University of Florida

Irrigation method saves 50 percent of water needed for potato growth

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Crops, Economics, IFAS, Research, Weather




Citra, Pivot irrigation watering fields. UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers have found an irrigation method that uses 50 percent less water than traditional systems to grow potatoes – an important finding for the $131 million-a-year Florida crop.

The system is called “hybrid center pivot irrigation.” With this method, about two-thirds of the water used to help grow potatoes is sprayed from above ground, similar to natural rainfall, and about one-third comes from under the ground – a traditional method known as “seepage irrigation.”

UF/IFAS Assistant Professor Guodong “David” Liu led a group of UF/IFAS researchers in testing the impact of hybrid center pivot irrigation on soil moisture and temperature at a Manatee County, Florida potato farm.

The method saved about 55 percent of water in a three-year trial at the farm. Additionally, researchers found no loss in crop yield using less water. Liu said he now is convincing growers to use center pivot irrigation with fertigation, in which all the water comes from above-ground sprinklers. Scientists say they may save one third more water.

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Students help UF/IFAS professor breed better, tastier peppers

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, Crops, IFAS, Nutrition, Research


Horticulture Professor Balasubramanian Rathinasabapathi (Saba). Experiments, beaker, laboratory.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences students are learning how to breed better peppers under the guidance of Professor Bala Rathinasabapathi.

And by “better,” we mean a more savory taste, among other characteristics. Florida produces $207 million worth of bell peppers annually, according to the Florida Department Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). In fact, as of 2012, Florida ranked second nationally in the value of bell peppers. Improving traits may help the Florida pepper industry grow even larger.

Now, for a new study published in the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science, Rathinasabapathi and his team cross-bred two heirloom varieties of peppers – the Bulgarian Carrot and the Round of Hungary — to come up with more desirable consumer traits.

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Hulcr selected to win UF/IFAS’ Richard L. Jones research award

Topic(s): Announcements, Biocontrols, Conservation, Environment, IFAS, Pests, Research

Jiri Hulcr mug

Jiri Hulcr

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A UF/IFAS forest entomologist who – among other activities – is working to help stop pests that sicken trees, has been selected to receive the Richard L. Jones Award for promising research at UF/IFAS.

The 2016 award goes to Jiri Hulcr. It is presented by the UF/IFAS dean for research and director of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station to an outstanding early career scientist. Like previous winners, Hulcr will receive the award at the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station Annual Awards Reception in May 2016.

The recipient gets a one-time $2,500 annual salary supplement and a $2,500 grant to support his or her research.

Hulcr, an assistant professor with a dual appointment in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation and the Department of Entomology and Nematology, joined UF/IFAS in 2012.

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UF freshman wins trip to Nobel Prize ceremony in December

Topic(s): Announcements, CALS, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Research


GAINESVILLE, Fla. — An outstanding high school science fair project has led to a University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences freshman being invited to attend the Nobel Prize ceremonies in Stockholm, Sweden in December.

UF CALS scholarship recipient Carly Crump won the all-expense paid trip to the Nobel Prize ceremonies for her outstanding performance at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, where she presented her project on Dengue Virus transmission.

Along with the Dudley R Herschbach Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar Award that granted Crump the trip to Sweden, she also earned Best in Category for microbiology at the ISEF which came with an $8,000 check.

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UF/IFAS experts predict food trends for 2016

Topic(s): Agriculture, Extension, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, Nutrition, RECs, Research


Lunch, carrots, watermelon, and salad sit on a table cloth with a picnic basket.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As 2015 starts to wind down, world-renowned food scientists at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are already predicting trends for 2016. As they do, here are some hints as to what you can expect see in grocery stores and on your dinner table:

Total sensory foods – Smart food manufacturers now appreciate that flavor and aroma alone are not enough for many consumers, and that visual and textural stimuli are also important to the consumer. Foods incorporating innovative approaches to a blending of sensory attributes will likely win the consumers’ dollar. Scientific studies show that people shown a picture of a high-calorie food, such as pizza or pastry before experiencing an unfamiliar taste will find that taste more enjoyable than if they were shown a picture of a low-calorie food, such as watermelon or green beans. Thus, the appearance of a food is a critical part of the eating experience. Doug Archer, 352-392-1784, dlarcher@ufl.edu.

