IFAS News

University of Florida

Injecting citrus tree trunks with bactericide may help stem greening

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

Dr. Nian Wang, professor at the Citrus Research and Education Center.  Photo taken 03/08/16.

Please see caption below.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A chemical treatment known as a bactericide could help preserve citrus trees from the potentially deadly and costly greening disease, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

Citrus is estimated as a $10.9 billion-a-year industry in Florida and the finding could be key to helping the state’s citrus growers and its economy. Citrus greening has cost Florida $3.6 billion in economic damage since it was first discovered in 2005, according to previous UF/IFAS studies. It is projected that more than 80 percent of citrus trees have been infected by greening.

Nian Wang, a UF/IFAS associate professor of microbiology and cell science, led the latest study, which found that when a bactericide – in this case, oxytetracycline — is injected into the trunk of greening-infected citrus trees, it helps keep the trees alive by thwarting greening, also known as Huanglongbing, or HLB.

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New UF/IFAS method detects low-dose impacts of man-made chemicals in water

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, IFAS, Research

A wading bird perched upon a tree on the banks of the Indian River Lagoon.

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers have found a better way to assess the potential impacts of low dose mixtures of man-made chemicals — like pharmaceuticals and personal care products — on water bodies and their ecosystems.

Such products – known to scientists as PPCPs – are widely released into the world’s freshwaters and oceans, where they mix at low concentrations over long time periods and seep into diverse environmental pathways such as surface water, groundwater, drinking water or soil.

“The end effect could be degradation of aquatic life,” said Rafael Muñoz-Carpena, a UF/IFAS professor of agricultural and biological engineering and a lead author of a new UF/IFAS-led study. “Some pharmaceuticals that individually are typically not toxic at even high doses, can damage aquatic life at very low doses when present in complex mixtures often found in natural waters after wastewater finds its way there.”

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Hops research among UF/IFAS winners at national horticultural science awards

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Environment, Extension, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, RECs, Research

Hops photo1 - Brian Pearson 021916

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Hops research by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers is gaining national scientific recognition in addition to media attention.

Three UF/IFAS scientists are not only trying to see if hops will grow in Florida’s hot, humid climate, but they also want to know whether they can quench the thirst of the fast-growing micro-brewing industry.

Brian Pearson, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of environmental horticulture, is one of three members of the hops research team. Pearson’s research to date won him third place in the Early Career Award for scientists at the American Society of Horticultural Sciences (ASHS) in early August. The Early Career Competition is for new faculty and professionals to share their discoveries to a peer audience.

“This is just the beginning of our alternative and specialty crop research,” said Pearson, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka, Florida. “Working with hops, fennel, safflower and skullcap, we hope to bring an array of viable, high-value alternative crops to Florida growers.”

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When a picture is not worth 1,000 words

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

Katie Stofer 090116 - pictures news release

Katie Stofer led the study.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — What happens when a picture is not worth 1,000 words?

That’s the question Katie Stofer, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher, explored in a newly published study, as she talked to scientists and lay people about images presented by scientists.

Artwork and graphics can help augment the written words in articles and verbal presentations, particularly if the audience is scientists. But lay people are not likely to understand those graphics, according to the study by Stofer, a UF/IFAS research assistant professor in agricultural education and communication.

Stofer conducted the study to find out the differences in what “experts” and “novices” gleaned when they viewed visuals produced by scientists. She showed graphic elements to 12 scientists and 17 lay people. Participants were shown versions of global satellite data visuals about sea surface temperatures and chlorophyll.

The upshot of the small experiment? For the most part, the experts could interpret the graphics; the novices gleaned very little information from them. While the novices did not understand the graphics very easily when they were not changed from the original ones used by scientists, they understood much more of the content after graphics were translated to use more familiar colors and labels, Stofer said.

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UF/IFAS researchers scramble to find cure for tenacious, costly sugarcane virus

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Departments, Entomology and Nematology, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs, Research

1-Sugarcane leaf with yellowing of lower midrib

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are working to find a cure or develop resistant varieties for a virus that is attacking sugarcane and sorghum throughout the Everglades agricultural region. Florida produces more than 50 percent of all sugarcane in the United States, making it the largest producer in the nation.

The sugarcane yellow leaf virus was first identified in Hawaii during the 1980s. The virus was found in Florida in 1993, said Philippe Rott, a professor of plant pathology at the UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade, Florida. Symptoms include a yellow stripe down the middle of sugarcane leaves, he said.

“The virus travels down the vascular bundle of the plant and interferes with the movement of nutrients,” Rott said. “This, in turn, stunts the growth of the plant.”

The virus is carried by an aphid, a tiny bug that feeds by sucking sap from plants, said Gregg Nuessly, director of UF/IFAS Everglades REC and a professor of entomology. Nuessly’s and Rott’s research has identified the carrier of the virus, and trials are in progress to see if insecticides are effective at killing the aphid.

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Anita Neal named new district Extension director for South District

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

Anita Neal

BELLE GLADE, Fla. — Anita Neal, a longtime University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension agent, has been named director for UF/IFAS Extension’s south district.

In her new position, Neal oversees the work of 11 UF/IFAS Extension county offices and the Seminole Indian Tribe. She said she is excited about her new role at UF/IFAS.

