GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Renowned University of Florida genomics and photobiology researcher Kevin Folta has been named 2016 Pro Farmer Ag Person of the Year. Folta is professor and chair of the horticulture sciences department at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
“Dr. Folta has been a leader in the fight against the anti-GMO movement for years,” said Chip Flory, Pro Farmer editorial director. “He was a natural choice for his leadership and many years of education on biotechnology, and for being committed to sharing that knowledge with the general public.”
Folta publishes a website and podcast titled “Talking Biotech” (www.talkingbiotechpodcast.com). Its purpose is to “help connect the public to current science and technology and let scientists tell the stories of how science can help our farmers, industrialized world consumers, the environment and the developing world,” Folta said. “The hope is this resource can explain how new tools can improve food security, reduce poverty and improve agricultural and medical practices.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – College was never a thought in Leigh Ann Skurupey’s mind as a high school student. Now, she’ll be graduating this week with a doctorate in animal sciences.
The University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) graduate student began her higher education journey in an effort to change people’s minds about her abilities. Skurupey has dyslexia, a learning disability that makes learning to read and interpret words, letters or symbols difficult. School has always been harder for her as she works daily to overcome her reading challenges.
Skurupey joined 458 UF/CALS students who graduated at 4 p.m. on Dec. 16, and 10 a.m. on Saturday in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
As a high school student, Skurupey overheard her mother telling her younger brother he needed to work on improving his grades. Skurupey’s brother asked why their mother didn’t scold her for lower grades, to which their mother replied, “she’s just not quite smart enough.”
“Once I heard her say that, it was my only reason why I went to school – to prove her wrong,” Skurupey said.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) will add a new Ph.D. program in youth development and family science to start in fall 2017. This is the first doctoral program in Florida and at an Association of American Universities (AAU) institution in the southeast to focus on youth development.
As part of the family, youth and community sciences (FYCS) department, this doctoral program is appropriate for individuals looking to pursue a tenure-track faculty position or a research career in government, nonprofit or private sectors. The program offers opportunities for doctoral students to engage in undergraduate teaching and mentoring.
“This is very exciting for our department since this will be our first Ph.D. program,” said Tracy Irani, chair of the FYCS department. “We’ve had FYCS graduates of UF contact us on a regular basis to see if a doctoral program has been added to our curriculum and we can now say, ‘Yes!’ We just hired a prevention science methodologist specifically for this program.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers and Extension agents are fanning across the state and the Southeast region to help growers and packers meet new federal food safety guidelines.
Driving across the state to packinghouses, farms and training centers, scientists such as Michelle Danyluk, Keith Schneider and Renee Goodrich are training growers in the latest regulations. “The state is massive, and we are not only tasked with helping Florida farmers meet new safety guidelines, but also are tasked with training educators in the Southeast so they can help growers in their states,” said Schneider, who with his colleagues is in the UF/IFAS department of food science and human nutrition.
Last fall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released several major rules that comprise the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The federal government has recognized the role of Extension specialists in training programs for key sections such as the Produce Safety Rule and the Preventive Controls for Human Foods Rule, Schneider said.
The University of Florida is one of two institutions that was awarded a $1.2 million grant by USDA in 2015 to help lead such training, Danyluk said. The Southern Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Center to Enhance Produce Safety at UF, led by Danyluk, is one of two regional programs that play a leading role in coordinating and implementing FSMA-related training, education, and outreach programs for small and medium-sized farms, beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, small processors, and/or small fresh fruit and vegetable merchant wholesalers.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Global climate change has already impacted every aspect of life on Earth, from genes to entire ecosystems, according to a new study by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and in cooperation with a broad international partner group, published in the prestigious journal Science.
“We now have evidence that, with only a ~1 degree Celsius of warming globally, major impacts are already being felt in natural systems,” said study lead author Brett Scheffers, an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS department of wildlife, ecology and conservation. “Genes are changing, species’ physiology and physical features such as body size are changing, species are shifting their ranges and we see clear signs of entire ecosystems under stress, all in response to changes in climate on land and in the ocean.”
During this research, Scheffers, a conservation ecologist, collaborated with a team of researchers from 10 countries, spread across the globe. They discovered that more than 80 percent of ecological processes that form the foundation for healthy marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems already show signs of responses to climate change.