Decline of grilling – Grilling has been the go-to way of cooking red meats and poultry, but newly re-kindled concerns about the safety of red meats and meats and poultry cooked in conditions that may char or add smoke may cause consumers to return to recipes that call for baking in the good old oven. A contributor to this trend is the explosion of recipe sharing on social media for mixed meat and vegetable meals prepared easily in the oven. Doug Archer, 352-392-1784, dlarcher@ufl.edu.

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UF/IFAS scientists find way to reduce pesticide use and save millions for ornamental industry

Topic(s): Environment, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, RECs, Research

Tapestry variety of Poinsettia plant.  Floriculture, ornamentals, decoration, holidays.  UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Results of new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences research may help control some dangerous species of fungi, known as phytophthora — or water molds —  that can cause millions of dollars in damage annually to ornamental plants and some fruit trees.

This finding could help reduce fungicide use to control the phytophthora that can menace Florida’s $15 billion-a-year ornamental industry, said G. Shad Ali, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of plant pathology.

Phytophthora are plant pathogens, one of which is known infamously for causing the Irish potato famine of the 1840s. Several phytophthora species infect thousands of different plant species, so they infect almost all ornamentals, ranging from landscape trees to small indoor flowers. Some phytophthora strains are resistant to fungicides.

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UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station receives grant to study popular spotted seatrout fishery

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Aquaculture, IFAS, Research

CEDAR KEY, Fla. — The University of Florida’s new Nature Coast Biological Station will receive a grant to evaluate the spotted seatrout fishery in the Big Bend region. The grant, for $20,000, is provided by The Conservation Fund, a national organization that funds conservation projects that improve local businesses.

The grant is one of five projects from the Conservation Fund that support the priorities of Florida’s four Big Bend counties—Dixie, Jefferson, Levy and Taylor. The region will receive more than $85,000 through the Big Bend Seed Grant program and leverage an additional $240,000 in impact.

The project at the Nature Coast Biological Station, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, will assess tagging effectiveness for spotted seatrout, and include an angler survey and workshop to evaluate angler satisfaction with the current management of the fishery. The study will include cooperation from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the group plans to tag fish around Cedar Key and Steinhatchee.

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UF/IFAS study: Strawberry growers must pick, harvest earlier for best profit

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, IFAS, RECs, Research

Strawberry economics 111015 - vance whitaker

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida strawberry growers must produce more fruit earlier in the growing season — in November and December – to keep a competitive advantage in the global market, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

Florida and California combine to produce 99 percent of the United States’ strawberries, and Florida ranks as the biggest producer of winter strawberries, with a value of $366 million annually, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But growers and UF/IFAS researchers are concerned because the industry faces increasing supplies from Mexico and California and volatile market prices. Mexico has emerged as the major competitor for the Florida strawberry industry, the study says. Fresh strawberry imports from Mexico reached 160,000 metric tons – or 360 million pounds — in 2014, while Florida production was about 200 million pounds.

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UF/IFAS researchers get $2 million grant to study organic strawberry production

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


Strawberries.  UF/IFAS Photo by Marisol Amador.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences will address production constraints for organic strawberry producers, thanks to a new $2 million federal grant.

The grant comes from the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) program, which is administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The research focuses on strawberry production systems, rather than just one part of the production process, said Mickie Swisher, associate professor of sustainable agriculture in the UF/IFAS Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences.

“Controlling weeds is a significant cost for all strawberry producers, not just organic producers,” Swisher said. “The project examines the effectiveness of cover crops as a supplementary weed management technique, used in conjunction with plastic mulch.”

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Saving green: UF/IFAS computer program saves nurseries water, plants and money

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Economics, Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, New Technology, Research


Poinsettia. Rapid urban growth in Florida and the Southeast creates a huge demand for a wide range of container-grown ornamental plants and trees for residential and commericial landscapes.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A web-based irrigation system developed by researchers at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences saved 21 percent in water use without reducing growth of container-grown landscape plants, a new study shows.

While UF/IFAS scientists say a Virginia nursery is the only one utilizing the system so far, they hope similar businesses take advantage of the software, so they can reap its benefits in saved water and money. For now, scientists are interested in the irrigation needs of container-grown plants such as anise, gardenias, azaleas, junipers, roses and more.

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