University of Florida

UF/IFAS researchers head to Cuba for scientific exchange to benefit Florida agriculture

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

Bill Messina, agricultural economist with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, surveyes a map of Cuban farming areas, Tuesday 3/24, that could compete with Florida producers if and when the United States trade embargo against Cuba is lifted. During the past four years, he has led a team of UF researchers working with the University of Havana to study the economic impact of lifting the embargo.   Photography by, Thomas Wright  UF/IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is sending an inter-departmental team of scientists to Cuba as part of a grant that is believed to be the first federally-funded project for scientific field research in Cuba.

The project’s principal investigator (PI), associate professor Damian Adams; project co-PIs assistant professor Jiri Hulcr and postdoctoral associates Paloma Carton de Grammont and José Soto, and other UF/IFAS research scientists and graduate students from the School of Forest Resources & Conservation, the Entomology and Nematology Department, the Food and Resource Economics Department, and the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering will travel to Cuba for this research, funded by a $228,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The project team is traveling to Cuba to fulfill several missions:

  • Conduct research to identify wood-boring pest species in Cuba that could pose high-risk threats to U.S. agriculture and forests.
  • Train Cuban scientists on state-of-the-art methods to accurately identify these wood-boring pests in Cuba in an effort to reduce the possibility of transmission of these pests to Florida agriculture and forests.
  • Understand how Cuba’s plant protection programs and policies impact pest movement, particularly to the United States.
  • Estimate the potential economic impact of a pest invasion from Cuba to the United States.

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UF/IFAS professor unveils research on rare, endangered mammal during National Bat Appreciation Month

Topic(s): Conservation, Extension, IFAS, RECs, Research


GAINESVILLE, Fla. — October is National Bat Appreciation Month and to celebrate, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher Holly Ober is sharing critical findings on one of the rarest bats in the world.

The Florida Bonneted bat, which is endangered, nestles in tree cavities, palms and buildings in only 10 counties in Florida. The largest bat in Florida with a wing span of 20 inches, its ears point forward over its eyes, and its fur ranges in color from brown to gray, said Ober, an associate professor in the department wildlife ecology and conservation who’s based at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, Florida.

“These bats are extremely rare, and when we began our research in 2013 no one had a good idea of where they occur,” Ober said. “We conducted extensive surveys and now we know that they are in 10 Florida counties.” The Florida Bonneted bat is found as far north as Polk County and all the way south to Miami-Dade County, she said.

When Ober and the research team began their work in 2013, only one natural roost where bats sleep during the day was known. During the past two years, the team has found seven more, she said. “We’ve been using several techniques to follow individual bats as they fly at night. We’ve found them flying as far away as 13 miles from where they spent the day sleeping,” Ober explained.

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Florida Ag Expo to highlight emerging crops, ways to battle new pests

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Cultivars, Extension, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

Gary Vallad speaking at the 2015 Florida Agricultural Expo at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida.  Photo taken 11-04-15

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Growers, UF/IFAS Extension faculty and scientists will tackle production and pest problems – including the Q-biotype whitefly — when they gather for the 11th annual Florida Ag Expo on Nov. 2 at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center.

Created as a way to showcase the Gulf Coast REC, the Ag Expo is a one-stop resource for Florida fruit and vegetable producers. The day-long event includes education sessions, grower roundtables, field tours and demonstrations, as well as a large vendor show with about 80 ag-related booths. The Gulf Coast REC, part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, sits on 475 acres in Balm, Florida, southeast of Tampa.

“The expo has become an important show for growers to stay up to date on the latest research results to assist them in vegetable and small-fruit production,” said Jack Rechcigl, director of the Gulf Coast REC.

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UF/IFAS avocado irrigation app should save money, water

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

Kati Miggliacio at a research turfgrass plot on UF's campus.  Photographed for the 2015 Research Discoveries report.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Avocado growers now know that a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences mobile irrigation app works well to save money while maintaining crop yields. This data, reported in a new study, is critical for an industry that has a $100 million a year economic impact on Florida.

It’s also important because agriculture uses about 70 percent of the world’s water, the study’s authors say. Feeding the world’s population may require 50 percent more water than was needed in 2012, according to the World Water Assessment Program’s report to the United Nations. Thus, scientists are concerned about meeting the world’s food demand. Conserving agricultural water use through efficient irrigation scheduling would alleviate some of the burden of the increased demand.

To get the best irrigation results, many scientists use a combination of weather data and rates of evapotranspiration, a measure of how much water leaves the plant and its surrounding soil. UF/IFAS scientists tested data for average evapotranspiration for different periods of days. They also compared wet seasons versus dry seasons, said Kati Migliaccio, a UF/IFAS professor of agricultural and biological engineering and lead author on the study.

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UF/IFAS researcher: Study shows federal school lunch guidelines lead to healthier choices

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


GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Federal school lunch guidelines enacted in 2012 are improving nutrition for school-age children and reducing childhood obesity, according to a new study co-authored by a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty member.

UF/IFAS assistant professor of food and resource economics Jaclyn Kropp — along with economists at Georgia State University, Clemson University and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration—worked with a county school food services director to develop a novel research model to study school lunch choices children make, combining lunch sales data collected at the cafeteria register with data on student absences.

They investigated how the nutritional content of National School Lunch Program entrées chosen by students varied across different socioeconomic and demographic groups and impacted their health.

When healthier menu items replaced less healthy items, researchers found the total calories of the students’ lunch choices decreased about 4 percent. Calories from fat decreased 18 percent, and those from sodium decreased by 8 percent.