“Some people didn’t expect this level of change for decades,” said co-author James Watson, of the University of Queensland in Australia. “The impacts of climate change are being felt with no ecosystem on Earth being spared.“
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When veterinarian Bill Bennett first bought his 1,200 acres of land in Levy County, he wasn’t sure what he would do with it. “I didn’t know anything about working the land, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” he said.
Bennett heard about the Florida Forest Stewardship program—a collaboration of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and various state agencies—and decided to give organizers a call. Chris Demers, a UF/IFAS Extension program manager who oversees the university’s participation in the program, suggested that Bennett attend workshops to gain knowledge.
“I knew I loved pine trees, but I had absolutely no knowledge of how to go about building a pine tree plantation,” Bennett said. “Everything I know, I learned through the stewardship program or through other participants. It has been invaluable to my success as a landowner.”
The Florida Forest Stewardship program was created in 1990 by the U.S. Forest Service to encourage private landowners to manage their forest resources for multiple benefits, said Demers, who is with the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. “UF/IFAS’ role is to coordinate educational programming and outreach,” he said.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Citrus grower James Shinn remembers days when he and his workers would rush out as early as 5 p.m. to turn water pumps on to irrigate his crops. “We had no idea when the temperature would drop, so we had to get out there early and get the water going.”
Now, researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are helping state growers save millions of dollars via a tool to gauge weather in agricultural areas.
The Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN), was started in 1998 to provide weather decision-making data in agricultural regions, said Rick Lusher, director of FAWN. While all National Weather Service tools are located at airports, FAWN stations are located in agricultural areas, he said.
“We estimate that if farmers use FAWN tools to determine when to irrigate their crops, they can save millions of dollars and millions of gallons of water,” Lusher said.
Soohyoun Ahn. Assistant Professor. Food Science and Human Nutrition.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences professor has been awarded part of a $4.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to continue her food safety outreach programs.
The grant, through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), will be used for safety education, training and technical assistance projects for producers who are impacted by the new food safety guidelines established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the Food Safety Modernization Act. The grants, made available through NIFA’s Food Safety Outreach Program, will assist owners and operators of small to mid-sized farms, beginning farmers, socially-disadvantaged farmers, small processors, small fresh fruit and vegetable wholesalers, food hubs, farmers markets and others.
“Providing food safety training for small farm owners and food processors is critically important to the health of consumers,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “Outreach, training and technical support are essential to the successful implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act.”
Soohyoun Ahn, an assistant professor in food safety in the UF/IFAS food science and nutrition department, will receive $163,284 to continue her programs that help Floridians enter the food business. Ahn, who also has a UF/IFAS Extension appointment, is leading the food entrepreneurship extension program as the coordinator, and has delivered food safety education throughout the state to those who want to sell products at farmers markets, or who want to open their own food businesses in Florida.
BELLE GLADE, Fla. — Want to teach your students the good, the bad and the ugly about plants while incorporating three different sciences? Researchers at the UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center will lead the second annual workshop, “Don’t Get Caught with Your Plants Down,” from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 27.
The free workshop will be held at UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center, 3200 East Canal Street, Belle Glade, Florida. Breakfast and lunch will be provided, and in-service points for professional development will be awarded by school districts through Master Inservice Plans (MIP).
This year’s program, developed by the UF/IFAS department of plant pathology, uses resources available from the American Phytopathological Society, said Richard Raid, a professor of plant pathology and workshop organizer. Middle and high school teachers will take back vital information to students on the importance of plants in daily life, he said.
Florida is home to the most invasive species in the country, and many travel in to the state via plants, Raid explained.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A recent study led by a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher found that an insect has evolved metabolically in response to an increase in weather cold snaps.
Daniel Hahn, an associate professor in the entomology and nematology department at UF/IFAS, led a team of researchers from UF, the University of California Berkeley, the University of Alabama-Birmingham and Kansas State University in the study of the fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Researchers found that selection to recover more quickly from cold snaps also drove the evolution of higher metabolic rates.
“While we hear a lot about warmer weather in spring and fall, weather fronts will continue to bring bouts of cold,” said Hahn, whose research focuses on ecological and evolutionary physiology. “This makes the transitions from warm to cold temperatures more extreme, and increases the vulnerability of animals and plants to damage from snap freezes.
“Small animals that rely on the environment to regulate their body temperature—like insects, frogs, and even sea turtles—are also susceptible to stress and even death from extreme cold fronts. We found clear changes in metabolism of the fly as it evolves and adapts to the cold snaps.”