University of Florida

UF/IFAS researchers get $2 million grant to study organic strawberry production

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Research


Strawberries.  UF/IFAS Photo by Marisol Amador.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences will address production constraints for organic strawberry producers, thanks to a new $2 million federal grant.

The grant comes from the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) program, which is administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The research focuses on strawberry production systems, rather than just one part of the production process, said Mickie Swisher, associate professor of sustainable agriculture in the UF/IFAS Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences.

“Controlling weeds is a significant cost for all strawberry producers, not just organic producers,” Swisher said. “The project examines the effectiveness of cover crops as a supplementary weed management technique, used in conjunction with plastic mulch.”

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UF/IFAS termite pioneer to be inducted into inventors hall of fame

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Families and Consumers, Honors and Appointments, Household Pests, IFAS, New Technology, Pests, RECs

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Nan-Yao Su

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Nan-Yao Su, the University of Florida scientist who invented the Sentricon® system for termite colony elimination, is scheduled to be inducted into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame Oct. 2 in Tampa.

Sentricon®, the first commercial baiting product for subterranean termites, has protected millions of structures, including the White House and the Statue of Liberty.

The Hall of Fame selection committee chose nominees whose inventions and achievements have “advanced the quality of life for Floridians, our state and our nation,” according to a letter to Su from hall of fame Program Manager William Nikolic.

Su said he feels honored to be mentioned alongside such great inventors as Thomas Edison and UF’s own Robert Cade, who invented Gatorade®.

“I am glad that I can contribute to the quality of life of many homeowners in Florida and worldwide,” Su said.

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UF/IFAS entomologist to be inducted into pest management hall of fame

Topic(s): Announcements, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Families and Consumers, Honors and Appointments, Household Pests, IFAS, Pests


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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Phil Koehler sees his students as the reason he’s being inducted into the Pest Management Professional Hall of Fame.

“The thing I’ve done is provide opportunities for students, and they’ve pretty well stayed with the pest management industry in one way or another,” Koehler said. They attend pest management meetings around the world and interact with industry professionals.

Some will attend his hall of fame induction in Nashville, Tennessee, in October, an honor Koehler appreciates.

“This award is probably the highest award that you can get for contributions to the pest management industry worldwide,” said Koehler, likening the award to winning an Oscar. After all, the November ceremony is a black-tie event.

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Mating with the wrong insect may cut yellow fever mosquito populations

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, IFAS, RECs, Research

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Asian tiger mosquito

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Yellow fever mosquito

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Asian tiger mosquitoes can drive down yellow fever mosquito populations when the female chooses the wrong male with which to mate, UF/IFAS scientists say. Both insects transmit chikungunya and dengue, dangerous diseases affecting millions of people worldwide.

In a study published this month in the journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution, Post-doctoral Researcher Irka Bargielowski led a team of scientists that conducted field studies in Houston, Texas; Caracas, Venezuela; Franceville, Gabon and Singapore, Malaysia.

They studied mating between the Asian tiger and yellow fever mosquitoes and found that it in the wild, avoidance mechanisms evolved in yellow fever mosquitoes, Bargielowski said. That finding may help scientists predict population changes of the two mosquito populations.

In the current study, about 1 to 3 percent of the mosquitoes mated in the wild, said Bargielowski, who works at the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach.

“Model predictions, however, show that the rates we detected in the field are likely high enough to drive ecological change, such as reducing populations,” she said.

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Citrus Health Management Areas staving off greening with coordinated pesticide spraying

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, Entomology and Nematology, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

An Asian citrus psyllid feeds on a citrus tree, leaving the citrus greening bacteria. The bacteria will starve the tree of nutrients and eventually kill it.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — What’s a little pesticide among neighbors?  For Florida citrus growers, it could mean saving their trees that are under attack from the virulent citrus greening bacterium threatening to destroy the state’s $10.7 billion industry.

Entomologist Michael Rogers, director of the University of Florida’s Citrus Research and Education Center, is telling growers that one of the best approaches to managing citrus greening is to control the insect that spreads this disease. And the best way to do that is by coordinating their pesticide applications with their neighbors. (more …)

Book examines the use of predatory mites for biological control

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Biological control of pests, weeds, plants and animals gives “the best hope to providing lasting, environmentally sound and socially acceptable pest management,” according to a new book edited by two UF/IFAS scientists.

