University of Florida

Screwworm life cycle and habits contribute to insect’s threat, UF experts say

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, CALS, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Livestock, Pests, Research
A cow grazing in a beef cattle pasure at the Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona, Florida.

A cow grazing in a beef cattle pasture at the Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona, Florida. Photo by Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida residents curious or skeptical about the threat posed by the parasitic screwworm fly Cochliomiya hominivorax can rest assured the insect merits all the attention it has received after an outbreak was detected in the Florida Keys earlier this month, say experts with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Commonly known as the primary screwworm fly or New World screwworm fly, the insect threatens the health of warm-blooded animals and people in areas where it is well-established, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“To put it plainly, a full-blown screwworm infestation is a death sentence for the host animal,” Payne said. “This pest can kill a previously healthy cow or bull in a matter of weeks if the problem isn’t treated properly. It’s that serious.”

Payne urges all livestock and pet owners to educate themselves about the symptoms of screwworm infestation and seek veterinary care for animals exhibiting tell-tale indications such as open wounds that do not heal, running sores, listlessness, loss of appetite or sudden weight loss.

The fly’s larvae must consume the tissue of a live warm-blooded animal to develop, so adult females lay their eggs on livestock and wildlife with superficial wounds, said veterinary entomologist Phil Kaufman, an associate professor with the UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department.

“From a strictly scientific point of view, screwworm larvae are incredibly well-adapted parasites,” Kaufman said. “That’s why this species was a constant menace to Florida’s cattle industry up through about 1960, when it was eradicated from the state.” (more …)

UF/IFAS experts to celebrate animal agriculture at 39th annual Sunbelt Ag Expo

Topic(s): 4-H, Agriculture, CALS, Crops, Extension, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, Livestock

2010 Sunbelt Agriculture Expo in Moultrie, Georgia.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty will be sharing their expertise on the theme of Florida’s animal agriculture at the 39th annual Sunbelt Ag Expo — the largest agricultural expo in the southeast.

About 80,000 people are expected to attend the expo, held Oct. 18 to 20 in Moultrie, Georgia.

“Our experts in UF/IFAS Extension are thrilled to represent our programs, and we are proud to participate in such an important event. It is a great opportunity to meet others who are as passionate about agriculture as we are,” said Nick Place, dean of UF/IFAS Extension.

Visitors come to the expo to learn about the latest agricultural research, technology and marketing tools, according to the expo web site.

At the permanent UF/IFAS building, displays and exhibits will tell the story of Florida’s animal industries, starting with the resources that go into raising animals and ending with the safe preparation of animal proteins. In addition, attendees can hear presentations on livestock forages and poisonous plants by UF/IFAS researchers in the expo’s Beef Barn, or head over to the pond section to learn more about Florida’s fisheries.

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UF/IFAS-based PINEMAP project earns national award from USDA

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biofuels, CALS, Conservation, Crops, Economics, Environment, Extension, Forestry, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Research, Weather


Caption: PINEMAP principal investigator Tim Martin, right, accepts congratulations from Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, at the NIFA Partnership Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (Photo courtesy of USDA-NIFA)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The PINEMAP project, based within the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, devoted five years to helping the Southeastern planted-pine industry prepare for future production challenges. Now, PINEMAP is being honored with a prestigious national award from the United States Department of Agriculture.

On Thursday, Oct. 6, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, or NIFA, announced that PINEMAP would receive one of three 2016 NIFA Partnership Awards presented nationwide. The award recognizes PINEMAP for its outstanding performance integrating and fulfilling the education, Extension and research missions common to all land-grant universities.

The award confirms yet again the impact of UF/IFAS programs for one of the state’s most important industries, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“Planted pine is cultivated on about 20 million acres throughout the Southeast. This industry is enormously important both economically and environmentally, and the work of PINEMAP was crucial to help secure the industry’s future,” Payne said. “Our UF/IFAS faculty members have shown exemplary leadership and scholarship; this honor is richly deserved.”

