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University of Florida

UF/IFAS study: Muscadine grape seed oil may help reduce obesity

Topic(s): Agriculture, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Research

Muscadine grapes 062915

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Muscadine grape seed oil supplies a form of Vitamin E, giving scientists another clue to reducing obesity, a new University of Florida study shows.

The oil may help mitigate the formation of new fat cells because it produces tocotrienol, an unsaturated form of Vitamin E, said Marty Marshall, a UF professor of food science and human nutrition.

“Thus, consuming foods made with muscadine grape seed oil could curtail weight gain by reducing obesity,” Marshall said.

Muscadine grape seed oil would be a valuable addition to the market of edible oils because it is a unique source of tocotrienol in addition to being a good source of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, Marshall said. In addition, scientists anticipate that muscadine grape seed oils fortified with additional tocotrienol from underutilized muscadine varieties could be developed to help stem obesity.

Before this study, scientists attributed most tocotrienol benefits to red palm and rice bran oil. In fact, recent studies have shown that rice bran oil helps lower cholesterol. With the new findings, muscadine grape seed oil could be considered a superior source of tocotrienol, said Marshall, a faculty member at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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UF/IFAS invasives research facility likely to close

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

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.

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UF/IFAS Fort Pierce quarantine facility successfully battles invasive species

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Conservation, Crops, Economics, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs, Research

Bill Overholt and Jim Cuda.  Innovation Awards Portrait.  UF/IFAS File Photo.

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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.”

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UF/IFAS study shows how much water is needed to grow castor

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Environment, IFAS, Research, Weather

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida scientists have discovered how much water castor needs in order to grow in North Florida, a key finding in their efforts to determine the feasibility of producing castor in Florida for the first time since 1972.

Castor, grown in Florida during World War II and currently being considered as a component for military jet fuel, contains the toxin ricin. So scientists next must develop a ricin-free cultivar, said Diane Rowland, a professor in agronomy and advisor for the lead author, graduate student David Campbell.

Scientists measure what’s known as “evapotranspiration” – or how much water leaves the plant and its surrounding soil – to get what’s called a “crop coefficient.” A crop coefficient tells scientists and growers the relative water use of the crop in comparison to what’s called a “standard crop evapotranspiration.” That standard comes often comes in the form of grass grown under optimal conditions. Florida growers can obtain site-specific standard evapotranspiration from the Florida Automated Weather Network, or FAWN (http://fawn.ifas.ufl.edu/).

“FAWN provides standard evapotranspiration data for more than 40 locations in the state of Florida already. Thus, one thing we need to provide to prospective castor growers is a crop coefficient for castor,” said Chaein Na, a postdoctoral scientist on the study. A grower can determine crop water use by multiplying the appropriate crop coefficient with the standard evapotranspiration to estimate daily, weekly, monthly or seasonal water requirements for the crop.

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UF/IFAS scientists study how, why butterflies survive fires

Topic(s): Conservation, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Forestry, IFAS, Research

Butterfliefs - adult frosted elfin 061215Butterflies - adult atala 061215Butterflies - burn experiment 061215

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Deciding how often and when to use prescribed fire can be tricky, especially when managing for rare butterflies, University of Florida scientists say.

That realization stems from a UF Institute of Food and Agricultural study in which researchers experimented with pupae — insects in their immature form between larvae and adults — of butterflies known to frequent fire-prone habitats of Florida.

Prescribed burns and wildfires can damage animals and plants in their paths. But they can also promote species and create habitat, maintaining the ecological balance of the forest and the region’s most frequent natural disturbance over the long term. Immature butterflies may die immediately following controlled burns, but populations can recover over time, with the amount of time depending on the species.

Scientists are concerned that butterflies with small, isolated populations may be in severe peril if their habitats are burned too frequently and in large blocks at a time, which can mean that butterfly refugia – unburned areas that provide refuge — are limited.

In the UF/IFAS study, scientists wanted to know how and why some butterflies survive wildfires and prescribed burns, particularly where the insect feeds and lays eggs on fire-adapted plants.

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UF/IFAS study cautions parents about arsenic from wet wood

Topic(s): Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Research, Weather

Lena Ma

Lena Ma

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Wet wood treated with the pesticide chromated copper arsenate (CCA) loses arsenic three times more than dry wood; so if it rains, you can expect more arsenic on your wood deck surface, a new University of Florida study shows.

That may pose a potential danger to anyone who plays or walks on the deck, and that most often means children or pets, said Julia “Ky” Gress, a doctoral student in soil and water sciences at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Gress led an experiment in which she and her colleagues used standard wipe methods to collect arsenic from the surface of wood from a 25-year-old South Florida deck. Although the CCA-wood came from only one deck, it is representative of wood decks constructed before 2004, Gress said.

