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Citrus industry set to welcome state-of-the-art greenhouse at Mid-Florida REC in Apopka

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Citrus, IFAS, RECs

 

The UF/IFAS Mid-Florida REC in Apopka is home to a new $200,000 citrus nursery greenhouse.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The citrus industry has just gotten its own state-of-the-art greenhouse, dedicated solely to citrus nursery research as the state continues its fight against citrus greening – and industry and research officials are set to celebrate the gift March 25.

The $200,000 facility is located at the University of Florida’s Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka.  Officials say it was built there to shield the young plants from greening in the state’s main citrus-crowing areas of Central and South Florida, as federal guidelines suggest. (more …)

New study finds Burmese pythons have homing sense

Topic(s): Invasive Species, RECs, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If you pick them up and drop them in a new location, most snakes will move rapidly but erratically, often traversing the same terrain before giving up and settling into their new digs.

Burmese pythons aren’t most snakes.

A team of researchers including scientists from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has discovered that the giant snakes – which have invaded and affected the food chain in Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve – can find their way home even when moved more than 20 miles away.

The findings, to be published March 19 by the Royal Society’s Biology Letters, change how researchers understand pythons’ behaviors and intellect.

“This is way more sophisticated behavior than we’ve been attributing to them,” said Frank Mazzotti, a UF/IFAS wildlife ecology and conservation professor based at the Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center. “It’s one of those things where nature makes us go ‘wow.’ That is truly the significance of this.”

In 2006 and 2007, researchers captured 12 pythons and surgically implanted radio transmitters that allowed them to track the snakes’ movements. As a control group, they returned six of the snakes to the spot of their capture and turned them loose.

The remaining six snakes were taken to spots ranging from 13 to 22 miles away from where they had been captured and turned loose. To the researchers’ surprise, the snakes oriented themselves toward “home” and maintained their bearings as they traveled.

And although it took between 94 and 296 days for five of the six snakes to get within three miles of home, partly due to it being the snakes’ dormant season, the reptiles kept that orientation – a clear signal to scientists that the snakes have both “map” and “compass” senses.

The relocated snakes appeared to use local cues at the release site to understand their position relative to home (the map sense), and appeared to use cues along the way (their compass sense) to ensure that they remained on track, although the researchers don’t yet know what those cues are: smell, perhaps the stars, light or some kind of magnetic force.

Mazzotti said it’s helpful for researchers to know that the snakes move purposefully through their environment, but in reality, it’s not that much help.

“It amps up a little bit our concern about the snakes, but given all the other things we know about pythons, the amount of increasing concern is minor,” he said.

The Burmese python has been an invasive species in South Florida since about 2000 likely stemming from accidental or purposeful releases by former pet owners. The largest python found in the Everglades area had grown to more than 18 feet.

The snakes suffocate and eat even large animals, such as deer and alligators, and in 2012, a research team that included Mazzotti found severe declines in sightings in python-heavy areas of native animals including raccoons, opossum, bobcats and rabbits.

In 2012, the federal government banned the import and interstate trade of four exotic snake species: the Burmese python, the yellow anaconda, and North and South African python.

Besides Mazzotti, the team of authors behind the Biology Letters paper include lead author Shannon Pittman, a doctoral candidate at University of Missouri-Columbia; Kristen Hart, a United States Geological Survey researcher, Michael Cherkiss, a USGS senior wildlife biologist; Skip Snow, a United States National Park Service biologist, Ikuko Fujisaki, a quantitative ecologist with the Fort Lauderdale REC, Brian Smith, a USGS biologist and Michael Dorcas, a Davidson College biology professor.

A link to frequently asked questions:

http://www.usgs.gov/faq/categories/10721/4751

Contacts

Writer: Mickie Anderson, 352-273-3566, mickiea@ufl.edu

Source: Frank Mazzotti, 954-577-6338, fjma@ufl.edu

Photo caption: A snake handler displays a Burmese python for onlookers at the 2013 Python Challenge event at the Ft. Lauderdale Research and Education Center in Davie, Florida. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

UF/IFAS names Calvin Arnold to lead Southwest Florida Research and Education Center

Topic(s): Announcements, RECs

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Calvin Arnold, who led the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center for 10 years, will return to that post next month, UF’s Jack Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, announced Tuesday.

