IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS expert offers food safety tips for new school year

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS

Kids in a school cafeteria to promote the My Plate and YUM nutrition programs.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As your child returns to school next month, you can help him or her eat safely at school. You also can count on federal, state and local officials to be trained to make sure your child’s school meals are safe, says a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences food safety researcher.

Amy Simonne, a professor and food safety Extension specialist in family, youth and community sciences at UF/IFAS, gives these school food-safety tips:

Keep cold lunches cold and hot lunches hot. Discard the food after lunch.

  • Keep everything clean: Before you start packing lunches, wash your hands with soap and warm water. “That’s the minimum they can do,” she said.

 

  • Don’t cross-contaminate: Harmful bacteria can spread through the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils and countertops. Always wash cutting board, dishes, utensils and countertops.
  • Pack just the amount of perishable food that can be eaten at lunchtime.Find out more at http://bit.ly/1uw0wUy.

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Strauss joins UF/IFAS fight against citrus greening

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Citrus, Crops, Extension, IFAS, RECs, Research, Soil and Water Science

Sarah Strauss

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new researcher has joined the University of Florida’s fight against citrus greening, which has devastated the state’s industry. Sarah Strauss, a soil microbiologist most recently from Davis, California, has accepted a position at the UF/IFAS Southwest Research and Education Center in Immokalee, Florida.

Strauss, an assistant professor with an Extension appointment, focuses on characterizing and managing plant and soil microbial community interactions to improve citrus and vegetable crop health and productivity. “The battle against citrus greening has looked at the rootstock, but not necessarily the soil. I hope my research can offer insight into what is going on with the soil of affected trees and how to improve the plant health by improving the soil,” she said.

According to Jack Payne, UF’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, Strauss is the only soil microbiologist in Southwest Florida. “Dr. Strauss is a critical hire because she brings unique skills and talents to the search for a cure to citrus greening,” Payne said. “In addition, she is passionate about helping stakeholders in Florida succeed. It’s one of the main reasons that she came to UF/IFAS—to share her knowledge with those who need it most.”

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Entomologist joins UF/IFAS to help solve citrus greening

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Citrus, Crops, Entomology and Nematology, Extension, IFAS, New Technology, RECs, Research

Qureshi

FORT PIERCE, Fla. – An entomologist with 10 years of research focused on the state’s iconic citrus industry has joined the faculty of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Indian River Research and Education Center.

Named Entomologist of the Year in 2012 by the Florida Entomological Society, Jawwad A. Qureshi was selected for a new position as assistant professor of entomology at UF/IFAS IRREC, near Fort Pierce, Florida. The UF/IFAS Fort Pierce location is part of the university’s statewide service to agriculture, providing research, extension and education for producers.

“Dr. Qureshi is one of the world’s few entomologists who have expertise in integrated pest management focused specifically on citrus,” said UF/IFAS IRREC interim director Ronald D. Cave. “His work is much needed in the region known worldwide for the highest quality fresh citrus product.”

According to Cave, Qureshi’s expertise with insect pest management for the citrus industry is critically valuable to the state’s citrus industry at a time when huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening, has had a negative impact on the crop statewide.

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UF/IFAS expert has five back-to-school tips for busy families

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Randy Cantrell knows how to make things run smoothly. As both a father and a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher who studies how households can live harmoniously, he’s nearly always thinking about how best to keep a family in sync.

Some of Cantrell’s recent research has focused on what he calls “homeflow.” Homeflow measures how well a family works together to maintain an organized living space and routine.

“The family unit and the dwelling are not separate things but part of one system,” Cantrell explained.

With the start of the school year just around the corner, Cantrell recognizes that getting kids ready and out the door is a challenge for many households. Check out Cantrell’s five tips for keeping the peace and establishing your own homeflow.

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UF/IFAS research could lead to more and healthier sorghum

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

Dr. Wilfred Vermerri, associate professor, Department of Agronomy, performs detailed compositional analyses of improved bioenergy sorghums using a mass spectrometer in his laboratory at the University of Florida Genetics Institute.  2010 Annual Research Report Photo.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher has identified two areas of the sorghum genome that could boost the plant’s resistance to the anthracnose disease.

This finding could be a key to expanding sorghum production in the Southeast, said Wilfred Vermerris, an associate professor of microbiology and cell science with UF/IFAS. Most sorghum does not grow well in the Southeast because the hot and humid weather provides ideal conditions for the growth of the fungus that causes anthracnose, with leaf blight and stem rot as its symptoms.

Sorghum is a source for table syrup and cattle feed that also shows great potential as a source for biofuel. It a huge grain: By acreage, it’s the fifth largest cereal crop in the world and the third largest in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2014, the U.S. was the largest producer of sorghum in the world.

