IFAS News

University of Florida

Entomologist joins UF/IFAS to help solve citrus greening

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Citrus, Crops, Entomology and Nematology, Extension, IFAS, New Technology, RECs, Research

Qureshi

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.

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UF/IFAS research could lead to more and healthier sorghum

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biofuels, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Extension, IFAS, Research

Dr. Wilfred Vermerri, associate professor, Department of Agronomy, performs detailed compositional analyses of improved bioenergy sorghums using a mass spectrometer in his laboratory at the University of Florida Genetics Institute.  2010 Annual Research Report Photo.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher has identified two areas of the sorghum genome that could boost the plant’s resistance to the anthracnose disease.

This finding could be a key to expanding sorghum production in the Southeast, said Wilfred Vermerris, an associate professor of microbiology and cell science with UF/IFAS. Most sorghum does not grow well in the Southeast because the hot and humid weather provides ideal conditions for the growth of the fungus that causes anthracnose, with leaf blight and stem rot as its symptoms.

Sorghum is a source for table syrup and cattle feed that also shows great potential as a source for biofuel. It a huge grain: By acreage, it’s the fifth largest cereal crop in the world and the third largest in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2014, the U.S. was the largest producer of sorghum in the world.

For the latest study, Vermerris and other UF scientists used ‘Bk7,’ an anthracnose-resistant grain sorghum developed by Dan Gorbet, a professor emeritus of agronomy at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center.

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New method could quash squash pests

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Extension, IFAS, Pests, Research

Dr. Oscar Liburd conducts research on the management of thrips in blueberries.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida grows more zucchini squash than anywhere else in America – to the tune of $70 million a year. To help improve production, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are developing a method to keep squash pests at bay.

For a newly published study, Janine Spies, a post-doctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS entomology department, simultaneously planted buckwheat with squash and found the method kept pests away while retaining yields at current levels. Furthermore, she and her colleagues manipulated how they planted buckwheat and squash.

“Pests like whiteflies and aphids transmit viruses to squash and can significantly reduce yield, and the money we make on squash,” Spies said. “This is why it is important to reduce the number of whiteflies and aphids that land on squash and to prevent the transmission of viruses.”

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UF/IFAS-developed web tool saves money for strawberry growers in several states

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, New Technology, Pests, RECs, Research

Strawberry forecasting feature photos for the 2010 IFAS Annual Research Report.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

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.

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Finding Dory: UF/IFAS researchers find first-ever method to farm Pacific Blue Tang

Topic(s): Announcements, Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS, RECs, Research
Blue Tang breeding in captivity news release on Tuesday, July 19th, 2016. Photo by Tyler Jones.

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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UF/IFAS scientist digging into artichokes as alternative crop

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

Artichokes 071416

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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.

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UF/IFAS researcher: Taller, thinner crop beds save money, water, other resources

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

Environmental portrait of Sanjay Shukla working with raised plant beds at the SWFREC on May 21, 2015.

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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UF/IFAS researchers to present findings on critical ecosystem habitats at international conference

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Conservation, Environment, Green Living, IFAS, Research, Soil and Water Science

Mangrove tunnels at Weedon Island Preserve in Pinellas County, Florida.

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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Two University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers will be among those presenting new data at a conference addressing mangrove ecosystems, which are critical for many things, including seafood habitat and erosion prevention.

Todd Osborne and Rupesh Bhomia, both with the UF/IFAS soil and water sciences department, will make presentations at the Mangrove Macrobenthos Meeting in St. Augustine, Florida, July 18 to July 22. This is the fourth meeting of these global mangrove experts and the first time it’s being held in the United States.

“We chose to have it in St. Augustine because we felt a lot of the mangrove research community would appreciate seeing this area of expansion of mangroves into the marshy habitats,” said Osborne, an assistant professor who works at UF’s Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience in St. Augustine, and a co-host of the conference.

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UF/IFAS study: Rhesus macaques may be preying on bird eggs in Silver Springs

Topic(s): Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Research

Rhesus Macaques 070716

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Rhesus macaques, primates brought from Asia in the 1930s to entice more tourists to an area now known as Silver Springs State Park, likely prey on eggs of the park’s birds, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

A group of UF/IFAS researchers used camera traps next to 100 artificial bird nests baited with quail eggs near the Silver River. Researchers placed nests in shrubs and left them for 12 days, which represents the incubation period of many of the park’s songbirds, like Northern Cardinals.

Rhesus macaques preyed on 21 of the 100 nests, the study showed. Creatures other than macaques preyed on another nine nests and an unidentified predator ate eggs from five nests. The study results do not suggest rhesus macaques are destroying 21 percent of native bird nests, said Steve Johnson, a UF/IFAS associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation.

However, the study does confirm rhesus macaques in Silver Springs State Park will consume eggs when they find them in natural habitat, Johnson said.

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Radio tracking helps hunt Burmese pythons

Topic(s): Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, RECs, Research

Burmese Python Tracking 070616

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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.”

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