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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Citrus grower James Shinn remembers days when he and his workers would rush out as early as 5 p.m. to turn water pumps on to irrigate his crops. “We had no idea when the temperature would drop, so we had to get out there early and get the water going.”
Now, researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are helping state growers save millions of dollars via a tool to gauge weather in agricultural areas.
The Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN), was started in 1998 to provide weather decision-making data in agricultural regions, said Rick Lusher, director of FAWN. While all National Weather Service tools are located at airports, FAWN stations are located in agricultural areas, he said.
“We estimate that if farmers use FAWN tools to determine when to irrigate their crops, they can save millions of dollars and millions of gallons of water,” Lusher said.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Recognized for their excellence both inside and outside of the classroom, faculty within the University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) are known for providing unique learning opportunities for their students. Now, five UF/IFAS CALS faculty have received national recognition for their engaging course designs.
Innovative Teaching Awards given by the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities (APLU) Board of Agriculture Assembly, Academic Programs Section (APS) will aid the faculty members in expanding creative learning experiences for their students. Each year, APS funds five proposals submitted by professors around the country to support learning opportunities and collaborative partnerships across at least two academic institutions. Since the award’s inception in 2014, UF faculty have been part of two winning proposals each year. Out of the five awards this year, UF/IFAS faculty within CALS won three.
“Collaboration is one of the core values of CALS, and we are proud to represent UF in partnerships with other collegiate institutions around the country,” said CALS Dean Elaine Turner. “One of our top priorities as a college is to promote excellence in teaching and by encouraging our faculty to collaborate creatively with others, we improve the learning experience for our students.”
HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Her career at UF/IFAS spanned 20 years, starting as Dean for UF/IFAS Extension and later working as director of three research and education centers. Now, Chris Waddill is ready to retire.
On Oct. 31, Waddill officially leaves the Tropical Research and Education Center, a facility she ran for six years. Now, she’s joining her husband, Van, another retired UF/IFAS administrator, at their home on Duck Key.
She left quite a mark on TREC. As Waddill leaves, the REC is hiring new faculty, including an agricultural engineer and two breeders.
“We are so pleased to have five of the seven new faculty hired at TREC,” she said. “These faculty will help South Florida agricultural interests remain competitive by seeking out new crops and improving existing crops that can thrive in our unique ecosystem. This is the first time in about 30 years that we will have breeders who can improve our tropical crops but most importantly, seek improved crops for our growers.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is sending an inter-departmental team of scientists to Cuba as part of a grant that is believed to be the first federally-funded project for scientific field research in Cuba.
The project’s principal investigator (PI), associate professor Damian Adams; project co-PIs assistant professor Jiri Hulcr and postdoctoral associates Paloma Carton de Grammont and José Soto, and other UF/IFAS research scientists and graduate students from the School of Forest Resources & Conservation, the Entomology and Nematology Department, the Food and Resource Economics Department, and the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering will travel to Cuba for this research, funded by a $228,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The project team is traveling to Cuba to fulfill several missions:
- Conduct research to identify wood-boring pest species in Cuba that could pose high-risk threats to U.S. agriculture and forests.
- Train Cuban scientists on state-of-the-art methods to accurately identify these wood-boring pests in Cuba in an effort to reduce the possibility of transmission of these pests to Florida agriculture and forests.
- Understand how Cuba’s plant protection programs and policies impact pest movement, particularly to the United States.
- Estimate the potential economic impact of a pest invasion from Cuba to the United States.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — October is National Bat Appreciation Month and to celebrate, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher Holly Ober is sharing critical findings on one of the rarest bats in the world.
The Florida Bonneted bat, which is endangered, nestles in tree cavities, palms and buildings in only 10 counties in Florida. The largest bat in Florida with a wing span of 20 inches, its ears point forward over its eyes, and its fur ranges in color from brown to gray, said Ober, an associate professor in the department wildlife ecology and conservation who’s based at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, Florida.
“These bats are extremely rare, and when we began our research in 2013 no one had a good idea of where they occur,” Ober said. “We conducted extensive surveys and now we know that they are in 10 Florida counties.” The Florida Bonneted bat is found as far north as Polk County and all the way south to Miami-Dade County, she said.
When Ober and the research team began their work in 2013, only one natural roost where bats sleep during the day was known. During the past two years, the team has found seven more, she said. “We’ve been using several techniques to follow individual bats as they fly at night. We’ve found them flying as far away as 13 miles from where they spent the day sleeping,” Ober explained.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Growers, UF/IFAS Extension faculty and scientists will tackle production and pest problems – including the Q-biotype whitefly — when they gather for the 11th annual Florida Ag Expo on Nov. 2 at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center.
