

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida is home to many types of soil and some of them lack carbon, meaning they could be used for carbon sequestration – but a new University of Florida study shows that variability in the state’s existing soil carbon levels could make the task harder.

Carbon sequestration is the practice of storing carbon; one way to accomplish it is by adding carbon-rich material to soils. Carbon sequestration aims to slow the build-up of carbon-based gases in the atmosphere, a phenomenon believed to be a cause of global climate change. Some landowners may be able to make money by allowing their properties to be used as sites for carbon sequestration.

In a presentation today at the joint meeting of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and Soil Science Society of America, researchers with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences reported early findings from a statewide study analyzing soil carbon content across areas the size of a football field.

The results confirm what researchers have suspected – that soil carbon content can vary widely on a small site, said Sabine Grunwald, a professor in UF’s soil and water science department. That means efforts to amend soil with carbon-rich biomass will need to be tailored to local carbon levels.

The results also confirm that soil carbon variability has a lot to do with how the land is used and what material covers the land, factors known as land use and land cover.

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Beneficial bacteria can help keep Florida coral healthy, UF researchers report

Topic(s): Environment, IFAS, Pollution, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Bacteria that could potentially help corals resist the devastating disease white pox have been found by researchers at the University of Florida and Mote Marine Laboratory.

The findings could help maintain the health of Florida’s coral reefs, which bring in billions of dollars to the state annually and are important for tourism, fisheries, shoreline protection and pharmaceutical research.

“Coral reefs are a major attraction for tourists in Florida,” said Max Teplitski, a microbiologist and an associate professor at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “They support the economies of South Florida, and they’re also important for fisheries and, in general, healthy ecosystems.”

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Bacteria can aid toxic environmental cleanups, may boost ag production, UF researchers report

Topic(s): Environment, IFAS, New Technology, Pollution, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Remarkable bacteria that resist arsenic could greatly enhance cleanups of toxic environments and potentially boost agricultural production, according to a new University of Florida study.

The bacteria were isolated from arsenic-contaminated soil surrounding the Chinese brake fern, a plant known for its ability to remove arsenic from the environment.

The carcinogen contaminates soils around the world and is deadly to most organisms.

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UF researchers develop method to remove phosphate from water, using biochar

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Environment, New Technology, Pollution

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Phosphate poses one of Florida’s ongoing water-quality challenges but a process developed by University of Florida researchers could provide an affordable solution, using partially burned organic matter called biochar to remove the mineral.

The process also yields methane gas usable as fuel and phosphate-laden carbon suitable for enriching soil, according to Bin Gao and Pratap Pullammanappallil, assistant professors in UF’s agricultural and biological engineering department, part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Crop wastes would provide raw material for the biochar.

A laboratory study demonstrating the effectiveness of biochar for phosphate removal appears in the current issue of the journal Bioresource Technology.

The study involved beet tailings, which are culled beets, scraps and weeds removed from shipments of sugar beets destined for processing to make sugar, said Gao, one of the authors. In the U.S., sugar beets are grown primarily in the Northeast and upper Midwest, but the technology can be adapted to other materials, he said.

“It’s really sustainable,” Gao said. “We will see if it can be commercialized.”

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