PINEMAP involved UF and 10 other southeastern U.S. land-grant institutions, as well as numerous collaborators from government agencies and private industry. The project was launched in February 2011 after leaders obtained one of three $20 million grants awarded concurrently by USDA as part of its Coordinated Agriculture Projects program, meant to strengthen vital domestic crop-production industries. (more …)

‘Come home’ to UF-UF/IFAS Agriculture and Gardening Day, Oct. 15

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


GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Agriculture and natural resources interests are invited to come home to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and see some informative exhibits during Agriculture and Gardening Day Oct. 15, outside The Swamp.

“Come home” because it’s homecoming weekend at UF, and the Gators are playing the Missouri Tigers. People affiliated with agriculture and natural resources have bought discounted tickets to the football game.

Before kickoff, those parties can view a display from UF/IFAS, which will feature information about the organization’s three arms: education, research and Extension.

There will also be displays from the UF/IFAS entomology and nematology department, said Ruth Borger, UF/IFAS assistant vice president for communications. Those exhibits include a bug zoo at which you can pet a roach, if that tickles your fancy. The department also will bring microscopes so you can view nematodes.

(more …)

UF Field and Fork invites students to grow their own food, feed others this fall

Topic(s): CALS, IFAS

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Please see caption below the story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While most people at the University of Florida or in Gainesville are familiar with the UF bat houses across from Lake Alice on Museum Road, for some, those rows of kale or squash growing nearby are a mystery.

Called the Student Gardens, this plot of land is part of the UF Field and Fork Campus Food Program, an interdisciplinary initiative led by the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Each semester, 30 to 50 students volunteer at the garden, working together to grow fresh vegetables while learning sustainable farming practices.

These volunteers get a share of what they grow, and through a partnership with the Alan and Cathy Hitchcock Field and Fork Pantry, which is run by UF Student Affairs, some of the harvest is distributed to those in the UF community facing food insecurity.

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Seven UF/IFAS CALS students, alumni qualify for Rio Olympics

Topic(s): Announcements, CALS, Departments, IFAS
Eduardo Solaeche

Eduardo Solaeche

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If you are watching the Olympic games, you may catch students and alumni of the University of Florida. Seven of the 30 UF Gators who qualified to compete in the Rio Olympics are current or former students of the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

“We are so proud of our students and alumni, who are not only representing the university and CALS, but also represent their home country at the world’s most elite competition,” said CALS Dean Elaine Turner.

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UF senior: When it comes to choosing a major, the path may be winding

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Like many college freshmen, Kristen Kempfert thought she had her future completely figured out.

Kempfert wanted to go to law school, so she enrolled at the University of Florida as an English major. When that didn’t feel right, she switched to political science, then to linguistics, then to engineering. Suddenly, she felt adrift, uncertain about which path to choose.

At the end of her freshman year, Kempfert had to take four credits over the summer to keep her scholarship. Having already found a three-credit course, she was browsing the list of course offerings when she stumbled upon “Plants, Gardening and You,” a one-credit course offered by the department of environmental horticulture in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS).

Kempfert had always enjoyed tending her small herb garden back home—so she signed up.

(more …)

Five tips for planning your college career and beyond

Topic(s): CALS, IFAS


Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — College is hard. Starting college is even harder. You have to find your way around campus, make new friends and learn how to fend for yourself, all while figuring out what you want to do with your life. Even choosing which classes to take can be overwhelming.

Fortunately, there are academic advisers for every major whose job it is to help you navigate these challenges. However, only about half of University of Florida students ever go see their academic adviser, said Amy Vasquez, adviser for plant science majors.

And that’s a problem. Not having a clear plan for how you’re going to earn your degree can lead to big issues such as not finishing your degree on time.

Here are five tips to help you avoid complications down the road.

