IFAS News

University of Florida

As UF/IFAS CREC turns 100, it celebrates decades working with Florida Department of Citrus

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, Crops, Cultivars, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, RECs, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Citrus Research and Education Center celebrates its 100th anniversary, administrators are praising a decades-long relationship between researchers with CREC and the Florida Department of Citrus in bringing healthy, nutritious fruit and juice to your home.

“Housing the FDOC and CREC scientists at the same location has brought together the expertise needed to address any issue facing the Florida citrus industry, from the field to the grocery store shelf, and everywhere in between,” said Michael Rogers, director of the Citrus REC. “We’ve had a long and productive history working together to support the Florida citrus industry and continue to do so, as we are both working together to develop solutions for citrus greening disease.”

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Youth potato project plants seeds of STEM careers

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When the Flagler County 4-H members started growing their own potato plants at home, they were a little worried at first.

“They would come to me and say, ‘I don’t see any potatoes on my plant. What’s wrong?’” said Amy Hedstrom, a Flagler County 4-H youth development agent with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension.

“That was the day they learned potatoes grew in the ground, not above-ground,” Hedstrom said. ‘“Aha” moments like these really open their eyes to the science behind the food we eat.”

These youth are part of the Tri-County 4-H Potato Project created in 2015 by the UF/IFAS Extension 4-H programs in Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties. In addition to growing their own potatoes, youth also participate in planting and harvest field days at the UF/IFAS Hastings Agricultural Extension Center facility on Cowpen Branch Road.

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POSTPONED: UF/IFAS networking event to focus on organic agriculture

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Extension, IFAS

Please note that this event has been postponed.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As organic food goes mainstream, more small farms are looking to get into the industry, says Jim DeValerio, agriculture agent for Bradford County with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension program.

“We’ve seen growing demand in small farm communities for more opportunities to learn about organic agriculture, and meet others who are also interested in going organic,” DeValerio said.

Growers will have a chance to do just that at the next meeting of the Florida Agriculture Network (FAN), April 25 from 4 to 6 p.m. at 1655 SE 23rd Place in Gainesville, Florida. Attendees will tour two organic farms, mingle with other growers and help inform future UF/IFAS research.

Those interested in attending can register at http://tinyurl.com/l5yzv2y or call the UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County office at 352-955-2402. Registration is $15.

Organized by UF/IFAS Extension faculty, FAN meetings help growers to network and also meet their local county Extension agent — all in one place.

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The problem expands for avocado growers: More beetle species carry deadly fungus

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Many people love their avocados – not to mention guacamole dip. So it was bad enough when scientists said a beetle was ravaging avocado trees in South Florida. Then scientists found out that the redbay ambrosia beetle — originally determined to transmit laurel wilt — is rare in avocado groves but that six other beetle species could carry the laurel wilt pathogen.

That’s more species for scientists to track down and study. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences economists have estimated avocados bring a $100 million-a-year economic impact to South Florida.

In a new study, UF/IFAS plant pathology professor Randy Ploetz said scientists found three more types of beetles that can carry the pathogen that can kill avocado trees.

Scientist say they still don’t know how many species of ambrosia beetle transmit the fungus that causes laurel wilt, also known as Raffaelea lauricola. To serve as a “vector,” the insect must interact with the tree and the pathogen, and that interaction is hard to study, said Ploetz, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida.

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Nutrients are nice, but produce better pass the taste test

Topic(s): Agriculture, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Research, Vegetables

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Consumers want produce that tickles their taste buds and is easy on the eye, but they think quality fruits and vegetables are a matter of luck, according to University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.

The fact that consumers purchase produce to satisfy their senses – not necessarily for its nutrients — should prove particularly important for growers and grocers to understand, UF/IFAS researchers say.

“They choose based on aroma and appearance,” said Amy Simonne, a professor in the UF/IFAS family, youth and community sciences department and lead author of this research. “Consumers might want to change the way they choose fruit.”

Jeff Brecht, a UF/IFAS professor of horticultural sciences and a study co-author, said the appearance of produce does not always correlate well with its flavor or aroma.

