IFAS News

University of Florida

New UF/IFAS scientist brings latest technology to battle against invasive species

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Departments, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests

FORT PIERCE, Fla.— Carey Minteer, a research professor with expertise in the use of biological controls to manage invasive plants, has joined the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Florida has the most invasive species in the country, with 28 ports of entry, including seaports, airports and train stations.

Minteer, who is also an expert in geographic information systems, is based at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce, Florida. She is collaborating with professor James Cuda, UF/IFAS Extension agent Ken Gioeli and other scientists to fight the state’s most noxious weeds, including the Brazilian peppertree, one of Florida’s most widespread invasive plants.

“Dr. Minteer has demonstrated effectiveness in investigating the biological control of invasive weeds in the central U.S.A. and Florida,” said Ronald Cave, UF/IFAS Indian River REC interim director. “Her expertise in biological control is strengthened with her knowledge of sophisticated mapping technology for spatial analysis of large infestations, thereby bringing a new dimension of research capability to the laboratory.”

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Kakkar joins UF/IFAS Extension as invasive insect specialist

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, Crops, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests

FORT PIERCE, Fla. – Garima Kakkar is joining the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to help the state fight invasive pests. Kakkar, an expert in invasive insects, is a UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County Multicounty Agent.

Kakkar has a diverse range of experience in managing pest insects, and will now serve growers in the world’s premier citrus production region with the latest research findings. Her most recent assignment was working as a postdoctoral research associate for UF/IFAS, along with both UF and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in studies of an invasive whitefly, thrips vectors and a pepper whitefly.

“Dr. Kakkar has been synergistically blending research and practical information to create effective tools for the citrus and fruit crops industry,” said Ed Skvarch, director of UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County. “She believes that a channelized production system requires an Extension agent who is more than a liaison between different groups, researchers, growers or industry. Her goal is to develop programs that take research to the fields and industry, for the betterment of our agricultural production systems.”

Since taking her new position, Kakkar has focused on worker protection standards training, and she is organizing soil nutrition programs, developed in conjunction with the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, Florida, Skvarch said.

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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

Please see caption below story.

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 researchers to launch new plants-in-space mission

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

Please see caption at end of story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — People put on sweaters when they’re cold.  Plants on the other hand, have to essentially knit one on the fly. Plants “knit” with their genes, and when University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers launch their Feb. 14 space experiment, they want to know more about how gene expression helps plants to adapt themselves to outer space.

To knit that new sweater, a plant will need to find a new pattern for an environment to which it has never been exposed, said UF/IFAS horticultural sciences research professor Anna-Lisa Paul. This is what a plant faces when it grows in space. It’s a novel environment, outside the evolutionary experience of any plant, so the plant needs to experiment with new patterns.

The space launch from the Kennedy Space Center is the latest in a series of experiments performed by Paul and UF/IFAS horticultural sciences professor Robert Ferl as they seek to understand how to grow plants in space.

Plants on the SpaceX CRS-10 mission will end up at the International Space Station.

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UF/IFAS faculty lead contest that connects insects, art

Topic(s): Announcements, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS

Video available at: http://bit.ly/2jveL0r

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Insects and art intersect in a unique campus-wide sculpture and animation contest organized by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences entomologists.

In a project called “Insects Alive,” Andrea Lucky and Lisa Taylor hope to use science and technology to inspire creativity in students across UF.

An interdisciplinary team of undergraduate students from across UF is helping to lead the contest. The team generates 3-D files — based on real ants and spiders — that are produced using a nano-CT scanner at the UF Nanoscale Research Facility. The 3-D images are available to all contest participants to use as the basis for art.

For the contest, UF students in any discipline use the 3-D files of the insects and spiders to create three-dimensional sculpture and animation.

