IFAS News

University of Florida

Veteran biologist named director of UF/IFAS entomology lab

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

Jorge Rey 040516

Jorge Rey

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Just as the Zika virus is causing concern worldwide, a University of Florida insect specialist with 36 years of experience at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory has been named the lab’s new director.

Professor Jorge Rey started at FMEL, part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, in 1979, the year the Vero Beach, Florida, lab came under UF’s umbrella. He moved up the faculty ranks from research scientist to professor in 1994 and was named interim director last year. Now, he’s the lab director, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“With his many years of top-quality research and his time as interim director of the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, Dr. Rey has earned the respect of the lab’s faculty members. Thus, he’s an ideal fit as director,” Payne said. “Dr. Rey is well-positioned to lead the FMEL scientists to new heights in research and Extension as we continue to look for solutions to mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and Zika.”

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Rural residents seek farmers markets, UF/IFAS study shows

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Extension, Families and Consumers, Research

 

 

 

 

Buying and selling at an outdoor farmers' market

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — People who buy their produce from farmers markets love the freshness and nutritional value of the product. Not only that, rural residents seek out such markets more than urban residents, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.

The latter finding surprised the researchers, led by Alan Hodges, an Extension scientist in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department.

“We interpret this effect as due to greater awareness of farming and farm-fresh foods in rural areas,” Hodges said. “The finding also suggests that rural households may be seeking out farmers’ markets as a travel destination rather than as part of a multi-stop shopping trip, as would often be the case with urban consumers. In addition, there is greater competition among food retailers in urban areas, simply due to the larger number of venues available.”

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Local, organic top consumers’ desired qualities in $280 million fruit-producing plant market

Topic(s): Economics, Extension, Families and Consumers, Lawn & Garden, RECs, Research

Grape vine with grapes

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If you’re a consumer in the market for a fruit-producing plant, you’re more likely to buy one if it’s locally grown or organic, an important finding for those making their living in the approximately $280 million-a-year niche U.S. market, new University of Florida research shows.

Limited availability of organically produced edible plants has created markets for these types of plants, according to a new Extension document, http://bit.ly/21KQ6zb, co-authored by Assistant Professor Hayk Khachatryan and Post-doctoral Researcher Alicia Rihn, both researchers at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

As part of a larger study, Khachatryan and Rihn tested 95 Floridians to investigate the effects of plant type, price, production method and origin on consumer preferences for fruit-producing plants. They asked participants to look at images of fruit-producing plants with different attributes and rate them on a scale, with 1 being very unlikely and 7 being very likely to purchase.

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U.S. can capitalize on Chinese orange juice market potential

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, Economics, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Research

 

Various Fresh from Florida labeling upon orange juice and citrus containers.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Opportunity awaits American and Florida marketers who want to sell 100 percent not from concentrate Florida orange juice in China if they take a cue from American restaurant giants like Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut, a new University of Florida study shows.

Zhifeng Gao, an associate professor of food and resource economics at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, led a study in which researchers surveyed shoppers as they entered grocery stores in four major cities in China: Beijing, Shanghai, Zhengzhou and Shenzhen.

After questioning 1,053 consumers, the researchers found Chinese usually will buy an orange juice drink that is made with only 10 percent real juice. They also found that Chinese consumers know little about the benefits of Western-style juice products, such as their high nutritional value.

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UF/IFAS researchers head to Brazil seeking Zika answers

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Families and Consumers, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, RECs, Research

Chelsea Smartt studies the ability of mosquitos to resist pesticides commonly used to control these pests and prevent transmission of disease.

 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher will return to Brazil to study the ability of two mosquito species to transmit the Zika virus.

The yellow fever mosquito – Aedes aegypti – and the Asian tiger mosquito – Aedes albopictus – are considered the main culprits behind the transmission of chikungunya, dengue and zika viruses.

Among other outcomes, this work will provide real-time information about the involvement of the Asian tiger mosquito in the outbreak, as most scientists are focusing on involvement of the yellow fever mosquito, said Chelsea Smartt, UF/IFAS associate professor at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach, Florida. Information gathered by Smartt and her colleagues would improve the ability of mosquito control officials to respond to these viruses ahead of human cases.

“This would aid disease control efforts by being able to detect the virus ahead of human cases,” she said.

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UF/IFAS study: Water conservation important to many; only some take action

Topic(s): Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Research

Sprinklers watering athletic fields. UF/IFAS Phto by Tyler Jones.

See caption below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — How long do you shower? Would you be willing to set a timer for yourself while you bathe? That may be something to consider as you try to reduce your water consumption, say University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.

In a study that used an online survey of 932 Floridians, UF/IFAS researchers sought to identify characteristics of so-called “high-water users,” based on residents’ perceived importance of plentiful water and their water conservation behaviors.

Researchers were most interested in the 24 percent of the respondents who saw water conservation as important yet take little action to do so – for example, people who take long showers and those who may use excessive water to irrigate their lawns. That’s because researchers want residents, homeowners associations, Extension agents and the media to target their water conservation measures to these water users.

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UF/IFAS Urban Landscape Summit set for March 23

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, RECs, Research, Soil and Water Science

WHO: The University of Florida IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology will host the first Urban Landscape Summit on March 23.

WHAT: All are invited to hear summit speakers discuss water, landscape management, urban pest issues, social issues, economics and more. Presentations will include “Why do we adopt environmentally friendly lawn care?”; “Managing pests in lawn care: Is it necessary?”; and “Smart water application technologies.”

