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IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS is all about the bugs during Bug Week 2015, May 18-23

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, Environment, Families and Consumers, Household Pests, IFAS, Invasive Species, Lawn & Garden, Pests

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida campus is aflutter with activity as it gears up for Bug Week 2015, with various online and campus activities for students of all ages and their families.

“Bugs are serious business in Florida,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “Learning about bugs, though, should be fun. That’s why we have Bug Week.”

Bug Week 2015 is scheduled for May 18-23. To get started, check out the Bug Week website at http://bugs.ufl.edu/. UF/IFAS has a number of online resources there to explore including bug photos, feature stories, and the popular “Bug of the Day” and “Bug Word of the Day” items. Citizen science projects – in which anyone can participate – are spotlighted on the website, along with videos about everything from ants and butterflies to spiders and ticks. (more …)

UF/IFAS scientist uses special fertilizer to keep palms, soil and water healthy

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Environment, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, RECs, Research

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Tim Broschat

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida scientist has developed a fertilizer for palm trees that should keep them healthy and reduce water pollution.

Environmental horticulture Professor Tim Broschat found that applying a palm fertilizer with no nitrogen or phosphorus could prevent the harmful effects of lawnfertilizers on palms.

“We also found that most palms do not need any phosphorus in their fertilizer to be healthy, and by not applying this element, we can eliminate one possible source of water pollution in Florida,” said Broschat, a faculty member at UF’s Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center.

(more …)

Alachua County Extension agent named Statewide Master Gardener Coordinator

Topic(s): Announcements, Extension, Florida Friendly, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Lawn & Garden

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Wendy Wilber

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Wendy Wilber believes Florida’s immensely popular Florida Master Gardener Program can be the best in the country.

The veteran UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County environmental horticulture agent and master gardener coordinator has been named as the statewide master gardener coordinator for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Wilber, who has worked as a county master gardener coordinator for 15 years, said in her cover letter for the position that her experience working with volunteers made her an ideal candidate. She coordinates about 140 volunteers.

Michael Dukes, a professor in the UF/IFAS Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and director of the UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology, announced Wilber’s appointment. The center promotes the protection and preservation of Florida’s natural resources and quality of life through responsible landscape management.

Wilber starts her new position April 10.

“This position is important to the Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology as well as to IFAS,” Dukes said. “With 4,000 volunteers, it’s a great way to disseminate scientific-based information. We are excited about bringing Wendy on board to lead this program.”

(more …)

UF/IFAS Lawn and Garden Fest slated for Saturday, March 14

Topic(s): Agriculture, Families and Consumers, Florida Friendly, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Vegetables

Landscaping, ornamentals, gardening.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Just in time for spring’s arrival, Lawn and Garden Fest returns to the University of Florida campus on Saturday, March 14, to offer residents free advice and information to help them beautify their yards.

It takes place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Extension Soil Testing Laboratory on the corner of Mowry Road and Hull Road, in the southwest quadrant of the UF campus. The public is invited to the event, which will take place rain or shine, and is presented by the Soil and Water Science Department, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, or UF/IFAS.

Faculty members from several UF/IFAS departments will be available for consultations at information booths set up under a large tent, said organizer George Hochmuth, a soil and water science professor.

“No matter what questions or problems you may have with your plants, soils or lawn, our experts can help,” Hochmuth said. “Even if you’re happy with the state of your yard, you can probably learn a thing or two just by attending.”

Topics covered at the event will include landscape design, plant variety selection for Florida conditions, establishing new plants, soil chemistry, plant nutrition, fertilization, irrigation, plant diseases, insect and nematode pests, fruit and vegetable gardening, organic production and keeping your lawn in tip-top condition.

The event also offers door prizes and tours of several facilities, and visitors are invited to bring samples of sick or pest-infested plants for diagnosis. Visitors may also bring one soil sample for free pH testing, a procedure that determines the degree of acidity or alkalinity in the soil.