Before wiping the wood, researchers put water on it, then wiped it to see how much arsenic was present. They then cleaned different pieces of the decking with either tap water or a bleach-water solution, followed by pressure washing.

Results showed water alone caused three times more arsenic to form on the surface of wet wood than dry wood, and the use of bleach caused formation of chromate, another carcinogen. They also found that these chemicals remained on the wood surface for an hour after it was cleaned.

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UF/IFAS scientist finds protein critical to “iron overload”

Topic(s): Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Research

Mitchell Knutson

Mitchell Knutson

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher has identified the protein that the liver uses to load iron, thereby opening the door to potential strategies to treat “iron overload” disorders.

One form of these genetic disorders is hereditary hemochromatosis. Not everyone who inherits the gene will get the disease, but those who do so inherit the defective gene from both parents. Hereditary hemochromatosis is found most often in people of Northern European descent.

Over several years, those with the disorder will see excess iron get into the liver, heart, pancreas, joints and pituitary gland, leading to health problems such as cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer, diabetes, heart disease and joint disease. People with the disease can get their blood drawn routinely to get rid of the excess iron.

“For 150 years, we did not know how iron got taken up by the liver — how it got in there,” said Mitchell Knutson, a UF associate professor in food science and human nutrition. “We knew there was a protein that took it up into to the liver. But nobody knew what that protein was. It’s such a fundamental question, and people just didn’t know the answer.”

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Light trap lures more mosquitoes, fewer bugs you don’t need to kill

Topic(s): Agriculture, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Pests, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers have found a light trap that monitors mosquitoes more effectively, while ferreting out bugs no one wants or needs to kill.

The finding will help mosquito control districts more quickly identify mosquitoes before decisions are made to spray, said Phil Kaufman, an associate professor and veterinary entomologist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Mosquito control districts can run 50 or more traps in a night during the mosquito season to keep track of mosquito populations.  But mosquito control officials do not want to capture insects unnecessarily, a practice that takes time and money, Kaufman said. Those unintended captures include moths, beetles and other flies.

“The traps are returned to the mosquito control district office, and people have to sort through all of the moths, beetles and more to find and remove the mosquitoes that have to be identified to see which species are a problem or to test them for West Nile and other viruses,” Kaufman said. “Having fewer non-target insects makes their job easier.”

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UF/IFAS forest genetics expert Kirst leads team receiving four-year, $2 million grant

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Forestry, IFAS, New Technology, Research


Matias Kirst.  Assistant Professor, PhD.  Quantitative Genetics.  School of Forest Resources and Conservation.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

Matias Kirst. Associate Professor, PhD. Quantitative Genetics. School of Forest Resources and Conservation. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Agricultural science could make huge leaps forward if scientists had reliable ways to examine seeds and accurately predict the physical characteristics of the fully grown plants that would result.

University of Florida forest genetics expert Matias Kirst leads a multi-institution academic team that recently obtained a four-year, $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop better methods of predicting the traits spawned by individual genes and groups of genes in plants, in this case the Eastern cottonwood tree, Populus deltoides.

“We’re thrilled that our previous work in this area has put us in a position to win this critical grant to help us bridge some important gaps in trait prediction,” said Kirst, an associate professor with the UF School of Forest Resources and Conservation, part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, or UF/IFAS.

The grant award provides more proof that the UF/IFAS forest genetics program is among the best in the world, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“Matias Kirst is one of our bright stars in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation,” Payne said. “This grant will support world-class scientific investigation that could make it much faster and easier to determine which new crop cultivars have commercial potential or other significant value.”

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Researchers Honored at 8th Annual UF/IFAS FAES Awards Ceremony

Topic(s): Agriculture, Environment, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers were honored on May 19 for outstanding work in agricultural sciences, including creating new patents, new plants and fruits, and finding ways to combat diseases. The ceremony for the UF/IFAS Florida Agricultural Experiment Station Research Awards was held in the Harn Museum.


“The science and new knowledge generated by UF/IFAS researchers is changing the world,” said Jackie Burns, UF/IFAS dean for research. “Through the hard work, creativity, and diligence of UF/IFAS scientists, we are expanding the frontiers of understanding, creating new knowledge in applied and basic science, and paving the path toward a future with improved human health, a prosperous agricultural industry, and sustainable and healthy natural ecosystems.”


