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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Fifteen early career scientists at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Scientists have been awarded grants to help solve global issues such as thwarting invasive pests, improving crop varieties, battling citrus greening and preserving our environment.
The faculty members will receive about $50,000 each as part of UF’s Early Career Scientist Seed Fund program to help develop new faculty research, said Jackie Burns, UF/IFAS dean for research. UF/IFAS works with the UF vice president for research on the program.
“This year’s competition was highly competitive, with 25 early career scientists presenting excellent proposals,” Burns said. “After a rigorous review by a panel of UF/IFAS scientists, I am pleased to announce 15 awards. The research projects represented by these awards demonstrate the breadth of UF/IFAS research programs.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Homeowners with irrigation systems would use less water if they were offered more incentives, according to a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences report.
Most will even pay more for better water quality.
Respondents to a UF/IFAS online survey of 3,000 such homeowners in Florida, Texas and California said reducing the price of water-efficient equipment would be the most effective strategy. That was followed by more practical information on household water conservation, easier identification of water-efficient appliances and better landscape irrigation ordinances.
Additionally, respondents liked the idea of a real-time water use mobile app and more information on the environmental impacts of water conservation.
“We know that informed homeowners are aware and concerned about the environmental consequences of excessive irrigation water use. However, awareness and concern are necessary, but not sufficient, conditions for resource and water conservation.” said Hayk Khachatryan, an assistant professor of food and resource economics and the lead investigator in the survey. “Efforts in promoting the adoption of water-saving irrigation systems and practices will be more successful when environmental conservation measures are combined with economic incentives such as utility or manufacturer rebates on smart irrigation equipment.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Your neighbors and peers probably care more about water conservation than one might assume, and that may mean they’re open to some new ideas about using less water, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.
Laura Warner, who will publish a new study on UF/IFAS Extension water conservation programs, thinks these neighborly discussions could prove fruitful.
“You may not notice the ways someone conserves, but they may already be taking action to not waste water by using good irrigation practices, and they may be open to some new ideas if you strike up a conversation about how you save water in the home landscape,” said Warner, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communications.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In less than 30 years, 3,000-year-old oyster reefs off Florida’s Big Bend coastline have declined by 88 percent, according to University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.
For residents who depend on the fishing grounds and other coastal resources protected by these reefs, it’s a worrying trend.
Now, thanks to an award of up to $8.3 million from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, a UF/IFAS research team will work to restore these shrinking oyster reefs and help coastal ecosystems — and economies — become more resilient in the face of climate change and rising tides.
“This grant is one more way UF/IFAS can help foster sustainable communities and ecosystems on the Nature Coast,” said Jack Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “This work also dovetails with efforts by our state and local partners to conserve land and water resources in our coastal areas,” he said.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Older adults who eat at congregate meal-serving sites may come to the meals with significant nutritional deficits, according to a new study by a researcher at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Congregate meals are delivered through the Area Agencies on Aging, administering state and federally funded meal and nutrition education programs with outreach services. Collectively, about 425 congregate sites in Florida serve thousands of meals daily.
In the study, Kelly Springstroh, an undergraduate in the UF/IFAS food science and human nutrition department, wanted to determine if handgrip strength predicts nutritional risk in older adults.
This study showed that handgrip strength alone was a weak predictor of nutritional risk but may be useful as a component of a nutritional risk screening tool.
The nutritional risk was due mainly to inadequate servings of recommended food groups, rather than problems with appetite, chewing or swallowing or significant weight loss, according to the study, led by Springstroh, under the supervision of Wendy Dahl, a UF/IFAS associate professor of food science and human nutrition. Congregate meals have high standards for meeting nutritional quality, Dahl said. They’re often served five times a week, but some people don’t come to the meals every time. Thus, the nutritional risk may stem from the quality or quantity of their other meals, Dahl said.
Edward “Gilly” Evans
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Edward “Gilly” Evans, a longtime agricultural economist at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Tropical Research and Education Center, has been named interim director of the center as the unit is hiring seven new faculty members.