WHERE: The event will be held at the Straughn UF/IFAS Extension Professional Development Center, 2142 Shealy Drive, Gainesville.

WHEN: The summit will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday, March 23. For more information, visit http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/clce/events/urban-landscape-summit.html

To register, log onto   http://2016urbanlandscapesummit.eventbrite.com

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By: Beverly James, 352-273-3566, beverlymjames@ufl.edu

Source: Michael Dukes, 352-392-1864, ext. 205, mddukes@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS study identifies opportunity for further promotion of Florida strawberries

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Families and Consumers, Nutrition, Research

Fresh strawberries and strawberry plants.

Please see caption below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — More than three quarters of Florida’s strawberries are shipped to American markets east of the Mississippi River. Most of those out-of-state consumers enjoy the fruit, but some mistakenly think Sunshine State strawberries aren’t available at their grocery stores, a new University of Florida study shows.

That means marketers and others must do a better job ensuring consumers know strawberries come from Florida, said Joy Rumble, an assistant professor of agricultural education and communication. This is particularly true in light of increased competition from California and Mexico, Rumble said. In Florida, the strawberry harvest brought in $267 million in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Rumble, a faculty member at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and a team of researchers from the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education conducted 10 focus groups in five cities east of the Mississippi River. The cities were Charlotte, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Columbus, Ohio; New York City and Boston.

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UF/IFAS scientists closer to finding key to converting algae to biofuel

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

Horticulture Professor Balasubramanian Rathinasabapathi (Saba). Experiments, beaker, laboratory. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers may have found a key to converting algae to fuel.

The scientists have found what researchers call a “transcription factor,” called ROC40. Bala Rathinasabapathi, a UF/IFAS professor of horticultural sciences, likened a transcription factor’s role in controlling the expression of many genes inside the algae cells to a policeman controlling a large crowd. To draw lipids out of algae, scientists must starve the algae of nitrogen. Among the hundreds of proteins modulated by nitrogen starvation, the synthesis of ROC40 was the most induced when the cells made the most oil. The high induction of that protein suggested to scientists that it could be playing an important biological role, said Elton Gonçalves, a former UF/IFAS doctoral student in the plant molecular and cellular biology program. In fact, the team’s research showed that ROC40 helps control lipid production when the algal cells were starved of nitrogen.

“Our discovery about the ROC40 protein suggests that it may be increasing the expression of genes involved in the synthesis of oil in microalgae,” Rathinasabapathi said. “Such information is of great importance for the development of superior strains of algae for biofuel production,” Gonçalves said. “We conducted this research due to the great socioeconomic importance of developing renewable sources of fuels as alternatives for petroleum-based fuels for future generations. In order to advance the production of algal biofuels into a large-scale, competitive scenario, it is fundamental that the biological processes in these organisms are well understood.”

Rathinasabapathi said this information is valuable for the future for engineering algae so it overproduces oil without starving the algae of nitrogen.

Lipids from microalgae provide an excellent renewable source for biofuels. The algae grow quickly, tolerate extreme weather conditions and do not pose the same issues as biofuel crops that are grown both for fuel and food.

The rub was if algae are deprived of nitrogen, the cells become stressed and begin to produce lipids, but their growth rate slows. And if alga is going to become a commercially viable fuel source, scientists must ensure that not only can it produce as much oil as possible, but also that it can grow as fast as possible.

Rathinasabapathi and Gonçalves co-authored the study, which has been accepted for publication in The Plant Journal. Other collaborators were Sixue Chen, an associate professor of biology and faculty director of the UF proteomics and mass spectrometry, part of the Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research; Jodie Johnson, an assistant scientist at the mass spectrometry facility at UF and Takuya Matsuo, an assistant professor at Nagoya University in Japan.

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Caption: UF/IAFS Horticulture Professor Balasubramanian Rathinasabapathi, seen here working in his Gainesville lab, has found what could be a big key to converting microalgae to biofuel. He and former doctoral student Elton Gonçalves found that the transcription factor ROC40 helps control lipid production when the algal cells were starved of nitrogen.

Credit: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS photography.

By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Sources: Bala Rathinasabapathi, 352-273-4847, brath@ufl.edu

Elton Gonçalves, 352-301-6049, egoncalves@newmexicoconsortium.org

UF/IFAS study: Mow less along highways; preserve pollinators

Topic(s): Agriculture, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, Research

In this photo released from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Jaret Daniels makes notes on a giant swallowtail feeding at the UF campus in Gainesville- Wednesday, July 02, 2008. Daniels, program director for the Florida Butterfly Monitoring Network, authored four publications on butterfly watching now available from UF. The network encourages Florida residents to observe butterflies and submit data, useful in tracking butterfly populations and overall ecosystem health. (AP photo/University of Florida/IFAS/Tyler Jones)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Mowing less frequently along Florida’s highways boosts pollinator and wildflower biodiversity and would likely save money on gasoline and manpower, new University of Florida research shows.

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are studying how to preserve pollinators and wildflowers along the state’s roadsides. Pollinators visit flowers, searching for food in the forms of nectar and pollen. During flower visits, pollinators may deposit pollen from a different flower. The plant uses the pollen to produce a fruit or seed. Many plants cannot reproduce without pollen carried to them by foraging pollinators.

The best-known pollinators are bees, but UF/IFAS researchers are studying butterflies as roadside pollinators. Among their other benefits, butterflies serve as indicator organisms. They signal when environmental changes are affecting ecosystems before the effects are apparent to humans or many other organisms, said Jaret Daniels, a UF/IFAS associate professor of entomology.

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