IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS professor named to U.S. President’s Committee on National Medal of Science

Topic(s): Announcements, Departments, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Soil and Water Science

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Former President Barack Obama has named a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences renowned expert on tropical soils a member of the President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science. Pedro Sanchez, a research professor in the soil and water sciences department, will serve his term until December 2019.

“Dr. Sanchez is not just an outstanding academic, but also a public servant who brings a depth of experience and tremendous dedication to this important role,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources.

Sanchez works with the UF/IFAS Institute of Sustainable Food Systems, which focuses on feeding a burgeoning worldwide population while conserving resources. Sanchez was director of the Agriculture and Food Security Center at The Earth Institute at Columbia University, where he worked from 2003 to 2016.  He served as director of the Millennium Villages Project from 2004 to 2010, and co-chair of the United Nations Millennium Project Task Force on Hunger from 2002 to 2005.

Sanchez is a member of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Society of Agronomy, Soil Science Society of America, and American Association for the Advancement of Science.  He was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2003 and the World Food Prize in 2002.

Sanchez received a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. from Cornell University.

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

Sources: Jack Payne, 352-392-1971, jackpayne@ufl.edu

Pedro Sanchez, 352-294-3130, pedrosanchez@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS early career scientists to use grants to study greening, pests, environmental issues, more

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Citrus, Conservation, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Nutrition, Pests, RECs, Research, Soil and Water Science

Front- John Bonkowski lab assistant, Anne Vitoreli Laboratory manager

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Fifteen early career scientists at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Scientists have been awarded grants to help solve global issues such as thwarting invasive pests, improving crop varieties, battling citrus greening and preserving our environment.

The faculty members will receive about $50,000 each as part of UF’s Early Career Scientist Seed Fund program to help develop new faculty research, said Jackie Burns, UF/IFAS dean for research. UF/IFAS works with the UF vice president for research on the program.

“This year’s competition was highly competitive, with 25 early career scientists presenting excellent proposals,” Burns said. “After a rigorous review by a panel of UF/IFAS scientists, I am pleased to announce 15 awards. The research projects represented by these awards demonstrate the breadth of UF/IFAS research programs.”

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UF/IFAS Extension in Suwannee Valley region helps watermelon growers save water, fuel, fertilizer

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Extension, IFAS, RECs, Research, Soil and Water Science

Sliced watermelons sitting atop a stack of uncut watermelons. UF/IFAS Photo: Thomas Wright.

LIVE OAK, Fla. — Robert Hochmuth remembers about 30 years ago when researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Suwanee Valley Agricultural Extension Center showed watermelon growers how to use transplants instead of direct seeding. UF/IFAS Extension agents encouraged growers to use plastic mulch instead of bare ground planting, and to switch from overhead to drip irrigation.

“We wanted to help them adopt best management practices that would decrease the use of water, fertilizer and fuel,” said Hochmuth, UF/IFAS Extension center director and regional specialized agent. “In the end, they have not only seen their crop yields increase, but have also helped the environment and reduced the use of resources.”

Over the past 30 years, virtually all Suwannee Valley watermelon growers—about 40—have reduced the use of water, fuel and fertilizer, and improved efficiency by switching to best management practices introduced by UF/IFAS Extension agents, Hochmuth said.

“Nearly one-third of all Florida watermelons are grown in the Suwannee Valley,” said Kevin Athearn, regional specialized agent and co-leader of the watermelon industry study. “So, we wanted to help growers improve the way they grow produce and increase their market share. While most growers started experimenting with plastic much during the 1990s, all had fully transitioned by 2000.”

The results have been astounding.

Growers who participated in a 2016 UF/IFAS survey reported a 50 percent to 80 percent reduction in water use per acre, with the average being 67 percent, Hochmuth said. The growers are saving as much in fuel costs, and 15 percent to 30 percent reduction in applied nitrogen, he said.

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UF/IFAS 4Rs program helps growers use best management practices for fertilizer use

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, IFAS, RECs, Soil and Water Science

Kelly Morgan

 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers have introduced a program to help Florida growers maximize the use of nutrients and fertilizers while minimizing the impact on the environment. The results are less fertilizer use and improved crops.

The Four RIGHT (4Rs) program helps growers use the right fertilizer in the right place, at the right time, using the right methods, said Kelly Morgan, state Best Management Practices (BMP) coordinator and UF/IFAS professor of soil and water sciences.

“Fertilizers or nutrients are required in most crop production systems in Florida. While all soils in Florida can supply nutrients for crop production, nutrients may not always be available in adequate amounts for economical crop production,” said Morgan, who is based at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, Florida. “Supplying needed nutrients for crop production involves attention to four major fertilization factors: the right source, right rate, right placement and right timing. Attention to these factors will provide adequate nutrition for crop production while minimizing the risk of loss of nutrients to the environment.”

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Citizen scientists count scallops in Pensacola Bay system, aid fishery research

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

SCALLOP PROJECT.2016

PENSACOLA, Fla. — The morning of Aug. 6, snorkelers began combing the waters of Big Lagoon, an inlet southwest of Pensacola, in search of scallops. The week before, another group had done the same at various points along the Santa Rosa Sound. However, neither was interested in harvesting the shellfish, a pastime now prohibited due to the decline in scallop populations off Florida’s Gulf Coast over the last few decades.

