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.”
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.
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.
Blue Tang breeding in captivity./Photo by Tyler Jones.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Finally, it may be possible for regular folks to find their own Dory, as researchers with the University of Florida Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory have successfully raised the Pacific Blue Tang in captivity. This is the first time that researchers have been able to raise the blue fish that now stars in a Disney movie.
“Like many research successes, it took a team of two UF biologists, faculty, graduate students and other staff to make it happen,” said Craig Watson, director of the UF Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory, which is part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “We worked with Rising Tide Conservation and the SeaWorld-Busch Gardens Conservation Fund to find a way to successfully breed Pacific Blue Tangs. It was a delicate, time-intensive endeavor, but one that has paid off.”
The project began approximately six years ago, when Watson was approached by Judy St. Leger from Rising Tide Conservation, Watson said. The program’s primary goal is to develop production technologies for key marine ornamental species, including Pacific Blue Tang, he said.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While California grows 99 percent of the nation’s artichokes, the edible plant high in antioxidants might get a chance to grow in the Sunshine State, if a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher gets good results from his field trials.
Artichokes flourish in a cool environment, so a warm winter might present an obstacle for Florida growers. Artichokes generally require at least 250 cumulative hours below 50 degrees for bud formation. Therefore, flowering must be artificially induced to produce artichokes in Florida.
Shinsuke Agehara, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of horticultural sciences, thinks he can overcome those barriers. Based at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida, Agehara recently received a nearly $90,000 federal grant to study how to establish an artichoke system for Florida growers.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Looking out over thousands of acres of tomatoes, Miguel Talavera, director of East Coast growing operations at Pacific Tomato Grower, Ltd., marvels at the narrow lanes of fruit that are thriving in the hot Florida sun. Talavera credits increase in yield and a decrease in the use of fumigants to a collaboration with researchers and Extension faculty at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Three years ago, Talavera began working with Sanjay Shukla, a professor in the agricultural and biological engineering department based at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, Florida. Shukla was researching what he calls “compact bed geometry,” which is used in plasticulture. Plasticulture – the use of plastic in agriculture – is used globally to produce high-value vegetable (e.g. tomato, pepper, eggplant) and some fruit crops.
The crops are grown on raised soils beds that are covered with plastic. The plastic mulch protects the crops from pests including weeds, provides a warmer soil environment and protects the fertilizer from being washed away, Shukla said. The end result is a high yield and consistent fruit quality, he said.
The plants are watered though plastic drip tubes which also carries fertilizer with them. Fumigants are mixed in the soil bed to protect the crop from disease, Shukla said. And, the wider the bed, the more the fumigant is needed, he added.
Instead of planting crops on beds that were normally 6 to 8 inches high and about 3 feet across, Shukla planted them 10 inches to a foot high and 1 ½ to 2 feet across. The crops were more narrow and higher.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When invasive Burmese pythons are breeding, radio-tracking one python can help find and capture more, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.
Thus, UF/IFAS scientists say this technique can help them remove the pythons.
“This is one more tool we can add to our tool box to help us combat this invasive species,” said Brian Smith, a graduate student in the UF/IFAS wildlife ecology and conservation department and lead author of a new study documenting the radio-tagging experiment. “It is also complementary to our current removal tool, in which we drive on roads and levees to capture moving pythons. It’s complementary because it’s effective at a time of year when we do not catch pythons on the road, and also because it provides more opportunities to catch the really big, breeding females.”
QUINCY, Fla.— University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension will host the Advanced Forest Site Prep Herbicide Workshop in Quincy, Florida to teach advanced techniques in herbicide applications.
The Advanced Forest Site Prep Herbicide Workshop is for natural resource managers who are responsible for site preparation decisions or implementation. The workshop will take place on July 13 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center.
This workshop will teach participants how to properly prepare a planting site for herbicide usage, review advanced technology in aerial application, different types of forestry surfactants and how herbicides work. There will also be a prescription process where experts will help participants diagnose a suitable herbicide program for the best vegetation management.
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AUGUSTINE, Fla. — During Florida’s wet summers, your backyard or patio area can easily become a breeding area for container mosquitoes, said Jim DeValerio, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension horticulture agent. Though there are no reports that mosquitoes are transmitting the Zika virus in Florida, residents should still take measures to prevent mosquitoes from living and breeding in their home landscapes, he said.
Here are DeValerio’s five tips homeowners can use to reduce mosquitoes on their properties.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The work of a plant pathologist, or plant doctor, is much like that of a regular doctor—you have sick patients who need treatment, said Monica Elliott, professor of plant pathology at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, who has organized a free plant pathology workshop for middle and high school teachers.
However, there is one crucial difference between curing plants and curing people that should put the more squeamish of the attendees at ease, Elliott said. “There’s no blood!”
Over the next few weeks, educators will spend the day at one of several UF/IFAS Research and Education Centers across the state learning the basics of plant pathology and the role it plays in growing healthy crops. The workshops are designed to give teachers material they can bring back to their classrooms.