The book, “Prospects for Biological Control of Plant Feeding Mites and Other Harmful Organisms,” was recently published by Springer Science. It includes chapters by scientists in California, Kenya, Benin, Brazil, Colombia, Greece, Spain and New Zealand.

Research compiled in the book examines how predatory mites can be used to control other plant-eating mites and other harmful organisms such as stable flies, mushrooms flies and some soil pests, said Daniel Carrillo, a UF/IFAS assistant professor in entomology. The book serves as an important resource for anyone searching for efficient and sustainable biological methods of pest control. Biological control is vital because pests become more difficult to control as they build resistance to pesticides.

“So, biological control is a sound alternative,” Carrillo said. “You can release predatory mites to control spider mites, whiteflies and thrips, among other pests. People use them in greenhouses mostly.”

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It’s a bug-eat-bug world out there for strawberry growers

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Crops, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new University of Florida scientist is trying to find an insect that will eat the fly that’s damaging such fruit as strawberries and blueberries in the Sunshine State.

Such a finding would be critical in Florida, where the strawberry harvest brought in $267 million in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Justin Renkema, an assistant professor in entomology, recently developed tools to help determine whether he’s found a biological control for the Drosophila suzukii, commonly called the spotted wing drosophila.

Among other goals of the experiments, Renkema and his co-authors wanted to detect the DNA of spotted wing drosophila after it’s been eaten by a predatory rove beetle. This is a critical test to know whether one insect has eaten another, he said.

“The molecular tools we developed should be useful for testing whether other predators inhabiting fruit and berry fields consume spotted wing drosophila,” said Renkema, a new faculty member at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm.

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UF/IFAS scientists: Keep up your guard for West Nile virus

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research, Weather


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for more information and a video, click here: http://bit.ly/1IrtbSv

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While Florida has never experienced a serious West Nile virus epidemic, UF/IFAS scientists caution the public to remain vigilant about this dangerous mosquito-borne illness.

Meanwhile, UF/IFAS researchers continue to study ways to nip the virus in the bud and monitor its spread. Researchers at the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology in Vero Beach track rainfall, groundwater levels, mosquito abundance, wild bird populations and virus transmission to animals including horses and sentinel chickens. Researchers use these data to track the virus transmission between mosquitoes and wild birds, noting when mosquito infection rates reach the levels that can infect humans.

West Nile virus, first detected in the U.S. in New York City in 1999, and in Florida in 2001, has been confirmed hundreds of times nationally, and it can be lethal. For example, 779 cases (with 28 deaths) were reported in California in 2004, most from three southern California counties. The next summer, 880 cases (with 19 deaths) were reported in counties across the state.

The environmental conditions that favor West Nile virus transmission in Florida include very dry winter and early spring months, followed by heavy rainfall and short periods of drought – usually 10 to 14 days — in the late spring and early to mid-summer months.

Low winter temperatures also help to predict epidemic risk, especially in south Florida, said Jonathan Day, a professor at the UF/IFAS lab in Vero Beach. Years when exceptionally cold periods were reported in south Florida, such as 1977 and 1989, were followed by mosquito-borne virus epidemics.

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UF/IFAS scientists adapt household products to dupe and trap deadly disease-carrying insects in Africa

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Environment, IFAS, New Technology, Pests, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Crushed seashells and vinegar could be the key ingredients in an inexpensive and readily available way to lure and trap disease-carrying insects in developing nations, according to a new UF/IFAS study.

By using these simple ingredients, insect experts can find easier ways to trap and monitor disease-carrying insects, said Nathan Burkett-Cadena, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of entomology, who led the recent study.

Mosquitoes transmit malaria, West Nile virus and chikungunya virus.  Monitoring these insects is critical to understanding when and where to control them and lessen the risk of human disease. Insect experts the world over use carbon dioxide, the same gas that humans exhale, to attract blood-feeding bugs to traps, so they can measure their abundance, test them for diseases and make decisions about whether or not to control them.

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UF/IFAS to host Bee Research Symposium on July 15-16

Topic(s): Agriculture, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, IFAS

Honey bees crawling across a bee hive during a Bee College demonstration on grafting. Bees, beekeeping, pollinators, entomology. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is hosting the state’s first ever Bee Research Symposium, on July 15 and 16 at the Austin Cary Memorial Forest Conference Center. Symposium organizers are looking for research papers to discuss.

The meeting will bring together bee researchers and enthusiasts from across the region to discuss topics related to the study of bees, including honey bee colony losses, Africanized honey bees, pollination and native bee contributions to Florida agriculture. (more …)

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