Soil pH testing has been one of the event’s most popular features in previous years, said lead organizer Rao Mylavarapu, director of the Extension Soil Testing Laboratory and a soil and water science professor.

“Soil pH is a very important factor in plant health, and it’s often overlooked by homeowners,” Mylavarapu said. “The pH can vary from one part of your yard to another, and the pH needs of ornamental plants vary from one species to another. You want to make sure you have the right plant in the right place.”

Instructions for collecting the soil sample are posted on the Lawn and Garden Fest Facebook page, http://on.fb.me/1ajNDbB. Tests can be completed for visitors while they wait, but those who plan to stay on-site only a short time can receive results by e-mail. Faculty experts can also explain how to correct pH problems.

For those interested in learning more about pH testing and other chemical analyses, the Extension Soil Testing Laboratory will offer guided tours approximately every 20 minutes. The nearby UF Plant Diagnostic Center will offer tours on the hour, and visitors can also drive to the Natural Area Teaching Laboratory for walking tours of UF’s largest on-campus tract of wildland.

All visitors will be eligible for door-prize drawings, which will happen every 30 minutes, Hochmuth said. Winners will receive everything from free full-range soil chemistry testing to merchandise from the UF/IFAS Extension book store.

Representatives of the book store will be on hand throughout the event with a selection of books, DVDs, identification aids and other items available for sale. Complimentary refreshments will be available as well.

“This is our fourth year and we believe this will be the biggest and best Lawn and Garden Fest yet,” Hochmuth said. “Come on out and get yourself ready to spruce up your yard this spring!”

By Tom Nordlie, 352-273-3567, tnordlie@ufl.edu

Sources: Rao Mylavarapu, 352-294-3113, raom@ufl.edu

George Hochmuth, 352-294-3114, hoch@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

UF survey shows Floridians want to conserve water, but not if it costs too much

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Florida Friendly, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Research

PIE Center water photo 021815

Cutline below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Floridians remain concerned about water and are willing to make changes to conserve it, at least until their efforts cramp their lifestyles, according to an annual University of Florida study on state residents’ attitudes about this precious resource.

For the second consecutive year, an annual online survey conducted by UF’s Center for Public Issues in Education shows that water ranks third on a list of 10 topics people consider important — behind the economy and healthcare and ahead of public education and taxes. Eighty-three percent of 749 respondents indicated water is an important or extremely important issue.

Yet while three-quarters of them said they were likely to vote to support water conservation programs and nearly as many said they would support water restrictions issued by their local government, only 42 percent were willing to take action to conserve water if it meant their lawns would suffer.

(more …)

UF/IFAS helping those in need eat healthy for the New Year

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

Fresh vegetables at the farmers market.

SARASOTA, Fla. — Karen Maxey, 69, grew up on a farm eating fresh fruits and vegetables and maintained that healthy diet throughout her life.  But in 2007, the economy took a toll on her personal and professional life; she lost her real estate business and her home, and then her marriage collapsed.  She went back to school and graduated with a business degree at age 65, only to find her job search was in vain.

And so, though no fault of her own, she wound up a recipient of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – known as SNAP – which supplies her with $64 a month for food.

“So many seniors are really suffering,” said Maxey, who was thrilled when she found out that at some Florida farmer’s markets, her benefits could be doubled, up to $20, to enable her eat healthy, Florida-grown foods under a program called Fresh Access Bucks.  Some markets even double that per shopper, per market day, allowing SNAP recipients to purchase $40 worth of fresh fruits and vegetables grown locally. (more …)

UF/IFAS Extension and Bok Tower Gardens are partnering to teach a new generation about plants, gardening and the environment

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Nutrition, Vegetables

Bok Tower

LAKE WALES, Fla. — Among the music of carillon bells, beneath a lush oak canopy, a new partnership is emerging between the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and historic Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, FL.

