GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new researcher has joined the University of Florida’s fight against citrus greening, which has devastated the state’s industry. Sarah Strauss, a soil microbiologist most recently from Davis, California, has accepted a position at the UF/IFAS Southwest Research and Education Center in Immokalee, Florida.
Strauss, an assistant professor with an Extension appointment, focuses on characterizing and managing plant and soil microbial community interactions to improve citrus and vegetable crop health and productivity. “The battle against citrus greening has looked at the rootstock, but not necessarily the soil. I hope my research can offer insight into what is going on with the soil of affected trees and how to improve the plant health by improving the soil,” she said.
According to Jack Payne, UF’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, Strauss is the only soil microbiologist in Southwest Florida. “Dr. Strauss is a critical hire because she brings unique skills and talents to the search for a cure to citrus greening,” Payne said. “In addition, she is passionate about helping stakeholders in Florida succeed. It’s one of the main reasons that she came to UF/IFAS—to share her knowledge with those who need it most.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A UF/IFAS horticultural sciences professor, known worldwide for research on growing plants in space, has won the 2016 Jeffries Aerospace Medicine and Life Sciences Research Award.
The award is given to a member of the aerospace exploration community who embodies the innovation and insight exemplified by American physician, John Jeffries, who was the first person — back in 1786 — to utilize aeronautics to collect scientific data.
Robert Ferl, who researches how plants can grow in space, won the award. Specifically, Ferl was cited for conducting cutting-edge space biology research and for mentoring others in spaceflight research, pushing the boundaries of where biology can travel.
“I was surprised and enormously honored to win the award,” said Ferl, who was recognized this month in Vienna, Austria. “For a space biologist, recognition by the engineers — the rocket builders, the space suit designers, the people who plan the missions — is a huge honor that acknowledges the role of fundamental science in moving life into space.”
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.
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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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.”
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.
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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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.
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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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.