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Perennial corn crops? It could happen with new plant-breeding tool developed at UF/IFAS  

Topic(s): Crops, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Since the first plant genome sequence was obtained for the plant Arabidopsis in 2000, scientists have gene-sequenced everything from cannabis to castor bean.

University of Florida scientists were part of a research team that this week unveiled a new tool that will help all plant scientists label (“annotate” in researcher parlance) genes far more quickly and accurately and is expected to give a big boost to traditional and nontraditional plant breeders.

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Retracing citrus’ earliest roots to find clues for healthier future

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, IFAS, Research
UF/IFAS Researcher Fred Gmitter holds citrus fruit.  He helped to trace the origins of citrus to two wild species.

see caption below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – That orange you’re enjoying may have been grown in Florida, but its deepest ancestral roots stretch back more than 5 million years, all the way to two wild citrus species from Southeast Asia.

University of Florida scientists led an international research team that analyzed the genome sequences of 10 diverse citrus varieties for the first time. (more …)

UF/IFAS researchers find chemicals that treat citrus greening in the lab

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, IFAS, Pests, Research
A citrus tree sapling hosts the Asian citrus pyllid, which spreads citrus greening disease through a bacteria it carries.

see photo caption below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida research team is cautiously optimistic after finding a possible treatment in the lab for citrus greening, a disease devastating Florida’s $9 billion citrus industry. It is the first step in a years-long process to bring a treatment to market.

Claudio Gonzalez and Graciela Lorca led the research team at UF that examined three biochemical treatments: phloretin, hexestrol and benzbromarone.

The team sprayed greenhouse tree shoots separately with one of the three biochemicals and were successful in stopping the bacteria’s spread, particularly with benzbromarone, which halted the bacteria in 80 percent of the infected trees’ shoots. They expect to begin field experiments with this treatment later this year. Their research was published in late April by the online open access journal PLOS Pathogens. (more …)

Floridians remain conflicted on immigration; oppose eligibility for federal education grants

Topic(s): Research, Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Floridians support the children of people who illegally entered the U.S. attending public colleges in their home state at lower, in-state tuition rates.

But that support fades fast when asked whether those students should be eligible for federal education grants, according to a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ survey of Floridians’ attitudes about immigration.

The survey of 503 Florida residents found that 43 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with allowing children of those who entered the U.S. illegally to pay in-state tuition for college, but just 29 percent supported them being eligible for federal grants to help pay for college. And only 35 percent felt those students should be able to compete for public university scholarships.

The UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education, or PIE Center, led the study.

“It’s interesting … the results show Florida residents are interested in children of undocumented immigrants being treated fairly, but not sure they want their children to have to compete with them for grants and scholarships,” said Alexa Lamm, the PIE Center’s associate director. “I wouldn’t say the results were unexpected, but it’s telling.”

Florida legislators this spring approved a bill allowing the children of immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally to pay in-state tuition. Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign the bill.

Much like last year’s immigration survey, Florida residents’ awareness of the E-Verify system remains low, with only 28 percent of respondents able to identify the system now being used by all agencies under the governor’s direction, including the state’s public universities. E-Verify is used to see if potential employees are authorized to work in the United States.

Georgia began requiring businesses to use E-Verify in 2011, and a University of Georgia study later estimated some $75 million in losses to agricultural producers due to shortages in harvesting help. A similar economic loss is projected for Florida should E-Verify use be required of businesses.

After being told of some of the potential challenges E-Verify could pose for the agricultural sector, 62 percent of respondents said Florida should still require agricultural producers to use the system.

The PIE Center’s survey of Floridians’ perceptions on immigration was conducted online in March, said Lamm, an assistant professor in agricultural education and communication.

As in last year’s survey, respondents assigned importance to a number of topics, and immigration came in ninth on a list of 10.  While 89 percent of respondents rated the economy as highly or extremely important, only 62 percent felt as strongly about immigration.

Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, said the results suggest to him that UF/IFAS may need to do more to help raise awareness about immigration issues and how they can affect the state’s agricultural sector and the economy.

“Immigration is a key issue, but it’s especially so in Florida because of its close ties to agriculture,” he said. “And if we’re going to have effective immigration policies, it’s imperative that our state’s residents are well informed on the issue.”

The PIE Center will host a free webinar on public perceptions and knowledge gaps about immigration at 2 p.m. May 21. Register at www.piecenter.com/easy-as-pie/. The survey findings are available at www.piecenter.com/immigration.


Writer: Mickie Anderson, mickiea@ufl.edu

Sources: Alexa Lamm, alamm@ufl.edu

Jack Payne, jackpayne@ufl.edu

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UF/IFAS researchers praised for scientific efforts in seventh awards night

Topic(s): Announcements, Honors and Appointments, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — High-quality scientific research was again in the spotlight as the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences held its annual research awards program May 14 at the Harn Museum.

The event brought together dozens of UF/IFAS faculty members, graduate students and stakeholders from around the state.

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UF/IFAS researchers target eucalyptus as source of fuel for biomass production

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biofuels, Environment, IFAS, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers working to produce ethanol from plant material are taking a hard look at eucalyptus as a possible source for the clean fuel.

Joe Sagues, director of operations at the University of Florida’s Stan Mayfield Biorefinery Pilot Plant in Perry, Florida, and Ismael Uriel Nieves, project director at the plant, recently switched the focus of their lab-scale research from sugarcane and sorghum to eucalyptus for this study. They say the tree, most commonly associated with Australia and food for koalas, is a fast-growing hardwood that is easier to store and transport. (more …)

Two UF/IFAS assistant professors honored by UF

Topic(s): Announcements, IFAS, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Two University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty members have earned the 2014 Excellence Award for Assistant Professors for UF.

A committee of UF distinguished faculty and eminent scholars chose Luke Flory, assistant agronomy professor, and Christine Miller, assistant entomology professor, as two of the 10 campus-wide faculty honorees. The panel selected Flory, Miller and the others for the quality and innovation of their research, according to a letter from UF Provost Joe Glover.

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UF/IFAS research findings shed light on seagrass needs

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

Tom Frazer seagrass 01 (4)

Cutline: Tom Frazer, professor of aquatic ecology and director of the UF School of Natural Resources and Environment at UF/IFAS, collects seagrass off Florida’s Gulf Coast in this UF/IFAS file photo. Frazer helped supervise a UF/IFAS graduate student’s thesis that examined how much sunlight is needed to keep seagrass healthy off the coast of Florida’s Big Bend.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Seagrass beds represent critical and threatened coastal habitats around the world, and a new University of Florida study shows how much sunlight seagrass needs to stay healthy.

Loss of seagrass means fish, crabs and other animals lose their homes and manatees and sea turtles lose a source of food. Nutrients, such as phosphorous, may prevent seagrass from getting the sunlight it needs to thrive. Nutrients may come from many sources, among them fertilizers used in agriculture, golf courses and suburban lawns, pet waste and septic tank waste.

Scientists often use seagrass to judge coastal ecosystems’ vitality, said Chuck Jacoby, a courtesy associate professor in the Department of Soil and Water Science and co-author of a new UF study that examines light and seagrass health.

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