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IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS study: Consumers prefer U.S.-grown organic broccoli

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

Twenty healthiest foods: artichokes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, bannanas, mangoes, salmon, onions, tomatoes, apricots, apples, avocados, blueberries, garlic, wheat, rice, nuts, red beans, oats, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds. UF/IFAS Photo: Thomas Wright. UF/IFAS calendar 2009

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As a good source of protein, Vitamin A, calcium, iron and fiber, broccoli is so full of nutrients, some call it a “super food.”

It’s also popular at the supermarket, whether it’s grown in America or overseas. But Americans are willing to pay $1 more per pound for U.S. organic broccoli than that from China and Mexico and up to 32 cents more per pound than that grown in Canada.

UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers conducted a national online survey in 2010 in which they posed questions about organic broccoli to 348 participants. They wanted to know the impact of “Country of Origin Labeling” on the price people were willing to pay for organic broccoli.

Foods sold in grocery stores come in packages labeled “organic,” if it applies. The packages also tell the buyer the country where the food was grown — a concept called “Country of Origin Labeling.” But some consumers remain confused about whether the broccoli they’re buying meets U.S. government standards for organic products, said Zhifeng Gao, a UF associate professor of food and resource economics.

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UF/IFAS researcher growing 1,500 types of peanuts as part of the USDA’s Genetic Resources Unit

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Cultivars, IFAS, Research
Greg MacDonald, a weed scientist and agronomist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, worked in Haiti this summer to help bring peanut research to local farmers.

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The germplasm peanut field at the University of Florida’s Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra. Photo UF/IFAS

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CITRA, Fla. — Stretching out in a North Central Florida field, under the scorching summer sun, lies row upon row of lush, green peanut plants – with more than 1,500 kinds growing at the University of Florida’s Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra. The crop is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s germplasm network to maintain and research different types of one of the world’s most popular and nutritional legumes.

“Nobody had done a side-by-side study of yield, grade, biochemical components and genetic background of these peanut varieties,” said Greg MacDonald, a weed scientist and agronomist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, who oversees the project.  “We put together this study and we’re now able to determine those things for each plant line.”

On Thursday, more than 50 national and international peanut scientists and researchers will tour the fields and review the varieties to determine if there are any they would like to try in their areas. For instance, if someone from an African country only gets three months of rain, that grower would need a peanut plant that can survive and make a harvestable crop with a limited amount of rain. (more …)

Ona White Angus herd up for public auction to be held at UF/IFAS Range Cattle REC

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Economics, IFAS, Livestock, RECs, Research

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Ona White Angus

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Ona White Angus herd will be sold through a public auction at the University of Florida Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona this fall or early winter.

The Ona White Angus was developed over two decades of cross-breeding various phenotypes at the Range Cattle REC, said Center Director John Arthington.

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UF/IFAS scientists adapt household products to dupe and trap deadly disease-carrying insects in Africa

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Environment, IFAS, New Technology, Pests, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Crushed seashells and vinegar could be the key ingredients in an inexpensive and readily available way to lure and trap disease-carrying insects in developing nations, according to a new UF/IFAS study.

By using these simple ingredients, insect experts can find easier ways to trap and monitor disease-carrying insects, said Nathan Burkett-Cadena, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of entomology, who led the recent study.

Mosquitoes transmit malaria, West Nile virus and chikungunya virus.  Monitoring these insects is critical to understanding when and where to control them and lessen the risk of human disease. Insect experts the world over use carbon dioxide, the same gas that humans exhale, to attract blood-feeding bugs to traps, so they can measure their abundance, test them for diseases and make decisions about whether or not to control them.

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Caribbean spiny lobsters create safe havens to avoid disease

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Economics, Environment, IFAS, Research

Donald Behringer (right) shows FAES intern Mike Dickson how to tell when a Caribbean spiny lobster is infected with the lethal PaV1 disease.  2009 Annual Research Report photo by Ian Maguire.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Spiny lobsters practice “behavioral immunity” to create safe havens that prevent them from contracting a lethal disease in the wild, an important finding for the $50 million annual spiny lobster fishery in Florida, according to a new study co-authored by a University of Florida scientist.

UF/IFAS Associate Professor Don Behringer worked with Old Dominion University Professor Mark Butler on the study, published online June 10 in the journal PLOS ONE. In the study, scientists showed how the Caribbean spiny lobster uses a form of behavioral immunity to prevent the spread of the PaV1 virus, which takes a heavy toll on their populations.

“Increased infection risk has long been deemed a cost for the many benefits of being a social animal. However, we have shown that a social marine animal, the spiny lobster, has developed behaviors to reduce disease transmission by avoiding infected individuals,” said Behringer, a UF/IFAS scientist in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation Program in Fisheries and Aquatic Science. “Further, this behavioral immunity keeps potential epidemics of PaV1 from occurring.”

