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.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In a recent study, researchers with the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences in cooperation with Florida A&M University economists estimated that a 34-year program to control invasive pest mole crickets in the state has saved cattlemen approximately 13.6 million dollars a year. Over the long term, that figure balloons to 453 million dollars.
“The partnership with the State of Florida has been crucial to controlling the mole crickets,” said Norm Leppla, a UF/IFAS professor of entomology and nematology. “The Mole Cricket Biological Control Program has been worth every penny invested by the Florida Legislature and other stakeholders in the state.”
UF/IFAS researchers remember when the mole crickets reached outbreak levels in Florida during the mid-1900s and began wreaking hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of damage to crops, pastures and turf. Cattlemen were beside themselves as they watched the tiny insects tear across their pastures like a biblical swarm of locusts. The effects were devastating, but not irreversible.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher who uses steam to help treat citrus trees infected by greening, will receive this year’s Citrus Engineer of the Year Award.
Reza Ehsani, a UF/IFAS associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, will receive the award June 21 at the 59th Biennial Citrus Engineering Symposium at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center (REC) in Lake Alfred, Florida.
“I am very honored and grateful to receive this award,” said Ehsani, a faculty member at the Citrus REC. “It means a lot to me because it shows my efforts and contributions to the engineering aspects of citrus production have been of value and have been noticed and recognized by my peers.”
Michael Rogers, director of the Citrus REC, touted Ehsani’s work in using steam to help citrus trees infected by greening, or HLB as it’s known in scientific circles.
“The premise of his work is that, by using steam to kill the bacteria in the above-ground portion of the tree, growers can buy additional years of productivity of a grove before it must be replanted,” Rogers said. “The machine designs he has created are being used by several startup companies around the state. He definitely deserves the recognition.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — People in Palm Beach County can help manage a potential outbreak of the Q-biotype whitefly through early detection and identification of the insect, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.
This significant tropical and subtropical pest may threaten Florida crops such as tomatoes, squash, beans, watermelons and many other vegetables and ornamentals if immediate measures are not taken to prevent its spread. Known scientifically as Bemisia tabaci, the Q-biotype is a light-colored, flying insect slightly less than 1 millimeter in length. Thus far, the Q-biotype whitefly has been reported in all four quadrants of Palm Beach County – north, east, south and west – said Lance Osborne, a UF/IFAS entomology professor.
To find and detect this whitely, residents should first look at hibiscus plants because those are host plants to which this whitefly species will likely gravitate. They should also take a look at their poinsettia plants, Osborne said. There are two types of this whitefly species: Q-biotype and B-biotype, and they look virtually the same, so it’s critical to get a genetic analysis to determine if you have the Q-biotype whitefly.
APOPKA, Fla. — If you’re browsing plants in a nursery or home-improvement store, labels such as “pollinator friendly” will likely influence which plants you end up buying, according to a recent study by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.
Postdoctoral research associate Alicia Rihn and assistant professor Hayk Khachatryan co-authored the study, which appears in the journal HortScience. Both Rihn and Khachatryan are researchers in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department at the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education center in Apopka, Florida.
Rihn and Khachatryan wanted to know how labels such as “pollinator friendly” would influence consumer attitudes. “We wondered, which pollinator insect related labels are the most effective and which do consumers prefer?” Khachatryan said. “At the time of our study, these topics had not been addressed.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Figure this: Asian and Formosan subterranean termites cause about $32 billion in damage annually, worldwide, when you combine harm to structures and measures to control them. Now, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers predict these pests will dramatically increase their impact in the next two decades in South Florida and possibly across the nation.
In fact, UF/IFAS entomologists estimate subterranean termite activity will expand, meaning half the structures in South Florida will be at risk of infestation by subterranean termites by 2040.
Assistant Researcher Thomas Chouvenc, Distinguished Professor Nan-Yao Su and Professor Rudy Scheffrahn will publish their new study in June in the journal Florida Entomologist.
Six invasive termite species are now established in Florida, and among these, the Formosan subterranean termite, the Asian subterranean termite and the West Indian drywood termite pose particular concern for residents and the pest-control industry because they cause most of the structural damage.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As the laurel wilt pathogen casts a cloud over the $100-million-a-year Florida avocado industry, University of Florida researchers continue to look for clues to prevent the pathogen from spreading.
The main culprit has been the redbay ambrosia beetle, which has infected millions of native redbay and swampbay trees with the laurel wilt pathogen, but it is rarely seen in commercial avocado orchards.
UF/IFAS scientists now know that several other ambrosia beetles are carrying the laurel wilt pathogen; two native ambrosia beetles are capable of carrying it and transmitting the disease to avocados, said Daniel Carrillo, a UF/IFAS assistant professor in tropical fruit entomology.
Scientists at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida, are focused on understanding and then disrupting the association between these native beetles and laurel wilt, said Carrillo, a faculty member at the Tropical REC. This spring, Carrillo detected an outbreak of another ambrosia beetle, the Tea Shot Hole Borer, which can spread another disease of avocados known as fusarium wilt.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Conventional wisdom says removing beach debris helps sea turtles nest; now, as sea-turtle nesting season gets underway, a new University of Florida study proves it. In the study, clearing the beach of flotsam and jetsam increased the number of nests by as much as 200 percent, while leaving the detritus decreased the number by nearly 50 percent.
Sea turtles in Florida are classified as either endangered or threatened, depending on the species. Restoring their nesting habitats is critical to keeping them alive, said Ikuko Fujisaki, an assistant research professor of wildlife ecology and conservation with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
With humans encroaching on their natural habitat, sea turtles face an uphill climb to stay alive, said Fujisaki, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center. Sea turtles spend most of their lives in the sea, but they rely on sandy beaches to reproduce.
FORT PIERCE, Fla. — An entomologist recognized internationally as a specialist in biological control of insect pests has been named interim director of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Indian River Research and Education Center.
Ronald Cave will serve as the sixth leader of the Indian River REC.
From the Indian River REC’s 1947 start as the Indian River Field Laboratory, it has served agricultural and natural resources interests with research, Extension and education programs.
Cave was appointed to his new position by Jack Payne, UF senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources.
“In this challenging time for the citrus industry and for other agricultural commodities, we cannot afford a leadership gap even for a few months,” Payne said. “Ron Cave is the right leader for this transition because of his accomplishments as a scientist, his dedication as a mentor and his familiarity with the center. It’s this combination of excellence and stability that makes him an ideal choice for this important role.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — David Wright, an agronomy professor and University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension specialist, makes it his mission to get farmers to grow more grass. This will increase profits, reduce risk of disease and pests on row crops that follow, and conserve natural resources, according to the researcher.
The benefits in rotating perennial grass (sod) with row crops, Wright says, may help farmers boost profits two- to seven-fold. Currently, more farmers are adopting the practice. Funding is being provided by the Florida Water Management Districts and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and through EQIP funds from National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Wright says.
Wright, based at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, Florida, has been researching sod-based rotation for more than 16 years. Sod-based rotation involves planting a perennial grass, such as bahia, for several years, and then planting row crops such as cotton, peanut, soybean or cotton after killing out the sod.