IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS study: Wood toxin could harm zoo animals

Topic(s): Environment, IFAS, Research, Soil and Water Science

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When those cute animals gnaw on wood enclosures at a zoo, they may be risking their health by ingesting toxic levels of arsenic, so zoo managers need to pay attention to the potential risk of the wood on zoo animals, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

The wood in question is treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA), which can be toxic.

After visiting a zoo with her family, Julia Gress, a former post-doctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS soil and water sciences department, recognized that animals living in enclosures made from CCA-treated wood might face health risks.

Gress wanted to assess the impact of CCA-treated wood on arsenic exposures in zoo animals. She measured arsenic concentrations in soil from inside enclosures and on wipe samples of CCA-treated wood. Samples were taken from inside 17 wood enclosures, and also included crocodilian eggs, bird feathers, marmoset hair and porcupine quills.

Researchers found arsenic levels in soil that were higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s risk-based level for birds and mammals. As well, arsenic levels in some animal tissues were also higher than those in other studies.  Those findings should encourage zoo managers to limit animal exposure to arsenic found on the wood surface and in nearby soil, Gress said.

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UF/IFAS researchers work to combat pasture weed

Topic(s): Agriculture, IFAS, Livestock, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — According to University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers, spiderwort is becoming more common in north Florida, where it has the potential to invade pastures and disrupt hay production.

Professors Jason Ferrell and Brent Sellers, and biological scientist Michael Durham have co-authored a new UF/IFAS Extension document (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ag407) explaining how to control the weed.

Notable for its purple flowers, spiderwort is often seen on roadsides and undisturbed areas, said Ferrell. Though this plant has been in Florida for a long time, “it’s now becoming more common to see it in pasture and feedlot areas. People are starting to wonder what it is and what they need to do about it,” he said.

Cattle will not eat spiderwort. When hay is harvested, any spiderwort that gets into the bales will add extra moisture and spoil the hay, Ferrell added.

When people started calling in and asking how to get rid of spiderwort on their properties, Ferrell and Sellers set up an experiment to find out how best to control it.

They found that the most effective chemical treatment controlled spiderwort for four to six weeks, after which the plants reappeared. Though they did not discover a treatment that completely eliminated the weed, they recommend that producers use this four- to six-week period to harvest their hay.

According to Sellers, spiderwort is more of an issue in north Florida and is less common in the south.

The best way to get rid of the plant is to remove it by hand, Ferrell said. However, “that is a very difficult, tedious process,” especially when one stand of spiderwort contains hundreds of plants, he said.

UF/IFAS Agronomy Photo by Michael Durham

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By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307, grenrosa@ufl.edu

Sources: Jason Ferrell, 352-392-7512, jferrell@ufl.edu

Brent Sellers, 863-735-1314 ext. 207, sellersb@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS study: Nutrition labels may lead to buying more raw seafood

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

Grouper and assorted seafood fillets on display at a store in case. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If grocers put nutrition labels on packages of raw fish — a good nutrient source for cardiovascular health — parents may be more likely to buy the fish, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

Xiang Bi, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food and resource economics, worked with her colleagues to survey 1,000 people online to gauge consumer reactions to raw fish with nutrition labels. Until 2012, federal rules only required nutrition labels on processed and commercial foods. That year, the federal government started requiring raw meat and poultry products to carry nutrition information on their labels. 

In the new study, researchers focused on three types of information: nutrition, health and a combination of nutrition and health. By putting the same nutrition label on raw seafood packages as consumers can find on raw packages of meat, consumers are more willing to buy the raw seafood, the study found. This finding may interest the seafood industry, grocers and policy makers, the study says.

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UF/IFAS study: More sea turtles survive with less beach debris

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

 

Sea turtle swimming through the water.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Conventional wisdom says removing beach debris helps sea turtles nest; now, as sea-turtle nesting season gets underway, a new University of Florida study proves it. In the study, clearing the beach of flotsam and jetsam increased the number of nests by as much as 200 percent, while leaving the detritus decreased the number by nearly 50 percent.

Sea turtles in Florida are classified as either endangered or threatened, depending on the species. Restoring their nesting habitats is critical to keeping them alive, said Ikuko Fujisaki, an assistant research professor of wildlife ecology and conservation with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

With humans encroaching on their natural habitat, sea turtles face an uphill climb to stay alive, said Fujisaki, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center. Sea turtles spend most of their lives in the sea, but they rely on sandy beaches to reproduce.

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UF/IFAS short course cultivates relationships millions of years in the making

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Environment, Extension, Green Living, IFAS, New Technology, Research

Mycorrhiziae under a microscope

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Not all fungal infections are bad for plants—in fact, some of them are critical for plant survival, according University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.