Awards were given for thesis and dissertation from master’s and Ph.D. students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Honors were also bestowed to early career scientists, researchers who produced outstanding publications and those who produced patents. The patents include new varieties of peanuts, a Ruellia cultivar that boasts leaves in a stunning shade of purple and an invention to improve the heat stress tolerance of plants.


Special recognition went to the university’s two newest fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Also, the Professor Emeritus Award was given to Barry Brecke, who spent 30 years with UF/IFAS.


“We salute and celebrate these successes. But perhaps more fundamentally tonight we celebrate the pursuit of scientific understanding, and our collective vision that through research we can create the foundation that will guide us to the future,” Burns said.


Below is the list of award winners in each category:


Graduate Research Awards


  1. Nathan Holt w/advisor Sanjay Shukla
  3. Cintia Ribeiro w/advisor Matias Kirst



2015 Early Career Scientists Recognition


  1. Damian Adams
  2. Soohyoun Ahn
  3. Nikolay Bliznyuk
  4. Nathan Boyd
  5. John Bromfield
  6. Samantha Brooks
  7. Zhengfei Guan
  8. Jaclyn Kropp
  9. Phillip Lancaster
  10. Guodong Liu
  11. Paul Monaghan
  12. Patricio Munoz
  13. Gulcan Onel
  14. Joshua Patterson
  15. Elizabeth Pienaar
  16. Paul Sarnoski
  17. Huiping Yang



Richard L. Jones Award

  • Jianping Wang
  • S. Luke Flory  


  1. UFRF Professors
  • Michelle Danyluk
  • Robert Fletcher
  • Bin Gao
  • Zhenli He
  • Jose Eduardo Santos
  • Gary Peter High Impact Research Award Authors:  S. L. Flory and J. T. BauerPest Control Authors:  Barbara DeRatt, Maria Ralat, Omer Kabil, Yueh-Yun Chi, Jesse GregoryAir Quality Authors:  Denis Valle, Benjamin Baiser, Christopher Woodall, Robin Chazdon  Authors:  Dongyoung Shin, Ayse Civana, Carolina Acevedo, Chelsea SmarttCrop Management Authors:  Muthusami Kumaran, Kate Fogarty, Amanda Terminello, Whitney FungCoral Reef Health Authors:  Subhas Hajeri, Nabil Killiny, Choaa El-Mohtar, William Dawson, Siddarame     Plant Patents


  3. Gowda
  4. Citrus Greening
  5. Authors: Cory Krediet, Kim Ritchie, Ali Alagely, Max Teplitski
  6. Youth Drug Use
  7. Authors:  Gregory Hendricks, Sanjay Shukla, Thomas Obreza, Willie Harris
  9. Virus Transmission
  10. Quantifying Biodiversity
  11. Authors:  Timm Kroeger, Francisco Escobedo, Jose Hernandez, Sebastian Varela, Sonia Delphin, Jonathan Fisher, Janice Waldron
  12. Human Health
  13. Authors:  Lindsy Iglesias, Teresia Nyoike, Oscar Liburd 
  15. Invasive Plants
  1. Zhanao Deng
  2. Rosanna Freyre
  3. Daniel Gorbet
  4. Brent Harbaugh
  5. Kenneth Quesenberry
  6. Donald Rockwood
  7. Dorothy Sistrunk
  8. Barry Tillman


Utility Patents

Group 1: Balasubramanian Rathinasaabapathi and Walid Fouad

Group 2: Balasubramanian Rathinasaabapathi and Sabarinath Sundaram

Group 3: William Dawson (Not Present), Svetlana Folimonova, Alexey Folimonov

Group 4: Bruce Welt and Ayman Abdellatief

Group 5: Harry Klee, Denise Tieman

Group 6: Dennis Gray, Zhijan Li

Group 7: Lonnie Ingram, Brent Wood, Lorraine Yomano, Sean York

Group 8: Lonnie Ingram), Keelnatham Shanmugam, Shengde Zhou, Lorraine Yomano, Sean York

Group 9: Lonnie Ingram, Jonathan Moore, Keelnatham Shanmugam, Kaemwich Jantama, Mark John Haupt, Xueli Zhang

Group 10: Nan-Yao Su

Group 11: Marty Marshall, Kurt Schulbach

Group 12: Arnold Schumann

Group 13: Nikolas Georgelis, Curt Hannah

Group 14: Curt Hannah and Carla Lyerly Linebarger


Special Honors

National Academy of Sciences Recognition

  • Linda Bartoshuk
  • Robert Cousins
  • James Jones
  • Harry Klee
  • Lonnie Ingram


AAAS Awardee

  • Robert Cousins
  • Andrew Hanson Research Professor Emeritus
  • Barry Brecke




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