IFAS News

University of Florida

4-H youth have voices heard at state Capitol on March 23

Topic(s): 4-H, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida State Capitol will be a sea of clover green on March 23 when approximately 500 4-H youth visit with state representatives and senators, and learn about the legislative process firsthand.

The day will include a group photo in front of the Historic Capitol building, a speech from Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, meetings with state legislatures and a tour of the Capitol complex.

“This is a very special event and one that is very near to my heart,” said Chris DeCubellis, associate state program leader for the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension 4-H youth development program.  “The idea of providing a framework in which young people can interact directly with their elected officials is an exciting prospect.”

Students will learn much from a firsthand look at government, DeCubellis said.

“This 4-H program provides an outstanding opportunity for our young people to understand how our government works and how their voices can be appropriately heard at the highest levels,” DeCubellis said. “We want our 4-H members to go on to be contributing members of their society, and this is an example of a program that helps youth on that positive journey.”

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UF/IFAS researchers find a probiotic combination that might curb allergy symptoms

Topic(s): Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Research

Bobbi Langkamp-Henken

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As we head into allergy season, you may feel less likely to grab a hanky and sneeze. That’s because new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences research shows a probiotic combination might help reduce hay fever symptoms, if it’s taken during allergy season.

Many published studies have shown a probiotic’s ability to regulate the body’s immune response to allergies, but not all of the probiotics show a benefit, UF/IFAS researchers say.

“Not all probiotics work for allergies. This one did,” said Jennifer Dennis, a doctoral student in the UF/IFAS food science and human nutrition department and first author on the latest study.

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Grapefruit for dessert? South Korea could be a lucrative market for Florida growers

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, Economics, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — How about grapefruit as a dessert or snack? That is how many South Koreans, especially younger ones, view the fruit. Therefore, Florida grapefruit growers may want to expand their shipments to that Asian nation, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers say.

UF/IFAS researchers are doing a series of surveys for the Florida Department of Citrus, comparing the consumer behavior and market potential for grapefruit in the U.S., Europe and Asia. In the latest study, Yan Heng, a postdoctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS food and resources economics department, conducted an online poll of 992 South Korean female shoppers over 20 years old.

She found South Korea may be a growing market for U.S. grapefruit. Furthermore, South Korean consumers generally consider U.S. products as high quality, so U.S. growers would have a chance to profit by selling with a premium, Heng said.

“We really look at this study and South Korea as information to see if we can increase younger consumers in other countries,” said Lisa House, a UF/IFAS professor of food and resource economics and a study co-author. In addition to eating grapefruit, South Koreans also use grapefruit in beer, tea and ice cream, so marketing opportunities abound.

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UF/IFAS West Florida REC offers grits, cornmeal from grain produced on its farm

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Environment, Families and Consumers, Green Living, IFAS, Nutrition, RECs

JAY, Fla. — Do you know where your grits come from? Now, you can buy locally grown grits and cornmeal, and even visit the farm where the corn is grown.

The University of Florida IFAS West Florida Research and Education Center near Jay, Florida, is selling grits and cornmeal from corn grown and ground on its farm. The Gator Grind products are processed at the UF/IFAS West Florida REC and packaged for consumers there.

“We grow the corn, harvest it, put in the grain bin, clean it and grind it in a stone grist mill,” said Wes Wood, center director. “Visitors can come out to the UF/IFAS West Florida REC for one of our field days and see how grits and cornmeal are produced.”

Faculty at the UF/IFAS West Florida REC have been researching corn for decades, Wood said. These scientists conduct trials to determine the best corn varieties for the region, along with optimization of management variables such as soil fertility and pest control, he said.

“We conduct research that helps farmers grow the best crop possible under Florida Panhandle conditions,” Wood said.

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Florida Saves Week starts Monday — how much do you have put away?

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, Finances, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida may be the sunshine state, but more Floridians should start saving for a rainy day, says a researcher with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“Without an emergency fund, unexpected financial shocks might lead to a financial storm and a vicious cycle,” said Jorge Ruiz-Menjivar, assistant professor of consumer economics in the department of family, youth and community sciences.

Research shows that families without an emergency fund are more likely to have bank overdrafts, fall behind on their bills, have a hard time managing credit and may turn to subprime alternatives that have higher costs than conventional options, Ruiz-Menjivar explained.

To help more Floridians build wealth, not debt, UF/IFAS is urging residents to pledge to start saving during Florida Saves Week, Feb. 27 to March 4 at floridasaves.org. Part of the national America Saves program, this state-wide initiative has been officially endorsed by Jeff Atwater, chief financial officer for the state of Florida.