The UF/IFAS Applications and Analyses of Mycorrhizal Associations course teaches participants how to harness the power of these beneficial fungi. Andy Ogram, professor of soil and water sciences, and Abid Al Agely, senior biological scientist, co-founded the course.

Mycorrhizal fungi live in the soil and have a symbiotic relationship with plants. “The fungi actually function like part of the root systems,” and can be cooperative with 90 percent of plants, said Ogram. This mutually beneficial relationship is called a mycorrhizal association and is technically an infection, though a positive one.

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UF/IFAS study: Citizen scientists can help protect endangered species

Topic(s): Environment, IFAS, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Lay people can help scientists conserve the protected Florida fox squirrel and endangered species just by collecting data, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

So-called citizen scientists did a commendable job collecting information on the fox squirrel, according to the study.

Until this study, the conservation and management of fox squirrels in Florida was constrained by a lack of reliable information on the factors influencing its distribution. But with this research, which combines sightings and photos of fox squirrels by everyday citizens and professional ecologists, scientists now know they can get help from citizen scientists in conserving the fox squirrel population.

“When citizens are used in research to find animals across large scales, such as the state of Florida, they provide lots of information that is generally useful for conservation efforts,” said Bob McCleery, a UF/IFAS associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation. “We showed that data collected by citizens has a considerable amount of biases, but it is equal, if not better, than data collected by trained professionals. Additionally, regardless of its bias, citizen-collected data provided reliable predictions of fox squirrel occurrence and helped understand fox squirrel habitat relationships.”

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Globally recognized entomologist named interim director of UF/IFAS Indian River REC

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, Cultivars, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, RECs, Research, Safety

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Ron Cave

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — An entomologist recognized internationally as a specialist in biological control of insect pests has been named interim director of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Indian River Research and Education Center.

Ronald Cave will serve as the sixth leader of the Indian River REC.

From the Indian River REC’s 1947 start as the Indian River Field Laboratory, it has served agricultural and natural resources interests with research, Extension and education programs.

Cave was appointed to his new position by Jack Payne, UF senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources.

“In this challenging time for the citrus industry and for other agricultural commodities, we cannot afford a leadership gap even for a few months,” Payne said. “Ron Cave is the right leader for this transition because of his accomplishments as a scientist, his dedication as a mentor and his familiarity with the center. It’s this combination of excellence and stability that makes him an ideal choice for this important role.”

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UF/IFAS researcher: With sod-based rotation, profits up, risks down

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Extension, IFAS, RECs, Research

David Wright

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — David Wright, an agronomy professor and University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension specialist, makes it his mission to get farmers to grow more grass. This will increase profits, reduce risk of disease and pests on row crops that follow, and conserve natural resources, according to the researcher.

The benefits in rotating perennial grass (sod) with row crops, Wright says, may help farmers boost profits two- to seven-fold. Currently, more farmers are adopting the practice. Funding is being provided by the Florida Water Management Districts and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and through EQIP funds from National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Wright says.

Wright, based at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, Florida, has been researching sod-based rotation for more than 16 years. Sod-based rotation involves planting a perennial grass, such as bahia, for several years, and then planting row crops such as cotton, peanut, soybean or cotton after killing out the sod.

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UF/IFAS program helps small cow-calf producers get ahead

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

Two cows wait for food at at the Beef Teaching Unit.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is showing small cow-calf producers how using the latest reproductive research leads to larger profits.

The UF/IFAS Florida Heifer Development Program was developed by Kalyn Waters, UF/IFAS Extension Holmes County director, and Cliff Lamb, professor of animal sciences and assistant director of the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center, Marianna.

Both Lamb and Waters saw a need for a program to help ranchers improve the productivity of their herds.

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Top UF/IFAS-produced food, beverages showcased at Flavors of Florida

Topic(s): Agriculture, Aquaculture, Citrus, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, RECs, Research

2016 Flavors of Florida with VIP event at Emerson Alumni Hall, followed by the event at the President's house on Monday, May 9th.

 
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Faculty, administrators and friends of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences now know even more about the fine foods and beverages produces by UF/IFAS faculty after the annual May 9 Flavors of Florida event.

Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, commended faculty and thanked friends for attending.

“Flavors of Florida is a chance for UF/IFAS to showcase the many fine foods and beverages developed by our world-renowned scientists to not only make food tastier and more nutritious but to help growers sell more food at the grocery store,” Payne said. “And with the help of our many friends around Florida, we can continue the laboratory and field research necessary to continue producing these incredible foods.”

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