GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A valuable UF/IFAS program that helps save the state millions of dollars annually in controlling invasive plants and insects will likely close after a veto by Gov. Rick Scott on Monday.
An approved increase by the Legislature of $180,000 was denied, and the facility also lost all funding. The state-of-the-art lab opened in 2004 at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce with $3.9 million in state funding.
The center will probably close, and 12 positions will be eliminated, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agricultural and natural resources.
The quarantine facility is a highly secure lab where scientists conduct research on biological controls for invasive species. Scientists introduce, evaluate and release biological control agents to try to manage exotic weeds and insect pests in Florida.
Florida has the largest invasive infestations in the nation. Invasive species cost Florida approximately $100 million a year, Payne said. Scientists at the lab helped control the tropical soda apple, an invasive weed, through the release of 250,000 South American beetles. The move saved cattle ranchers about $5.75 million a year, Payne said.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida officials expressed thanks Monday for the $180,000 increase in the state budget that’s slated for the quarantine research facility at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce.
With the additional funding, scientists will be able to expand foreign exploration to identify new candidate biological control agents of Florida’s worst invasive plants and insects, and support intensified laboratory studies that are required to ensure agents are safe for release, said Bill Overholt, a UF/IFAS entomology professor who works at the quarantine facility.
With biological control such as one bug eating another, scientists and growers can use a sustainable, cost-effective solution to manage invasive plant and insect problems.
“The facility needs an increase in the amount of operating funds in order to reach its full potential,” said Mary Ann Gosa-Hooks, director of UF/IFAS Government Affairs. “We can do so much more, but with costs continuing to increase, while the facility continues to function on the same budget since 2004, activities are somewhat limited.”
See caption below
Belle Glade, Fla. — Throughout the past two decades, University of Florida researcher Richard Raid has seen barn owl populations in the Everglades Agricultural Area, centered around Belle Glade, expand from mere dozens to more than 400 nesting pairs.
But these beneficial raptors, currently listed as a threatened species, are now being threatened by Africanized honey bees. Swarming as frequently as eight times per year, the invasive bees have been taking over nesting boxes Raid and students have built for the owls, using them as hives, and displacing or even killing the desired raptors. (more …)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida has nearly 70 million citrus trees on more than 531,500 acres. Now imagine trying to figure out what pesticide to spray on each of those trees to keep them safe from citrus greening.
University of Florida researcher James Tansey says the answer is as close as your Android smartphone with a new app developed with ZedX, an information technologies company based in Pennsylvania. The free phone program allows citrus farmers to enter in about a dozen variables — like the type of crop, insect pressure, harvest date, previous spray history, and whether the crop will be for fresh fruit or juice and for export or domestic markets — to determine the best pesticide to use. There are also record-keeping options, and the app keeps track of sites with gps. (more …)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Low-altitude aerial images can detect laurel wilt, a devastating avocado disease, giving growers an early way to identify diseased trees and perhaps help reduce losses to the $100 million-a-year economic impact avocados provide Florida.
Reza Ehsani, an associate professor in agricultural and biological engineering at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, used a multi-spectral camera that distinguishes between laurel wilt-affected trees and healthy ones.
Images taken with the camera from a helicopter have significant implications in the management of this important disease and for the commercial avocado industry in Florida. Ehsani said he expects the Federal Aviation Administration to open U.S. airspace for commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles, which could be equipped with such cameras, by 2017.
“Ultimately, we think that small UAVs, equipped with the right multi-band camera, can be used for scouting for this disease, which could potentially be very cost-effective,” Ehsani said. “The results of this study will enable growers or service companies that use UAVs to detect this disease at an early stage.”
See caption below
IMMOKALEE, Fla. — The backhoes are ready and rebar marks off where new walls will stand as the University of Florida’s Southwest Florida Research and Education Center gets ready to break ground officially on a 7,000-square-foot expansion Thursday. (more …)
Pictured top (left to right) Robert Fletcher, Michelle Danyluk and Bin Gao; second row (left to right) Zhenli He, Jose Eduardo Santos and Gary Peter.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Six University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty members, who are trying to solve global issues like food safety and environmental sustainability, have been named as UF Research Foundation Professors for 2015-18.
The recognition goes to faculty who demonstrate a distinguished record of research and a strong research agenda that’s likely to continue to distinguish them in their fields.
“When I look at the breadth of research exemplified by these talented scientists, I am reminded of the complexity and breadth of the IFAS mission, and how fortunate we are to have people of such high caliber working in a university that places such a high value on research and invests so heavily in the research enterprise,” said Doug Archer, UF/IFAS associate dean of research.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida scientist has developed a fertilizer for palm trees that should keep them healthy and reduce water pollution.
Environmental horticulture Professor Tim Broschat found that applying a palm fertilizer with no nitrogen or phosphorus could prevent the harmful effects of lawnfertilizers on palms.
“We also found that most palms do not need any phosphorus in their fertilizer to be healthy, and by not applying this element, we can eliminate one possible source of water pollution in Florida,” said Broschat, a faculty member at UF’s Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Nan-Yao Su, the University of Florida scientist who invented the Sentricon® system for termite colony elimination, has been selected for induction into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame.
Sentricon®, the first commercial baiting product for subterranean termites, has protected millions of structures, including the White House and the Statue of Liberty.
The Hall of Fame selection committee chose nominees whose inventions and achievements have “advanced the quality of life for Floridians, our state and our nation,” according to a letter to Su from hall of fame Program Manager William Nikolic.
Su said he feels honored to be mentioned alongside such great inventors as Thomas Edison and UF’s own Robert Cade, who invented Gatorade®.
“I am glad that I can contribute to the quality of life of many homeowners in Florida and worldwide,” Su said.
UF/IFAS entomology Professor Nan-Yao Su
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two of the most destructive termite species in the world — responsible for much of the $40 billion in economic loss caused by termites annually — are now swarming simultaneously in South Florida, creating hybrid colonies that grow quickly and have the potential to migrate to other states.
In an article published today in the journal PLOS ONE, a team of University of Florida entomologists has documented that the Asian and Formosan subterranean termite simultaneously produce hundreds of thousands of alates, or winged males and females. Both species have evolved separately for thousands of years, but in South Florida, they now have the opportunity to meet, mate and start new hybrid colonies.
While researchers have yet to determine if the hybrid termite is fertile or sterile, it likely poses a danger, said Nan-Yao Su, an entomology professor at the UF Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
“Because a termite colony can live up to 20 years with millions of individuals, the damaging potential of a hybrid colony remains a serious threat to homeowners even if the hybrid colony does not produce fertile winged termites,” Su said. “This is especially true when the colony exhibits hybrid vigor as we witnessed in the laboratory.”