“We are so fortunate to have Dr. Arnold back with UF/IFAS,” Payne said. “He is well- versed in the issues that are most critical for agricultural producers in that region, which is a huge advantage, and he’s a great leader, as well.”

(more …)

UF researchers find genetic cause for citrus canker, putting them a step closer to a cure

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, IFAS, RECs

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers from the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida are closer to finding a possible cure for citrus canker after identifying a gene that makes citrus trees susceptible to the bacterial pathogen.

Citrus canker, which causes pustules on fruit, leaves and twigs, is a highly contagious plant disease and spreads rapidly over short distances. Wind-driven rain, overhead irrigation, flooding and human movement can spread citrus canker. Human transport of infected plants or fruit spreads the canker pathogen over longer distances. (more …)

Nuessly named interim director of UF’s Everglades Research and Education Center

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, RECs

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gregg Nuessly, a professor of entomology and nematology at the University of Florida’s Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade, has been named interim director of the center.

Nuessly has worked at the Everglades research center since 1989 and has served as associate center director for the past two years. The center is part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“As interim center director, I will work to broaden statewide cooperative efforts for research and extension while continuing the mission of the EREC and UF,” Nuessly said. “The strength of the EREC lies with the diverse faculty and staff collaborating in interdisciplinary research and extension to solve local and regional agricultural and wildlife issues. Our strong relationships with local growers and groups are also key to past and future successes for the EREC.”

(more …)

Auburn soil science professor named center director at West Florida REC

Topic(s): Announcements, RECs

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences this week named Wes Wood, an expert in nutrient management, to head its West Florida Research and Education Center in Jay and Milton, Fla.

Wood is currently a professor of soil science at Auburn University, where he is also the coordinator for the university-wide environmental science undergraduate major. In addition to teaching classes in nutrient management, soils and environmental quality, Wood conducts research on carbon and nutrient cycling in managed and natural ecosystems.

(more …)

UF/IFAS irrigation apps for urban turfgrass, strawberry and citrus now available

Topic(s): Conservation, New Technology, RECs, Uncategorized

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The University of Florida has released three smart device apps of interest to those in the irrigation business, and for the time being, users can download them for free.

The first three apps to be released were designed for citrus, strawberry and urban turfgrass irrigators, said Kati Migliaccio, an associate professor in agricultural and biological engineering, based at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Fla.

(more …)

UF/IFAS professor takes on interim post at Southwest Florida Research and Education Center

Topic(s): Announcements, RECs, Uncategorized

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A longtime UF/IFAS professor will step into the role of interim director at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, officials have announced.

Phil Stansly, an entomologist who conducts research on pests affecting major crops grown in southwest Florida, including citrus and vegetables, will begin his new job Nov. 1.

(more …)

UF researchers identify citrus cultivars that show promise in battle against greening

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, IFAS, New Technology, Pests, RECs, Research

Click above for video about citrus breeding and citrus greening research.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers have some encouraging results in the battle against citrus greening.

They have identified citrus cultivars, in this case 16 citrus rootstocks, most of which show a lower rate of infection and more tolerance to citrus greening – the dreaded disease that has wreaked havoc through Florida’s citrus industry since its arrival in the state in 2005.

(more …)

UF/IFAS research: termite ‘poop’ nest material creates natural antibiotic

Topic(s): Pests, RECs, Research, Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For some 50 years, scientists have tried — but failed — to find a way to use microbes as a means of biological control for destructive subterranean termites.

University of Florida researchers have now discovered why termites have proven to be so disease resistant. Termites use their own feces as nest-building material. The fecal nest promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria, which in turn suppress pathogens — or in plainer words: termite poop works as a natural antibiotic.

Besides improving termite control, the findings could help pave the way for new human antibiotics.

(more …)

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