The new scientists include an agro-ecologist (a combination of agronomist and ecologist) who will study, among other things, how production systems can remain profitable while conserving natural resources and protecting the environment. Other TREC hires include one of two hydrologists, two crop breeders, and a plant stress physiologist. A biogeochemist and a hydrologist will be hired in the near future.
Evans credits recently retired TREC director Chris Waddill for laying the groundwork for the seven new faculty positions. Once the new faculty are on-board, Evans will be supervising 100 full-time center employees, which will include 17 faculty members.
“It’s an exciting time for us because this will mark the beginning of a new chapter in TREC’s history that will bring us to a new level of excellence,” said Evans, a professor in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department. “More and more, growers are looking to us to help with the many challenges they face, including increased foreign competition, a barrage of pests and diseases and climate change sea-level rises that threaten the quality and quantity of water resources in Florida. My emphasis over the coming year will be on completing the new hires and getting our scientists the help and tools they need to be more effective in doing their jobs.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — People who know a lot about genetically modified foods are inclined to agree with the scientific consensus that such foods are safe to eat. But, those who know plenty about global warming are cautious about the science that says humans cause the phenomenon, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.
Furthermore, the study showed some people still make what researchers call “illusionary correlations,” such as “genetically modified foods cause autism.”
Perhaps science communication should address people’s perceptions about illusionary correlations versus their knowledge of global warming and genetically modified foods, said Brandon McFadden, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food and resource economics and author of the study. Merely providing people with information is insufficient to change behavior, McFadden said.
A tropical bed bug
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For the first time in 60 years, a tropical bed bug has been confirmed in Florida, and University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers urge the public to send them samples of suspected bed bugs for identification.
For decades, pest control professionals kept common bed bugs mostly at bay with various chemical treatments. Then scientists saw a resurgence of those bugs in the late 1990s and 2000s. The same thing may be happening with the tropical bed bug. It hadn’t been confirmed in Florida since the 1930s and 1940s. In 2015, a family in Brevard County reported tropical bed bugs in their home, said Brittany Campbell, a UF/IFAS doctoral student in entomology.
UF/IFAS scientists confirmed the bug finding, and so far, that’s the only confirmed case in Florida. But researchers think it’s possible they’ll find the bug in other parts of Florida and, in fact, the South because it lives in tropical and sub-tropical climates. Other than its geographic preference, the tropical bed bug is similar to the common bed bug, which is found in all 50 states.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A time-lapse polarized imaging system may help citrus growers detect greening before the plant’s leaves show symptoms, which should help growers as they try to fend off the deadly disease, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.
For the new study, Won Suk “Daniel” Lee and Alireza Pourreza wanted to know how early citrus leaves with greening can be detected while they are pre-symptomatic. So they inoculated plants with the greening disease and put those leaves through a time-lapse imaging system.
There, they found starch in the leaves, an early sign of greening, said Pourreza, a former post-doctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS agricultural and biological engineering department. In their study, UF/IFAS researchers detected greening about one month after they infected the trees, he said.
Timely detection and removal of greening-infected trees are necessary to manage the disease, said Lee, a UF/IFAS agricultural and biological engineering professor and an author on the study.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — This spring, a handful of golf courses in Florida will become a little more “green,” thanks to a new project led by a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension specialist and researcher.
“In our state, resource conservation is a big issue, especially water conservation,” said Adam Dale, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of entomology. “Other big issues include pollinator conservation and insect pest management. Both of which are connected to the vitality of our ecosystems.”
According to Dale, golf courses could be used to conserve pollinators while reducing water consumption and management inputs such as pest control.
“Golf courses have a reputation for the resources used to maintain them,” Dale said. “In Florida, the majority of golf course acreage is irrigated, but 40 to 70 percent of that area isn’t typically played. What if we took some of that under-played space and turned it into drought tolerant functional habitats for pollinators and other beneficial insects?”