The partnership between the state’s preeminent land-grant university and this historic garden will provide onsite demonstration gardens, education programs and conservation research, as well as outreach programs to help people better see, appreciate, and connect with plants. A new school and community gardens program has already begun operations to teach food gardening to students and residents. (more …)

UF/IFAS researchers build searchable database of non-native plants

Topic(s): Agriculture, Environment, Families and Consumers, Florida Friendly, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, New Technology, Uncategorized
The air potato vine is an  invasive species prohibited by the state

see caption below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Ever wonder what that plant is in your yard that seems to be taking over? The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has a new website designed to help you figure it out.

Researchers with UF/IFAS’ Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants spent more than a year developing a searchable website and database to help Floridians assess problem— or just plain puzzling —non-native plants. (more …)

Beloved crape myrtle in nurseries now susceptible to bacterial leaf spot, researchers say

Topic(s): Landscaping, Pests, RECs, Research, Uncategorized

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It’s enough to send gardeners into conniptions.

Crape myrtle, a tree adored for its bright flowers that scream summer, care-free maintenance and even its colorful bark, now has a disease problem – although so far, only in the commercial nursery setting.

University of Florida researchers had been getting sporadic reports from nursery owners over the last five years of a leaf spot problem, and those reports have only increased in frequency. Through genetic testing, scientists identified the disorder as being caused by the bacterium Xanthomonas axonopodis. The disease is most likely spread by wind-driven rain or overhead irrigation, and some crape myrtle varieties are more susceptible than others.

“I’ve been working with crape myrtles for a long time, and they’ve been such a disease-resistant plant for such a long time, so it’s pretty significant when their susceptibility to disease is increased,” said Gary Knox, an environmental horticulture professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The U.S. crape myrtle crop had a value of nearly $43 million in 2010, and Florida is its second-biggest producer, behind Texas. Florida has more companies producing crape myrtle, however, with 130 compared with 72 in Texas.

In the June issue of the journal Plant Disease, the UF/IFAS team outlined the first report of the disease and the work they did to identify it. They believe it is the first report of the bacterium causing leaf spot in crape myrtle.

Bacterial leaf spot doesn’t kill the ornamental tree, but creates spots on its leaves that eventually turn yellow and drop.

The researchers say, for now, the disease affects only crape myrtle commercial producers and is spread by factors such as overhead irrigation systems and large numbers of plants kept in close quarters.

The bad news is that the bacterium is widespread.

“I think you can safely say that nearly every crape myrtle producer would have the disease at this point,” Knox said.

While the disease appears contained in the commercial sector, that could change.

“Most bacterial diseases can be spread in wind-driven rain, and in Florida, we know there’s no shortage of that,” said Mathews Paret, an assistant professor of plant pathology who led the study.

Paret and Knox are based at the North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy.

Scientists suggest an integrated management approach to the problem, rather than a silver bullet that only stops the problem temporarily.

Choosing resistant varieties, moving from overhead irrigation to drip irrigation and the limited use of bactericides would be part of such an integrated strategy, the researchers said.

The varieties Natchez, Osage, Fantasy, Basham’s Party Pink and Miami have proven highly resistant to bacterial leaf spot while Carolina Beauty, Arapaho, Tuscarora, White Chocolate, Red Rocket and Rhapsody in Pink were more susceptible in field trials funded by the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association.

Steve Bender, a senior writer at Southern Living magazine, “The Grumpy Gardener” blogger and well-known gardening author, says it would be a huge disappointment if the disease ever makes the leap from nurseries to home gardens.

Crape myrtle is so close to Southern gardeners’ hearts that they endlessly debate such topics as how to spell its name (variants include crepe myrtle, crape myrtle and even crapemyrtle),  and the annual rite Bender calls  “crape murder” – an unceremonious lopping of its limbs.

It’s an iconic tree, he said, mostly because it’s little work for a big payoff.

“It’s ideally suited to the southern climate, it blooms for a long time, it comes in lots of different colors and you even get nice color in the fall,” Bender said. “It’s kind of hard to kill, and pretty much any idiot can grow one. And up until now, it’s had very few problems.”

(more …)

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