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Bumblebees boost blueberry yield

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Bumblebees can boost blueberry yield by 70 percent, good news for Florida growers in the heart of their blueberry season, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

The news also accentuates the need for blueberry pollinators, said Joshua Campbell, a post-doctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS entomology and nematology department.

After caging bumblebee hives with highbush blueberry bushes, researchers found that 70 percent of the flowers produced blueberries, while less than 10 percent of those without bumblebee hives produced blueberries. That’s helpful news for blueberry growers, said Campbell, co-author of a new study published in the Journal of Environmental Entomology.

“We think our findings are very relevant for growers who are growing blueberries in greenhouses and high tunnels,” Campbell said.

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Male jumping spiders court whomever, whenever; females decide who lives, dies

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Male jumping spiders will try to mate with any female, but that lack of discretion could cost them their lives, says a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher.

In a newly published study, UF/IFAS entomologist Lisa Taylor and her team documented the courting techniques of jumping spiders. They found that male spiders spend much time and energy – including singing and dancing — trying to mate with potential females, even when these females are the wrong species.

“We think that one reason these displays have evolved in male jumping spiders is to compensate for the fact that they can’t tell females of closely related species apart,” Taylor said. “Males run around courting everything that looks remotely like a female, and they place themselves at a very high risk of cannibalism from hungry females of the wrong species who have no interest in mating with them.”

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Time to mow more: It’s good for the environment and for curb appeal

Topic(s): Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Florida Friendly, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Research, Soil and Water Science

 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With higher temperatures come higher lawns, so now that spring is in full swing, you may mow more often. When you do, you help preserve the environment and keep your yard aesthetically pleasing, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences expert says.

Environmentally, proper lawn care can help prevent nutrients from flowing into nearby waterways, said Jason Kruse, a UF/IFAS associate professor of environmental horticulture. Mowing helps increase canopy density, increases soil stability and prevents soil erosion. These changes in the lawn will help limit fertilizer and other nutrients from flowing into waterways, Kruse said.

In addition to taking care of the environment, most people mow their lawns because they want them to look good. So how often should you mow? That depends on several factors, including the kind of grass on your lawn, time of season, amount of shade and desired use, Kruse said. If you have St. Augustinegrass, you have to mow at taller heights because it has course-textured leaf blades. If you have bermudagrass, you’ll want to mow closer to the soil because of its numerous narrow leaf blades and lower growth habit.

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UF helps residents save at least 65 million gallons in outdoor irrigation annually

Topic(s): Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Florida Friendly, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Participants in a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension program saved 65 million gallons in outdoor irrigation in 2016, enough to supply 15 subdivisions with water for a year, UF/IFAS experts say.

“UF/IFAS is making a difference with our limited water resources,” said Laura Warner, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication. “Seemingly small drops in the bucket really add up when we look at the big picture across the state and over time.”

Using less water also saves money: $200,000 a year in tap water utility bills, said Tatiana Borisova, a co-investigator and a UF/IFAS associate professor of food and resource economics.

Their figures come from a sample of Extension agents in 16 Florida counties, so the savings may be greater, the researchers said.

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Americans are water conscious, UF/IFAS survey shows

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Florida Friendly, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Shorten showers. Limit lawn irrigation. For the most part, Americans get it: They are fairly water conscious, according to a new national survey conducted by a team of University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.

UF/IFAS researchers based their assessment on responses to a survey of 1,052 respondents. The poll shows 46 percent are “water considerate;” 44 percent of the participants are what researchers classified as “water savvy conservationists” and 9 percent are not concerned about water conservation.

“Water considerate” consumers take a few actions to conserve water but could stand some improvement, said Laura Warner, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication. “Water savvy conservationists” are most likely to engage in landscape irrigation conservation practices, and they’re more likely to use professionals for various landscape tasks. The savvy ones are also more likely to have social support or perceive expectations to conserve from friends and family, Warner said.

So-called “unconcerned water users” lack the strong perceived value for water resources, said Warner, who is also affiliated with the UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology.

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