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Recreational fish-catch data can help save money in monitoring invasive largemouth bass

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Economics, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Research

 

In this photo released by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, fisheries ecologist Mike Allen, right, discusses largemouth bass research with graduate student Bobby Harris, at a private pond near Hawthorne, Fla. — Tuesday, March 16, 2010. Harris was about to enter the water in search of nesting bass. Allen recently published a study showing bass populations seldom benefit when lakes are closed to fishing during spawning season. (AP photo/University of Florida/IFAS/Tyler Jones)

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are using data from fishing tournaments to gauge how non-native largemouth bass in Africa are invading lakes and preying on smaller, native fish, a huge cost-saving measure in fisheries management.

Largemouth bass are native to North America, but they have been distributed worldwide for recreational fishing. When they’re in waters outside North America, largemouth bass can cause declines in native fish abundance, disrupting the ecosystem.

UF fisheries and aquatic sciences Professor Micheal Allen and his colleagues at UF/IFAS and in South Africa used existing fish-catch data from bass tournaments in southern Africa, where largemouth bass are non-native and invasive. Scientists examined data from 40 bass tournaments in lakes in Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. They compared that information with 41 bass tournaments in the U.S., where bass are native species, between 2011 and 2014.

They found that angler catch data were similar between southern Africa and the U.S. Their data proves that the number and weight of the fish caught by recreational fishermen can be used to monitor the spread of exotic fish that are commonly caught by anglers.

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UF/IFAS study: Muscadine grape seed oil may help reduce obesity

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Muscadine grape seed oil supplies a form of Vitamin E, giving scientists another clue to reducing obesity, a new University of Florida study shows.

The oil may help mitigate the formation of new fat cells because it produces tocotrienol, an unsaturated form of Vitamin E, said Marty Marshall, a UF professor of food science and human nutrition.

“Thus, consuming foods made with muscadine grape seed oil could curtail weight gain by reducing obesity,” Marshall said.

Muscadine grape seed oil would be a valuable addition to the market of edible oils because it is a unique source of tocotrienol in addition to being a good source of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, Marshall said. In addition, scientists anticipate that muscadine grape seed oils fortified with additional tocotrienol from underutilized muscadine varieties could be developed to help stem obesity.

Before this study, scientists attributed most tocotrienol benefits to red palm and rice bran oil. In fact, recent studies have shown that rice bran oil helps lower cholesterol. With the new findings, muscadine grape seed oil could be considered a superior source of tocotrienol, said Marshall, a faculty member at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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UF/IFAS invasives research facility likely to close

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Economics, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, RECs, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A valuable UF/IFAS program that helps save the state millions of dollars annually in controlling invasive plants and insects will likely close after a veto by Gov. Rick Scott on Monday.

An approved increase by the Legislature of $180,000 was denied, and the facility also lost all funding. The state-of-the-art lab opened in 2004 at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce with $3.9 million in state funding.

The center will probably close, and 12 positions will be eliminated, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agricultural and natural resources.

The quarantine facility is a highly secure lab where scientists conduct research on biological controls for invasive species. Scientists introduce, evaluate and release biological control agents to try to manage exotic weeds and insect pests in Florida.

Florida has the largest invasive infestations in the nation. Invasive species cost Florida approximately $100 million a year, Payne said. Scientists at the lab helped control the tropical soda apple, an invasive weed, through the release of 250,000 South American beetles. The move saved cattle ranchers about $5.75 million a year, Payne said.

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UF/IFAS Fort Pierce quarantine facility successfully battles invasive species

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Conservation, Crops, Economics, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs, Research

Bill Overholt and Jim Cuda.  Innovation Awards Portrait.  UF/IFAS File Photo.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida officials expressed thanks Monday for the $180,000 increase in the state budget that’s slated for the quarantine research facility at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce.

With the additional funding, scientists will be able to expand foreign exploration to identify new candidate biological control agents of Florida’s worst invasive plants and insects, and support intensified laboratory studies that are required to ensure agents are safe for release, said Bill Overholt, a UF/IFAS entomology professor who works at the quarantine facility.

With biological control such as one bug eating another, scientists and growers can use a sustainable, cost-effective solution to manage invasive plant and insect problems.

“The facility needs an increase in the amount of operating funds in order to reach its full potential,” said Mary Ann Gosa-Hooks, director of UF/IFAS Government Affairs. “We can do so much more, but with costs continuing to increase, while the facility continues to function on the same budget since 2004, activities are somewhat limited.”

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