Created as a way to showcase the Gulf Coast REC, the Ag Expo is a one-stop resource for Florida fruit and vegetable producers. The day-long event includes education sessions, grower roundtables, field tours and demonstrations, as well as a large vendor show with about 80 ag-related booths. The Gulf Coast REC, part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, sits on 475 acres in Balm, Florida, southeast of Tampa.
“The expo has become an important show for growers to stay up to date on the latest research results to assist them in vegetable and small-fruit production,” said Jack Rechcigl, director of the Gulf Coast REC.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Avocado growers now know that a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences mobile irrigation app works well to save money while maintaining crop yields. This data, reported in a new study, is critical for an industry that has a $100 million a year economic impact on Florida.
It’s also important because agriculture uses about 70 percent of the world’s water, the study’s authors say. Feeding the world’s population may require 50 percent more water than was needed in 2012, according to the World Water Assessment Program’s report to the United Nations. Thus, scientists are concerned about meeting the world’s food demand. Conserving agricultural water use through efficient irrigation scheduling would alleviate some of the burden of the increased demand.
To get the best irrigation results, many scientists use a combination of weather data and rates of evapotranspiration, a measure of how much water leaves the plant and its surrounding soil. UF/IFAS scientists tested data for average evapotranspiration for different periods of days. They also compared wet seasons versus dry seasons, said Kati Migliaccio, a UF/IFAS professor of agricultural and biological engineering and lead author on the study.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Federal school lunch guidelines enacted in 2012 are improving nutrition for school-age children and reducing childhood obesity, according to a new study co-authored by a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty member.
UF/IFAS assistant professor of food and resource economics Jaclyn Kropp — along with economists at Georgia State University, Clemson University and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration—worked with a county school food services director to develop a novel research model to study school lunch choices children make, combining lunch sales data collected at the cafeteria register with data on student absences.
They investigated how the nutritional content of National School Lunch Program entrées chosen by students varied across different socioeconomic and demographic groups and impacted their health.
When healthier menu items replaced less healthy items, researchers found the total calories of the students’ lunch choices decreased about 4 percent. Calories from fat decreased 18 percent, and those from sodium decreased by 8 percent.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers, who have already seen ambrosia beetles damage part of Florida’s avocado crop, know that more of the species will come from Asia in the next decade. Anticipating their arrival, UF/IFAS researchers set up a hypothetical invasion of the beetle, and found out that loblolly pine owners in the South could lose up to $17 billion in trees in 20 years.
Private companies use loblolly for timber production. Small landowners also harvest and sell some of their loblolly pines, said Andres Susaeta, a research assistant scientist in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. But small landowners are also interested in aesthetics, preserving the environment and passing the land on to their heirs.
For the study, researchers wanted to look at the economic impact of anticipated invasions of more ambrosia beetles from Asia into the southern United States. Invasive wood borers, such as the ambrosia beetle, transmit disease-carrying fungi to several North American trees, and it’s not clear whether trees such as pines will face similar threats in the future, the researchers said.
Even though the scenarios were hypothetical, Andres Susaeta, a research assistant scientist in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation, said the situation could be all too real.
A cow grazing in a beef cattle pasture at the Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona, Florida. Photo by Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida residents curious or skeptical about the threat posed by the parasitic screwworm fly Cochliomiya hominivorax can rest assured the insect merits all the attention it has received after an outbreak was detected in the Florida Keys earlier this month, say experts with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Commonly known as the primary screwworm fly or New World screwworm fly, the insect threatens the health of warm-blooded animals and people in areas where it is well-established, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
“To put it plainly, a full-blown screwworm infestation is a death sentence for the host animal,” Payne said. “This pest can kill a previously healthy cow or bull in a matter of weeks if the problem isn’t treated properly. It’s that serious.”
Payne urges all livestock and pet owners to educate themselves about the symptoms of screwworm infestation and seek veterinary care for animals exhibiting tell-tale indications such as open wounds that do not heal, running sores, listlessness, loss of appetite or sudden weight loss.
The fly’s larvae must consume the tissue of a live warm-blooded animal to develop, so adult females lay their eggs on livestock and wildlife with superficial wounds, said veterinary entomologist Phil Kaufman, an associate professor with the UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department.
“From a strictly scientific point of view, screwworm larvae are incredibly well-adapted parasites,” Kaufman said. “That’s why this species was a constant menace to Florida’s cattle industry up through about 1960, when it was eradicated from the state.” (more …)