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Four with UF/IFAS ties to be inducted into Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, RECs

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences alumni, a producer who worked with UF/IFAS Extension and UF/IFAS Research and a contributor to the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation will be inducted into the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame in February.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame Foundation have announced the four honorees. Each was born and raised on a Florida farm, and each has made outstanding contributions to Florida’s agriculture industry and mentored future leaders in the field. The UF/IFAS-related inductees are:

 

  • W. Bernard Lester, 78, was born in Havana, Florida. Lester graduated from UF CALS with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural economics, earning the latter degree in 1962. He earned a doctorate in agricultural economics from Texas A&M University.Lester returned to Florida and began his career as a research economist with the Florida Department of Citrus. He was eventually promoted to executive director in 1979. In 1986, he took a position with Alico, Inc. Board of Directors until 2005. During this time, he joined the Gulf Citrus Growers Association and was actively involved in all aspects of the association’s mission.“Bernie Lester has been a tireless advocate on behalf of Florida agriculture for more than four decades,” John Hoblick, president of the Florida Farm Bureau, wrote as part of his letter in support of Lester. “His knowledge of production agriculture and his excellent skills in leadership positions are recognized by anyone works with him…”

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UF/IFAS Citrus REC starts centennial celebration

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Citrus, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Extension, IFAS, New Technology, Pests, RECs, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Nearly a century ago, a group of Polk County citrus growers raised about $14,000 to buy land for a research station. Now, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center.

In 1917, UF/IFAS established the Citrus REC. Originally, only a few UF/IFAS scientists worked at the Lake Alfred site, then called the Citrus Experiment Station.

Today, the research center employs 250 people and is also home to the scientific research staff of the Florida Department of Citrus. It is the largest facility in the world devoted to a single commodity, citrus.

“The UF/IFAS Citrus REC has a long, proud tradition of outstanding science and outreach, and the faculty there show every day why the quality of work performed for the next 100 years will be as good or better than the first century at the facility,” said Jack Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

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UF/IFAS professor named to U.S. President’s Committee on National Medal of Science

Topic(s): Announcements, Departments, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Soil and Water Science

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Former President Barack Obama has named a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences renowned expert on tropical soils a member of the President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science. Pedro Sanchez, a research professor in the soil and water sciences department, will serve his term until December 2019.

“Dr. Sanchez is not just an outstanding academic, but also a public servant who brings a depth of experience and tremendous dedication to this important role,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources.

Sanchez works with the UF/IFAS Institute of Sustainable Food Systems, which focuses on feeding a burgeoning worldwide population while conserving resources. Sanchez was director of the Agriculture and Food Security Center at The Earth Institute at Columbia University, where he worked from 2003 to 2016.  He served as director of the Millennium Villages Project from 2004 to 2010, and co-chair of the United Nations Millennium Project Task Force on Hunger from 2002 to 2005.

Sanchez is a member of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Society of Agronomy, Soil Science Society of America, and American Association for the Advancement of Science.  He was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2003 and the World Food Prize in 2002.

Sanchez received a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. from Cornell University.

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

Sources: Jack Payne, 352-392-1971, jackpayne@ufl.edu

Pedro Sanchez, 352-294-3130, pedrosanchez@ufl.edu

Renowned agricultural scientist joins UF/IFAS Indian River research facility

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Citrus, Crops, Departments, IFAS, Pests, RECs

FORT PIERCE, Fla. – Rhuanito “Johnny” Soranz Ferrarezi has joined the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to lead citrus horticulture research in the world’s premier grapefruit production region.

Ferrarezi brings more than 10 years of experience to his new position as assistant professor of citrus horticulture to the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce. He joins two additional new hires at UF/IFAS IRREC who will work as a team to assist growers as they manage citrus greening, or Huanglongbing (HLB), the industry’s most formidable pathogen.

“Dr. Ferrarezi is capable and exuberant about his work to manage crop production,” said Ronald Cave, UF/IFAS IRREC director. “He has demonstrated a fervent commitment to agriculture in his native Brazil, which is also one of the world’s most productive citrus regions, and we are confident his work in Florida will be significant.”

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Irula tribesmen and detector dogs help UF/IFAS and FWC remove pythons in Florida

Topic(s): Announcements, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs, Research, Safety

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) are working together on unique projects to target Burmese pythons in Florida. Two projects include using detection dogs and Irula tribesmen to help remove pythons from environmentally sensitive areas.

In their first eight days on the job, the Irula tribesmen — world-renowned snake catchers from India — removed 13 pythons, including four on their first visit to Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge on North Key Largo in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Traditionally, the main occupation of the Irula tribe has been catching snakes. They have successfully hunted and captured Indian pythons in their home province of Tamil Nadu.

“Since the Irula have been so successful in their homeland at removing pythons, we are hoping they can teach people in Florida some of these skills,” said Kristen Sommers, section leader of the FWC’s Wildlife Impact Management Section. “We are working with our partners to improve our ability to find and capture pythons in the wild. These projects are two of several new efforts focused on the removal of these snakes.”

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