  1. Get to know your adviser.

“You should meet with your adviser at least once a semester,” said Amie Imler, adviser for students majoring in animal sciences. Your adviser can help you balance your schedule so that tougher courses are spread out over a few semesters rather than lumped into one.

Advisers also know which courses are only offered once an academic year and will help you factor that into your plan, said Vasquez.

  1. Be professional.

Treat going to class like going to work. “You wouldn’t go to work in the morning wearing your pajamas,” said Imler. “You need to be developing professional habits now.” Imler noted that, at some point, you may want your professors and academic advisor to write your letters of recommendation. How do you want them to remember you?

  1. Get involved.

Employers, professional schools and graduate programs will want to see that you’ve developed leadership skills by participating in extracurricular activities. Vasquez recommends joining a club or organization on campus or in the community.

  1. Have an open mind.

Some students come to college intensely focused on one goal, said Herschel Johnson, adviser for food science and human nutrition majors, and that focus can blind them to other potential opportunities. “You may feel like you have to prove yourself from day one,” Johnson said. “You feel the competition, and you may not approach college as something that is about you as an individual.  Don’t compare yourself to other students. Find your own path.”

Some students may be unaware that there is more than one path to a particular goal, said Vasquez. For example, a student who wants to go to medical school doesn’t have to major in biology, she said. In fact, majoring in a field such as entomology may actually help you stand out among a pool of medical school applicants.

  1. Have a back-up plan.

Approximately 50 percent of students enter UF with plans for continuing to professional school, such as medical school or law school, but not all of those students end up there, said Johnson. If you’re aiming to be pre-med or pre-law, be open to another route you can take and plan accordingly — ideally with the help of your academic adviser.

You can get in touch with your academic adviser by contacting the department in which you have declared a major. Undecided students or students looking to change majors should reach out to departments they are considering, or visit the UF Career Resource Center.

Caption: Faced with many options and opportunities, planning one’s college career can be daunting. Fortunately, academic advisers can help guide students. UF Photo by Hannah Pietrick.


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

Sources: Amie Imler, 352-392-9739, amie.taylor@ufl.edu

Herschel Johnson, 352-294-3701, hdjohnson@ufl.edu

Amy Vasquez, 352-273-4573, amyalex@ufl.edu

Florida Youth Institute lets high schoolers explore a future in agricultural and life sciences

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As 22 high schoolers step onto the manicured turf of Florida Field, Jason Kruse, associate professor of environmental horticulture, explains how maintaining a football field involves more than fertilizer and regular mowing. Rather, he says, it’s research from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences that keeps the field green for fans and safe for athletes.

This lesson is just one of several activities that comprise the Florida Youth Institute (FYI), a week-long summer program sponsored by the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the World Food Prize Foundation.  The program gives rising juniors and seniors a chance to explore emerging issues in agriculture, life sciences and natural resources while also giving them a taste of college life.

“FYI was created with an overall goal of engaging youth with issues in agricultural and natural resource sciences that affect Florida, the U.S. and world food security,” said Elaine Turner, dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “Ultimately, we hope to grow the talent pipeline by connecting students to academic programs in CALS that will prepare them for careers in agricultural and natural resource sciences.”

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UF CALS students, faculty shine at annual teaching conference

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, Honors and Appointments, IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences students and faculty were recognized for their outstanding teaching and research at the 62nd annual North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) conference in June.

More than 25 UF CALS faculty, staff and graduate students attended the meeting, said CALS Dean Elaine Turner. CALS is part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Many UF CALS faculty and students contributed to the NACTA program with posters, oral presentations and workshops.

“The NACTA annual conference is a showcase for innovation and excellence in teaching and learning,” Turner said. “I am so proud of the UF/IFAS faculty and CALS graduate students who were recognized with teaching, leadership and scholarship awards this year. The constant pursuit of excellence in teaching is a key part of what makes CALS such a great academic home for students.”

(more …)

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