These snorkelers are volunteer citizen scientists in the Great Scallop Search, a program co-sponsored by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension, Florida Sea Grant, the U.S. National Park Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

The volunteers’ task was to count and record the scallops they found on the sea floor. “This data will go to FWC and help officials understand the scallop population in the Pensacola Bay system,” said Rick O’Connor, Sea Grant agent with UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County and co-organizer of the program.

“Knowing how many scallops are there will inform any future efforts by FWC to reseed the area and try to bring the population back,” O’Connor said.

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UF/IFAS study: Sweet potato crop shows promise as feed and fuel

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biofuels, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Livestock, Research, Soil and Water Science

Sweet potato fuel 081516

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As some Florida growers try to find new crops and the demand for biofuel stock increases globally, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers have found that sweet potato vines, usually thrown out during harvest, can serve well as livestock feed while the roots are an ideal source for biofuel.

This could be a key finding for the agriculture industry in Florida and to biofuel needs worldwide, said post-doctoral researcher Wendy Mussoline.

“The agriculture industry in Florida is looking to find new, viable crops to replace the citrus groves that have been diminished by the greening disease,” Mussoline said. “Potato farmers are also trying to find new crops that offer both biofuel alternatives as well as food and/or animal feed opportunities. They are conducting field trials on several varieties of sweet potatoes to determine if they are an economically viable crop that they can market.”

According to a newly published study by professor Ann Wilkie and Mussoline, an industrial sweet potato variety (CX-1) may do the trick.

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Strauss joins UF/IFAS fight against citrus greening

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Citrus, Crops, Extension, IFAS, RECs, Research, Soil and Water Science

Sarah Strauss

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new researcher has joined the University of Florida’s fight against citrus greening, which has devastated the state’s industry. Sarah Strauss, a soil microbiologist most recently from Davis, California, has accepted a position at the UF/IFAS Southwest Research and Education Center in Immokalee, Florida.

Strauss, an assistant professor with an Extension appointment, focuses on characterizing and managing plant and soil microbial community interactions to improve citrus and vegetable crop health and productivity. “The battle against citrus greening has looked at the rootstock, but not necessarily the soil. I hope my research can offer insight into what is going on with the soil of affected trees and how to improve the plant health by improving the soil,” she said.

According to Jack Payne, UF’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, Strauss is the only soil microbiologist in Southwest Florida. “Dr. Strauss is a critical hire because she brings unique skills and talents to the search for a cure to citrus greening,” Payne said. “In addition, she is passionate about helping stakeholders in Florida succeed. It’s one of the main reasons that she came to UF/IFAS—to share her knowledge with those who need it most.”

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UF/IFAS researchers to present findings on critical ecosystem habitats at international conference

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Conservation, Environment, Green Living, IFAS, Research, Soil and Water Science

Mangrove tunnels at Weedon Island Preserve in Pinellas County, Florida.

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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Two University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers will be among those presenting new data at a conference addressing mangrove ecosystems, which are critical for many things, including seafood habitat and erosion prevention.

Todd Osborne and Rupesh Bhomia, both with the UF/IFAS soil and water sciences department, will make presentations at the Mangrove Macrobenthos Meeting in St. Augustine, Florida, July 18 to July 22. This is the fourth meeting of these global mangrove experts and the first time it’s being held in the United States.

“We chose to have it in St. Augustine because we felt a lot of the mangrove research community would appreciate seeing this area of expansion of mangroves into the marshy habitats,” said Osborne, an assistant professor who works at UF’s Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience in St. Augustine, and a co-host of the conference.

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Michael Dukes receives John Deere Gold Medal award

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Research, Soil and Water Science

Michael Dukes

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Michael Dukes, director of the Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, has been honored with the 2016 John Deere Gold Medal award. Dukes is nationally recognized as an expert in irrigation and water conservation.

The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers gives the award to recognize distinguished achievement in the application of science and art to the soil.

“It is a great honor to be selected by my peers for this prestigious award,” Dukes said. “I look forward to continuing my work in helping create sustainable landscape practices that will impact not only Florida, but the world.”

As a professor and UF/IFAS Extension irrigation specialist, Dukes conducts research on water conservation and efficient irrigation with a focus on landscape irrigation. His research is used to inform irrigation professionals, decision makers and other stakeholders on how to implement changes and manage landscape irrigation systems to maximize efficiency while maintaining aesthetically pleasing landscapes. His work is invaluable, said Wendy Graham, director of the UF Water Institute.

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UF/IFAS researchers to study how to reduce carbon dioxide in ranch soil

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Conservation, Environment, Green Living, IFAS, Livestock, Research, Soil and Water Science

A herd of beef cattle on a Florida ranch, trees, cows, grass. UF/IFAS Photo: Thomas Wright.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers hope to reduce possible pollutants emanating from soils in Florida cattle ranches by using a $710,000 federal grant to study soil microbes.

In the new study, UF/IFAS researchers will use lab and field studies to investigate how pasture management and factors such as temperature and rainfall affect soil microbes. They’ll also look for genetic markers to get a glimpse into microbial identity. Genetic markers are genes or short sequences of DNA scientists use to find other genes on a genetic map.

“The goal is to put together a model that can predict the release of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide from soils under a climate that is expected to be warmer and experience more extreme dry and wet periods across the Southeast,” said Stefan Gerber, a UF/IFAS assistant professor in soil and water sciences and one of the investigators on the new study.

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