For the latest study, Vermerris and other UF scientists used ‘Bk7,’ an anthracnose-resistant grain sorghum developed by Dan Gorbet, a professor emeritus of agronomy at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center.

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New method could quash squash pests

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Extension, IFAS, Pests, Research

Dr. Oscar Liburd conducts research on the management of thrips in blueberries.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida grows more zucchini squash than anywhere else in America – to the tune of $70 million a year. To help improve production, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are developing a method to keep squash pests at bay.

For a newly published study, Janine Spies, a post-doctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS entomology department, simultaneously planted buckwheat with squash and found the method kept pests away while retaining yields at current levels. Furthermore, she and her colleagues manipulated how they planted buckwheat and squash.

“Pests like whiteflies and aphids transmit viruses to squash and can significantly reduce yield, and the money we make on squash,” Spies said. “This is why it is important to reduce the number of whiteflies and aphids that land on squash and to prevent the transmission of viruses.”

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UF/IFAS-developed web tool saves money for strawberry growers in several states

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

Strawberry forecasting feature photos for the 2010 IFAS Annual Research Report.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A UF/IFAS-developed web tool – which has been shown to save Florida strawberry growers $1.7 million a year – is now being used in several other states, including Maryland, Georgia, South Carolina and California.

Florida’s strawberry crop is worth $300 million a year. It’s also important to the national economy. For example, in 2014, the United States produced 3 billion pounds of strawberries, valued at nearly $2.9 billion, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Florida ranks second to California in strawberry production.

While gaining a foothold in other states, the tool is getting more useful, thanks to work by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers. Scientists have found a promising model to simulate leaf wetness in plants of strawberries.

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UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County 4-H team headed to national forestry competition

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

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AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Henry Keating, 15, and Cayla and Jeremy Smith, 15 and 17, can tell a fir tree from a spruce — no small feat for three kids who grew up in St. Johns County, Florida, where firs and spruces don’t grow.

As part of the UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County 4-H forestry team, it’s been several years since these three could walk into a forest and simply see “trees.” Instead, they see features such as leaf shape and branching pattern, clues to the trees’ species. For example, “spruces have rounder needles, while firs have flatter ones,” said Jeremy.

Keating and the Smiths won this year’s Florida 4-H state forestry competition and are now headed to the National 4-H Forestry Invitational in Jackson’s Mill, West Virginia. The competition is set for July 31 to Aug. 4.

The St. Johns team will compete with other 4-H teams from across the country, demonstrating mastery of various skills, such as estimating the amount of timber in a tree and planning the development of forested land. They will also need to identify 81 tree species, including fir and spruce, nearly twice the number of trees they had to know at the state level.

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UF/IFAS citizen scientists work to monitor, report invasive reptile species in south Florida

Topic(s): Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species

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FORT PIERCE, Fla. — The toughest part of wrangling a Burmese python is not pinning it down, but getting the entire 7-foot long snake into the cotton snake bag, said Ellen Butler, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Master Naturalist.

“He almost got away from me,” she said. “I frankly can still not believe that I did it. Now when I’m in the field and I come across a snake, I have a lot more confidence.”

Butler is one of several Florida Master Naturalists who learned to catch Burmese pythons to complete their Master Naturalist final project on invasive reptiles. Those who complete this project can become citizen scientists in the Everglades Invasive Reptile and Amphibian Monitoring (EIRAMP) Citizen Science Program.

These citizen scientists help researchers collect data on invasive species in south Florida and educate the public about the issue. Invasive species are animals that are not native to the region and compete with native species, which can throw ecosystems out of balance.

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England named director of UF/IFAS Hastings Agricultural Extension Center

Topic(s): Extension, Honors and Appointments, IFAS

Gary England.  Photo taken 9-1-15

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HASTINGS, Fla. — Gary England has been named director of the UF/IFAS Hastings Agricultural Extension Center in Hastings, Florida. The center is a resource for residents and agricultural producers in northeast Florida, a region known for both potatoes and surging urban development.

“We are extremely pleased to have Gary England serve in this new leadership role at Hastings,” said Nick Place, dean of UF/IFAS Extension. “Gary brings a wealth of experience in agriculture, applied research and farm management. He has outstanding skills and expertise to ensure that we have a strong and impactful program at our Hastings facility that addresses the current and emerging needs of agricultural producers in northeast Florida.”

England, who grew up in Ohio, attended the University of Florida as an undergraduate with the goal of becoming a golf course superintendent. After working in the golf industry, he returned to UF to earn a master’s degree in weed science.

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