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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Some consumers crave tastier tomatoes than those they buy at the supermarket, so a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher led a global team of scientists that found chemical combinations for better flavor.
In a study published today in the journal Science, Harry Klee, a UF/IFAS professor of horticultural sciences, led an international research team that included scientists from China, Israel and Spain. Researchers identified chemicals that contribute to tomato flavor.
Step one was to find out which of the hundreds of chemicals in a tomato contribute the most to taste.
Then, Klee said, they asked, “what’s wrong with the modern tomatoes?” They lack sufficient sugars and volatile chemicals critical to better flavor. Those traits have been lost during the past 50 years because breeders have not had the tools to routinely screen for flavor, Klee said.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Voters are likely to approve referenda for forest and water conservation in the eastern United States, including Florida, because demand for ecosystem protection is increasing, according to a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study.
“Florida voters have approved far more referenda, compared to other states, and on average support more expensive conservation programs,” said Melissa Kreye, a post-doctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation and a study author.
For the study, Kreye and Damian Adams, an associate professor in the school, examined the results of 76 referenda that proposed to preserve rural land in 14 states from 1991 through 2013. The states were in the North and the South and included Florida, which held 26 such referenda during those 23 years.
This suggests that people are aware of changes in environmental quality due to the loss or conversion of forests and are willing to pay increasingly more to prevent further changes, researchers said.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) are working together on unique projects to target Burmese pythons in Florida. Two projects include using detection dogs and Irula tribesmen to help remove pythons from environmentally sensitive areas.
In their first eight days on the job, the Irula tribesmen — world-renowned snake catchers from India — removed 13 pythons, including four on their first visit to Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge on North Key Largo in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Traditionally, the main occupation of the Irula tribe has been catching snakes. They have successfully hunted and captured Indian pythons in their home province of Tamil Nadu.
“Since the Irula have been so successful in their homeland at removing pythons, we are hoping they can teach people in Florida some of these skills,” said Kristen Sommers, section leader of the FWC’s Wildlife Impact Management Section. “We are working with our partners to improve our ability to find and capture pythons in the wild. These projects are two of several new efforts focused on the removal of these snakes.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Farmers can now learn about the probability of extreme weather events on their farm before the growing season so they can more appropriately plan agricultural practices such as when to fertilize and irrigate, thanks to new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences research.
UF/IFAS experts, led by Caroline Staub and Diego Pequeno, are conducting a study in which they hope to give growers tools to anticipate extreme weather such as severe heat or dry spells during the various phases of crop development. If severe weather strikes during flowering, for example, it can severely impact crops. Their motivation is to better integrate weather information with the decision set at the farmer’s disposal, so that weather-related risk can be reduced in time, Staub said.
“Growers kept asking us, ‘What is the probability of getting an extreme weather event on my farm when my crop is ready to harvest,’” said Staub, a post-doctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS agricultural and biological engineering department.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As Florida Arbor Day approaches on Jan. 20, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and research faculty are holding special commemorations and studying how to ensure trees help our environment and economy.
“Arbor Day is a great time for everyone to be reminded of the importance of trees and forests in their everyday lives and to contribute to the approximately 70 million trees that are planted each year in Florida for reforestation,” said Tim Martin, professor and co-interim director of the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation.
“Wood harvested from Florida’s forests is the largest agricultural commodity in the state,” Martin said. “But these forests provide much more than just paper and boards. Clean water and air, wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities, carbon sequestration, and biodiversity are a just a few of the important benefits that forests provide for us all.”
In fact, UF/IFAS researchers have calculated that a typical acre of Florida forest provides more than $5,000 of services to the state’s residents each year, with just 7 percent of that value from timber, he said.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences economists and other experts will explore economic insights helpful for making informed business and policy decisions at the second annual Florida Agricultural Policy Outlook Conference, organized by the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department.
This year’s topics include the innovation economy, food and nutrition policy, agricultural labor, water quality and management and agricultural production policy and trade.
The conference will be held from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 9 at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, 14625 County Road 672, Balm, Florida.
“Agriculture is a vital industry for Florida with interesting opportunities and compelling challenges as we move into the future,” said Spiro Stefanou, chair of the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department. “Our goal is to bring industry experts, researchers, policy and business leaders together to discuss the current and emerging challenges related to Florida as an engine of innovation, policy related to food, nutrition and consumer decision making, water quality and management, agricultural labor and the prospects for our fruit and vegetable industry.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Last summer, Cory Gillis found himself waking before dawn at the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, where he’d been assigned to track the breeding calls of the northern bobwhite quail as part of an internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But he wasn’t complaining.
“It was amazing to be out in the forest before sunrise in an area without any human influence, not even a sound,” said Gillis, now a senior in the University of Florida department of wildlife ecology and conservation.
Summer internships like Gillis’ are made possible by Nature Coast Biological Station, part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Each year, the station selects a handful of students in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences for internships with various researchers, agencies and labs on Florida’s Nature Coast.
Applications for 2017 summer internships will be open in February, said Savanna Barry, Florida Sea Grant regional specialized agent based at the UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station. This winter, another group of students will intern with the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, where they will collect data on manatee-human interactions and assist with other duties around the busy manatee tourism season, Barry said.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Scientists on Florida’s Big Bend coastline spend their careers studying local ecosystems and finding solutions to challenges such as oyster reef decline or the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Feb 1 to 3, the second annual Big Bend Science Symposium will hold an open forum where the public can meet these scientists and learn about their discoveries and projects.
“The goal of the symposium is to communicate the latest science being done in the Big Bend region and to give visitors a chance to engage directly with scientists,” said Mendy Allen, program coordinator for the Nature Coast Biological Station, part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Symposium scientists will represent several universities, including the University of Florida, state and federal agencies, and conservation groups.
Oral presentations will begin Feb. 1 at 9 a.m. at the Cedar Key Community Center located at 809 6th Street, Cedar Key, FL 32625. All presenters registered with the symposium may attend.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) student who studies improvements to production and quality of grapes has been named UF’s second Cultivator at the 2017 Farm Foundation Round Table.
Crystal Conner, a plant science major, was one of six college students across the nation recognized as rising leaders in agriculture. The students shared their research during the conference hosted the week of Jan. 4 in Irvine, California.
“It was such an honor to first be selected by CALS Dean Elaine Turner, and then to secondly be chosen by the Farm Foundation Round Table to present my research,” Conner said. “I began this project because I wanted to learn more about tissue culture and its future possibilities. I never imagined that others would gravitate toward the possibilities of its impact at such a fast rate.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Asian-Americans in three East Coast states, including Florida, yearn for more of their native vegetables, and those crops can be grown in the East, say two University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.
Gene McAvoy, a UF/IFAS Extension vegetable specialist, and Shouan Zhang, a UF/IFAS plant pathology associate professor, were among a group of 17 researchers from four land-grant universities who surveyed Asian Americans’ preferences in Asian vegetables. Then the researchers tested the crops in various states to see how well they would grow.
There’s a market for locally grown Asian vegetables, researchers say.
In Florida, Asians account for 2.8 percent – or 557,000 — of the state’s 19.8 million people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The population of Asian Americans has jumped by 32 percent from 2000 to 2011, according to the census bureau. Asians are expected to make up about 40 million Americans by 2030. On the East Coast alone, there are 5.8 million Asian Americans in 2014, according to the study.