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UF/IFAS researchers project beetle could cause $17 billion damage to loblolly pine in South

Topic(s): Conservation, Economics, Environment, Extension, Forestry, IFAS, Research

Rebbay Ambrosia Beetle.  Summer 2009 Impact Magazine image.  Insects, pests.  UF/IFAS File Photo.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers, who have already seen ambrosia beetles damage part of Florida’s avocado crop, know that more of the species will come from Asia in the next decade. Anticipating their arrival, UF/IFAS researchers set up a hypothetical invasion of the beetle, and found out that loblolly pine owners in the South could lose up to $17 billion in trees in 20 years.

Private companies use loblolly for timber production. Small landowners also harvest and sell some of their loblolly pines, said Andres Susaeta, a research assistant scientist in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. But small landowners are also interested in aesthetics, preserving the environment and passing the land on to their heirs.

For the study, researchers wanted to look at the economic impact of anticipated invasions of more ambrosia beetles from Asia into the southern United States. Invasive wood borers, such as the ambrosia beetle, transmit disease-carrying fungi to several North American trees, and it’s not clear whether trees such as pines will face similar threats in the future, the researchers said.

Even though the scenarios were hypothetical, Andres Susaeta, a research assistant scientist in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation, said the situation could be all too real.

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Screwworm life cycle and habits contribute to insect’s threat, UF experts say

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, CALS, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Livestock, Pests, Research
A cow grazing in a beef cattle pasure at the Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona, Florida.

A cow grazing in a beef cattle pasture at the Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona, Florida. Photo by Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida residents curious or skeptical about the threat posed by the parasitic screwworm fly Cochliomiya hominivorax can rest assured the insect merits all the attention it has received after an outbreak was detected in the Florida Keys earlier this month, say experts with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Commonly known as the primary screwworm fly or New World screwworm fly, the insect threatens the health of warm-blooded animals and people in areas where it is well-established, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“To put it plainly, a full-blown screwworm infestation is a death sentence for the host animal,” Payne said. “This pest can kill a previously healthy cow or bull in a matter of weeks if the problem isn’t treated properly. It’s that serious.”

Payne urges all livestock and pet owners to educate themselves about the symptoms of screwworm infestation and seek veterinary care for animals exhibiting tell-tale indications such as open wounds that do not heal, running sores, listlessness, loss of appetite or sudden weight loss.

The fly’s larvae must consume the tissue of a live warm-blooded animal to develop, so adult females lay their eggs on livestock and wildlife with superficial wounds, said veterinary entomologist Phil Kaufman, an associate professor with the UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department.

“From a strictly scientific point of view, screwworm larvae are incredibly well-adapted parasites,” Kaufman said. “That’s why this species was a constant menace to Florida’s cattle industry up through about 1960, when it was eradicated from the state.” (more …)

UF/IFAS researchers find biological treatment for cow disease; could help humans, too

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, Livestock, Research

Beef Cattle at the Straughn Extension Professional Development Center and at the Horse Teaching Unit. Livestock,cows.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher and his colleagues are far more certain now that a new biological treatment could prevent dairy cattle from getting uterine diseases, which might improve food safety for people.

That’s because Kwang Cheol “KC” Jeong, an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS animal sciences department and Klibs Galvao, an associate professor in the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, and their team conducted their experiments in the lab the first time. This time, they went into the field.

Jeong, who’s also affiliated with UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, studied uterine illnesses because they can make cows infertile, lower milk production and because those maladies are often linked to bacteria.

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UF/IFAS-based PINEMAP project earns national award from USDA

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biofuels, CALS, Conservation, Crops, Economics, Environment, Extension, Forestry, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Research, Weather


Caption: PINEMAP principal investigator Tim Martin, right, accepts congratulations from Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, at the NIFA Partnership Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (Photo courtesy of USDA-NIFA)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The PINEMAP project, based within the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, devoted five years to helping the Southeastern planted-pine industry prepare for future production challenges. Now, PINEMAP is being honored with a prestigious national award from the United States Department of Agriculture.

On Thursday, Oct. 6, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, or NIFA, announced that PINEMAP would receive one of three 2016 NIFA Partnership Awards presented nationwide. The award recognizes PINEMAP for its outstanding performance integrating and fulfilling the education, Extension and research missions common to all land-grant universities.

The award confirms yet again the impact of UF/IFAS programs for one of the state’s most important industries, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“Planted pine is cultivated on about 20 million acres throughout the Southeast. This industry is enormously important both economically and environmentally, and the work of PINEMAP was crucial to help secure the industry’s future,” Payne said. “Our UF/IFAS faculty members have shown exemplary leadership and scholarship; this honor is richly deserved.”

PINEMAP involved UF and 10 other southeastern U.S. land-grant institutions, as well as numerous collaborators from government agencies and private industry. The project was launched in February 2011 after leaders obtained one of three $20 million grants awarded concurrently by USDA as part of its Coordinated Agriculture Projects program, meant to strengthen vital domestic crop-production industries. (more …)

‘Come home’ to UF-UF/IFAS Agriculture and Gardening Day, Oct. 15

Topic(s): Announcements, CALS, Entomology and Nematology, Extension, IFAS, Research


GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Agriculture and natural resources interests are invited to come home to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and see some informative exhibits during Agriculture and Gardening Day Oct. 15, outside The Swamp.

“Come home” because it’s homecoming weekend at UF, and the Gators are playing the Missouri Tigers. People affiliated with agriculture and natural resources have bought discounted tickets to the football game.

Before kickoff, those parties can view a display from UF/IFAS, which will feature information about the organization’s three arms: education, research and Extension.

There will also be displays from the UF/IFAS entomology and nematology department, said Ruth Borger, UF/IFAS assistant vice president for communications. Those exhibits include a bug zoo at which you can pet a roach, if that tickles your fancy. The department also will bring microscopes so you can view nematodes.

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