IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS study shows 10-day weather forecasts can increase farmers’ profits

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

Citra farm, University of Florida/IFAS Research and Education Center, wheat, tilling soil, disking, tractor, field. UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new University of Florida-led study shows how Australian wheat farmers can use hypothetical 10-day weather forecasts to increase their annual profits by hundreds of thousands of dollars, a finding that can be applied to other parts of the globe.

Scientists now want to know how a real – meaning, imperfect – 10-day weather forecast will affect farmers’ decisions on when to plant and fertilize, said Senthold Asseng, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. They may apply their new findings on a fresh study that would predict crop yield based on 10-day forecasts in the United States.

“U.S. farmers make decisions based on anticipated growing conditions, including rainfall and temperature,” said Asseng, who led the study. “So I think it would be very useful to develop a project with farmers to explore if they could make more money or be more sustainable when considering a short-term forecast in their decision making. If so, real forecasts need to be analyzed and combined with farmers’ decisions.”

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UF/IFAS study: Hand sanitizer, antifreeze can preserve DNA for citizen scientists

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

Andrea Lucky in her ant research lab

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A few simple products, such as hand sanitizer and antifreeze, can preserve DNA in samples collected by lay people for scientific research, a new University of Florida study shows.

“This is great news because unlike high-concentration chemicals, such as 95 percent ethanol or pure propylene glycol – which are expensive and hard to access — these products are inexpensive and are commonly sold at grocery stores,” said Andrea Lucky, an assistant research scientist at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and supervisor of Sedonia Steininger, the masters student who led this study.

This finding is key as UF/IFAS and other agencies conduct studies involving citizen scientists, said Lucky, who runs two citizen science projects. Citizen science projects are collaborations of scientists and non-specialists. Lay people participate in studies by collecting samples or examining data to help answer research questions while learning about the science.

Good entomological research often relies on collecting and preserving the genetic material in specimens, the study says. When lay people collect samples, they may not have access to materials used to preserve the DNA in their specimens. If the specimens collected by citizen scientists are to be used for genetic analyses, the specimens must be preserved for short-term storage and shipment of insects to labs.

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UF/IFAS faculty member earns $822,000 NSF grant as early career scientist

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

Christine Miller

Christine Miller

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher has won an $822,000 early-career award from the National Science Foundation recognizing her commitment to research and the integration of research into teaching undergraduate students.

The NSF honored Christine Miller, an assistant professor of entomology, with its CAREER award as part of a foundation-wide activity that supports faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars.

“It’s been a dream of mine for years to receive this award, and at some level I still can’t believe that it has actually happened,” Miller said. “I am very excited for the next five years. It will be great to involve so many undergraduate students in the cutting edge of science.”

During the five-year grant, Miller will investigate the evolution and diversification of elaborate animal weapons, such as antlers, horns and spurs, which males use to compete for females. Together with hundreds of students, Miller will determine how fighting behaviors have led to diversification of these weapons.

“This work will engage and train hundreds of students,” Miller said. “Undergraduates are often fascinated by animal behavior and weaponry, and these topics will be a fun way to engage and retain students in science.

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Two key factors control phosphorus movement from soil to groundwater

Topic(s): Agriculture, Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Pollution, RECs, Research

 

Gurpal Toor working in his lab at the Gulf Coast REC in Balm Florida.  UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — New insights into how phosphorus leaches into groundwater could help reduce its potential impact on water and the environment, a UF/IFAS scientist says.

Phosphorus poses an environmental threat when it travels from soils to open water bodies, including lakes, streams and rivers. When too much phosphorus is applied to soils, the ground cannot hold all of the chemical, said Gurpal Toor, an associate professor of soil and water science at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida. As a result, phosphorus leaches out and migrates to water bodies, lowering water quality and leading to algal blooms. Such blooms can choke off oxygen to fish and underwater plants.

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UF/IFAS study: Feral swine can cost at least $2 million annually in cattle production

Topic(s): Agriculture, Economics, IFAS, Livestock, Research

Piglet.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Feral swine cost the Florida cattle industry at least $2 million a year in lost cattle production, according to a new study led by a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher.

In fact, researchers believe they may have underestimated the amount of forage destroyed by feral swine, said Samantha Wisely, a UF/IFAS associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation. Furthermore, researchers kept their cost estimates to lost forage and did not include the cost of restoring range, controlling invasive weeds that feral swine spread and other costs.

“We suspect that the cost is nearly an order of magnitude higher, and our next project will document that more precisely,” Wisely said. Nationwide, feral swine damage and control costs more than $1.5 billion annually, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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UF/IFAS scientists find another clue to monitor, trap virus-spreading mosquito

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Pests, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Asian tiger mosquito is attracted to flowering butterfly bushes, giving mosquito control officials another tool to monitor and trap the insect that can transmit pathogens, causing potentially deadly diseases, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

Asian tiger mosquitoes prefer to lay eggs in containers.

With that in mind, UF/IFAS researchers monitored several sized containers that they had placed indoors, in screen houses and in residential backyards. They also monitored containers placed next to butterfly bushes. They wanted to see where the Asian tiger mosquito laid more eggs. Scientists found significantly more eggs in the largest containers, and they found more eggs in containers next to flowering bushes than in containers next to bushes without flowers.

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UF/IFAS explores bringing popular South American food fish to Florida

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Have you dined on Arapaima? South Americans eat the fish regularly, and University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are studying whether it could be a viable food fish in the United States.

“It has lots of high-quality meat,” said Jeffrey Hill, a UF/IFAS associate professor of fisheries and aquatic sciences. “It’s an easy fish to sell. It’s a really good food fish. It’s one of my favorites. It’s has a good taste. It’s easy to cook.”

Hill, doctoral student Katelyn Lawson and other researchers at the UF/IFAS Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory in Ruskin, Florida, recently published two studies concerning Arapaima. One found the fish can only survive in waters that are at least 16 degrees Celsius, or about 61 degrees Fahrenheit. That means it would only survive in South Florida waters, Hill said. The other study found a low risk of Arapaima getting out of fish farms and into canals. If Arapaima wound up in canals, they would prey on other fish.

The risk analysis was published in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management, while the lethal temperature study was published in the North American Journal of Aquaculture.

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UF/IFAS study: Citizen science participation increases trust in science

Topic(s): CALS, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Research

Andrea Lucky in her ant research lab

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Lay people who participate in citizen science develop more interest in science after participating in such a project, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

“Participating in science does more than teach people about science,” said Andrea Lucky, an assistant research scientist in the UF/IFAS entomology department and co-author of the study. “It builds trust in science and helps people understand what scientific research is all about.”

Tyler Vitone, a master’s student in Lucky’s lab in the entomology and nematology department, and his co-authors wanted to understand what participants take away from the experience of being part of a citizen science research project. To do this, they looked at a group of people who had limited experience with scientific research: students in an introductory entomology course called The Insects. The course is for non-science majors and meets a biology general education requirement for students across campus, so it includes students with a diverse mix of interests, from art, English and history to finance, marketing and political science. The research team conducted assessments in the fall and spring semesters, from 2013 through 2015.

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