“Being an Extension district director enables me to help faculty accomplish their goals and be successful,” Neal said. “This position is a vehicle to take their thoughts, ideas and needs to the administration. And, I love helping to find those solutions.”

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‘Nudges’ help students select healthy lunches

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

Kids in a school cafeteria to promote the My Plate and YUM nutrition programs.

Please see caption at end of story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With back-to-school season in full swing, imagine this: Your child orders lunch via computer and gets a little message saying he or she needs to add more nutritious food groups. That combination helped some youngsters eat healthier meals, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study showed.

Researchers caution that their findings are not generalizable — given the small sample size — but they say the methods give school lunch programs and parents potential tools to help children eat more nutritious meals at school.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 5 billion school lunches are served daily in the United States. Additionally, although 99.9 percent of American children aged 12 to 18 consume fruits and vegetables daily, less than 1 percent eat the federally recommended amount of those foods. So the UF/IFAS study could show helpful, albeit early, findings.

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UF/IFAS Extension, Hastings farmers explore sweet potatoes as alternative crop

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

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HASTINGS, Fla. — Back in the 1920s, Danny Johns’ great grandfather was the first farmer in the Hastings area to use a tractor instead of a mule. Now, in a region known for producing potatoes for the potato chip industry, Johns, like his ancestor, isn’t afraid of trying something new.

As of this year, Johns is one of a few commercial farmers in Florida who are growing sweet potatoes, a crop not produced in the state since the sweet potato weevil devastated much of the Florida industry for the commercial, orange sweet type in the 1980s.  Now, with the help of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, growers like Johns have the opportunity to diversify their business with this reemerging crop.

In Florida, potatoes grown for the potato chip industry, or “chipping” potatoes, are planted in January or February and harvested in May or June, said Scott Chambers, farm supervisor at the UF/IFAS Hastings Agricultural Extension Center. Table stock potatoes, potatoes sold fresh, are also planted and harvested at these times.

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As zika spreads, UF/IFAS faculty on front lines battling the virus

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

Common Aedes Aegypti mosquito, magnified 2,000 times at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 6/28, prepares to feed on human skin. After 15 years of test on more than 3,900 compounds, Jerry Bulter, professor of entomology, has developed a safe, natural insect repellent that protects people against everything from mosquitoes to ticks and tiny "no-see-ums."  Its the first effective alternative to products containing DEET, the most widely used ingredient in insect repellent now on the market. Butler's new herbal repellent is patented by the UF and licensed to a commercial firm.(AP Photo, Jerry Bulter)

Photo of an Aedes aegypti mosquito.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty are on the front lines in the battle against the zika virus, as entomologists study the ability of at least two mosquito species to transmit the virus and ways of reducing pesticide resistance.

They’re also teaching people statewide about how to prevent spreading zika.

As of Aug. 18, 510 American residents had contracted the virus. Florida has 479 zika cases, according to the state health department; 35 people in Florida have contracted zika via local transmission, meaning they didn’t bring it back from overseas.

Scientists at the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach, Florida, have made Zika a top priority. The virus is most likely transmitted by Aedes aegypti – the yellow fever mosquito – and Aedes albopictus – the Asian tiger mosquito.

In February, when the virus started making international news, Roxanne Connelly, a professor of medical entomology and UF/IFAS Extension specialist at the FMEL, put on a statewide zika webinar to tell Extension faculty the do’s and don’ts of trying to contain zika. One of her key messages – that still holds true — was to get rid of standing water and containers that could get water in them because those are mosquito breeding grounds. The other key element was to wear repellant with DEET.

These days, Connelly is working with other UF/IFAS Extension entomologists such as Faith Oi, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and mosquito control districts on zika educational workshops and school newsletters throughout Florida.

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UF/IFAS Extension in Suwannee Valley region helps watermelon growers save water, fuel, fertilizer

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Extension, IFAS, RECs, Research, Soil and Water Science

Sliced watermelons sitting atop a stack of uncut watermelons. UF/IFAS Photo: Thomas Wright.

LIVE OAK, Fla. — Robert Hochmuth remembers about 30 years ago when researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Suwanee Valley Agricultural Extension Center showed watermelon growers how to use transplants instead of direct seeding. UF/IFAS Extension agents encouraged growers to use plastic mulch instead of bare ground planting, and to switch from overhead to drip irrigation.

“We wanted to help them adopt best management practices that would decrease the use of water, fertilizer and fuel,” said Hochmuth, UF/IFAS Extension center director and regional specialized agent. “In the end, they have not only seen their crop yields increase, but have also helped the environment and reduced the use of resources.”

Over the past 30 years, virtually all Suwannee Valley watermelon growers—about 40—have reduced the use of water, fuel and fertilizer, and improved efficiency by switching to best management practices introduced by UF/IFAS Extension agents, Hochmuth said.

“Nearly one-third of all Florida watermelons are grown in the Suwannee Valley,” said Kevin Athearn, regional specialized agent and co-leader of the watermelon industry study. “So, we wanted to help growers improve the way they grow produce and increase their market share. While most growers started experimenting with plastic much during the 1990s, all had fully transitioned by 2000.”

The results have been astounding.

Growers who participated in a 2016 UF/IFAS survey reported a 50 percent to 80 percent reduction in water use per acre, with the average being 67 percent, Hochmuth said. The growers are saving as much in fuel costs, and 15 percent to 30 percent reduction in applied nitrogen, he said.

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