This year, Floridians who pledge can enter to win $50 to be put toward reaching their financial goals by completing a short survey after signing the Florida Saves pledge.

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UF/IFAS helps ‘Keep the (blood) Pressure Down’

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension faculty want to help you relieve some pressure – in this case, by lowering your blood pressure. What better timing? February is National Heart Health Month.

Those with high blood pressure risk suffering from heart disease and or a stroke, both leading causes of death in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 75 million American adults – or 32 percent — have high blood pressure, according to the CDC.

“Managing blood pressure is an important component of heart health, for both men and women,” said Linda Bobroff, a UF/IFAS professor in the department of family, youth and community sciences and an Extension nutrition specialist.

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UF/IFAS entomologist gets $200,000 to help develop rapid Zika detection

Topic(s): Announcements, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, New Technology, Pests, RECs, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences entomologist will use a $200,000 grant from the Florida Department of Health to improve tests for the detection of Zika virus.

In 2016, Florida saw 1,272 cases of Zika, which is usually associated with mild symptoms, although severe symptoms may also occur, including Guillain-Barré syndrome and birth defects in babies, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 256 were locally acquired. So far this year, four more cases have been reported, all travel-related.

Barry Alto, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of medical entomology, said scientists need better diagnostic tools to detect Zika virus to meet challenges to public health. He is working with collaborator Steven Benner at Firebird Biomolecular Sciences LLC to develop methods they hope should take about an hour – far less time than current testing methods. Existing methods require specialized equipment and highly trained personnel, so samples must be transported to specialized laboratory facilities to perform the tests.

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UF/IFAS offers tips on how to care for Valentine’s Day flowers

Topic(s): Agriculture, Cultivars, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Green Living, IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — So you have received a bouquet of flowers for Valentine’s Day and want to keep them alive as long as possible. An expert with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is here to help.

“The trick is to keep the water clean of fungus and bacteria so the flowers can stay fresh longer,” said Wendy Wilber, UF/IFAS State Master Gardener Coordinator. Also, Wilber recommends:

  • Once you’ve brought your flowers inside, remove any leaves or blossoms that will end up underwater. Then, cut one-half to one inch off the stems with a sharp, clean knife.
  • Place the flowers in a clean vase filled with fresh water and, if you have it, flower preservatives. Do not add sugar, as it will bring bacteria and clog the stems.
  • If the water turns yellow and cloudy, wash the vase with soapy water and add fresh water with flower preservatives.
  • Re-cut and rinse the stems before placing them back into the container.
  • Keep the flowers away from heating and air-conditioning vents, and from direct sunlight.

“Fresh flowers bring beauty and vitality into your home or office,” Wilber said. “Make the most out of the gift by keeping them fresh and beautiful for as long as possible.”

For more information on how to care for cut flowers, watch this video or visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NM1jBVFlDVo.

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By: Beverly James, 352-273-3566, beverlymjames@ufl.edu

 

UF/IFAS Researchers: Many turning to oysters for Valentine’s Day energy

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Conservation, Departments, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With Valentine’s Day around the corner, you might be thinking about revving things up by eating a few oysters. We’ve all heard that oysters are aphrodisiacs, but researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences say there’s more to the story.

“Oysters might be perceived as an aphrodisiac because they have a high proportion of glycogen, a form of stored carbohydrate that can give you energy,” said Peter Frederick, a research professor with the UF/IFAS department of wildlife ecology and conservation.

Leslie Sturmer, a regional UF/IFAS Extension agent specializing in molluscan shellfish aquaculture, says the high nutritional content of oysters helps people feel good, hence the reputation for being an aphrodisiac. “Oysters have a high zinc content, have very little fat and are full of essential vitamins and minerals,” she said. “So, consumers who eat oysters regularly may attribute extra energy to the oysters.”

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How about another sweet, juicy strawberry, courtesy of UF/IFAS?

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Extension, IFAS, Nutrition, RECs, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When you bite into a Florida strawberry for Valentine’s Day or National Strawberry Day on Feb. 27, you savor sweetness and juice. That’s what you’ll find in all varieties bred by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers. The latest, ‘Florida Beauty,’ (U.S. PPAF) lives up to the UF/IFAS tradition.

As National Strawberry Day approaches on Feb. 27, we can look forward to even better-tasting fruit from UF/IFAS breeder Vance Whitaker as he tries to help Florida’s $360-million-a-year industry.

‘Florida Beauty,’ a collaboration between UF/IFAS and an Australian scientist, is in its early stages, said Whitaker, an associate professor of horticultural sciences at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida.

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