IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS plant scientists try to breed a little cupid magic

Topic(s): Cultivars, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, RECs, Research

Dr. Zhanao Deng (center) showing FAES interns Mary Derrick (right) and Monica Raguckas the flowers of gerbera daisy to be used for hand pollination.  2009 Annual Research Report photo by Patty McClain.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Roses are red; violets are blue, and University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are developing better breeds of Valentine’s Day plants just for you.

Here are just a couple of examples.

Zhanao Deng, a professor of environmental horticulture at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida, is breeding gerbera daisy cultivars that are resistant to powdery mildew, the most destructive fungal disease for this type of flower. Deng said his daisies are also becoming more attractive.

“These daisy cultivars can be used for cut flowers or potted plants,” he said.

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UF/IFAS study: “Green Industry” generates nearly $200 billion; 2 million jobs nationwide

Topic(s): Economics, Extension, Families and Consumers, Green Living, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Research

Landscaped yards and homes in Florida.  Landscaping, plants, gardens, neighborhoods, communities, development.  UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — What economists call the “green industry” – nursery and greenhouse production, landscape services and horticultural product distribution − is bringing plenty of green to a lot of people across the country. A new study by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences shows that the industry generated $196 billion in revenues annually, and more than two million jobs in the United States.

“Our study demonstrated that this industry is a very large employer,” said Alan Hodges, Extension scientist with the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department and lead author of the study. “It exists in virtually every community in the U.S. The rise of large retail chain stores with garden departments has made plants and other horticultural products more readily available to consumers than ever before.”

Green industry products include sod, flowers, bedding plants, tropical foliage, trees and shrubs, among other types of plants. The industry also includes many businesses that provide services such as landscape design, installation and maintenance, plus firms — such as lawn and garden stores — for wholesale and retail distribution of horticultural products, Hodges said.

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UF/IFAS scientists preserve the endangered Ghost Orchid

Topic(s): IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers believe they’re on the verge of helping conserve the popular but endangered Ghost Orchid, a plant that’s often poached.

“We’ve successfully developed procedures to culture plants from seeds in the lab and then successfully acclimatize them into our greenhouse,” said Michael Kane, professor of environmental horticulture at UF/IFAS. “We’ve also obtained a high survival and vigorous re-growth rate when they’re planted back into the wild.”

This rare orchid is unique for several reasons. First, it resembles a ghost when its white flower moves at night; hence, it is known as the Ghost Orchid. It is also leafless, and its roots attach to the bark of the host tree.

About 2,000 ghost orchids remain in Florida, all the more reason to step up efforts to stabilize the current populations, Kane said. The Ghost Orchid also grows in the Bahamas and Cuba. However, researchers are learning that these populations are thriving in very different environmental conditions than those in South Florida.

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Mother-daughter team teaches the art of canning food

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, Nutrition, Vegetables
UF/IFAS Extension Agents Melanie Thomas, left, and her mother, Jackie Schrader teaching canning classes in Duval and Clay counties. Photo courtesy Melanie Thomas

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As a little girl, Melanie Thomas would ladle hot fruit into glass jars with  her grandmother or watch from afar as her parents canned fruits and vegetables in the kitchen.

“I was one of those who was afraid of the pressure canner and left that job up to my mom and dad,” said Thomas.  “They always seemed like they knew what they were doing and had it under control.”

Now Thomas is a fearless advocate of preserving your own food.  She and her mother, Jackie Schrader, join forces each month to teach canning classes through a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension program.  Once every month, they gather students in either Duval or Clay County to instruct on everything from pressure canning low acid foods, including vegetables, meats and soups, to adding just the right amount of sugar and spices.

Their next class is scheduled for January 22 at 9:00 a.m. at the Clay County Extension office in Green Cove Springs. The February class is set for the 12th in Duval County. (more …)

UF/IFAS hosting free annual PLANT CAMP for science and environmental primary school teachers

Topic(s): Departments, Environment, Florida Friendly, IFAS, Invasive Species, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden

The UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants is looking for 24 science and environmental educators from elementary, middle or high schools interested in attending PLANT CAMP, June 20-24, 2016 at UF.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is hosting its annual, free, week-long PLANT CAMP for science and environmental primary school teachers this summer, with lodging and meal costs covered by the program’s sponsors.

The UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants is looking for 24 science and environmental educators from elementary, middle or high schools interested in attending June 20-24, 2016, at UF. Applications are due February 21st. (more …)

Jumping spiders can learn to avoid red, toxic bugs; stay alive longer and eat agricultural pests

Topic(s): Agriculture, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Pests, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Jumping spiders, voracious predators that eat pests around the world, can learn to distinguish the color red in their prey, thus allowing them to avoid toxicity in what they consume, according to new research led by a UF/IFAS scientist.

That means they can stay alive longer and eat pests ranging from caterpillars to beetles to flies, many of which damage agricultural products, said Lisa Taylor, an assistant research scientist in entomology at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Because jumping spiders consume most small agricultural pests, growers can avoid using some chemical treatments on their crops.

Jumping spiders are fairly ubiquitous: More than 5,000 species are found on every continent except Antarctica, Taylor said.

In a new study in the journal Behavioral Ecology, Taylor and her colleagues from the University of Pittsburgh found that Habronattus pyrrithrix, a species of jumping spiders, could be trained to prefer or avoid red. That’s important because many pests emit that color to signal toxicity, Taylor said.

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UF research facility to donate fresh produce to needy families during Farm to City Week

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

2015 Cares dinner and farmer recognition at the North Florida Research and Education Center at Live Oak, Florida on Thursday, November 7th.

JAY, Fla. –The University of Florida’s West Florida Research and Education Center will join forces with the Bay Area Food Bank, Waterfront Rescue Mission and the Guy Thompson Community Center to feed 700 local families during National Farm to City Week, Nov. 20 to 26.

Farm to City Week is a national effort to increase the public’s knowledge and appreciation for agriculture. The week of Thanksgiving, meals will be distributed to 400 needy families in Santa Rosa County and 300 families in Escambia County.

“This food will provide these families with a healthy meal this Thanksgiving holiday,” said Wes Wood, center director of the UF/IFAS West Florida REC. “We want to feed these families and teach folks in our community about the economic, environmental and societal benefits of agriculture.”

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UF/IFAS scientists find way to reduce pesticide use and save millions for ornamental industry

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

Tapestry variety of Poinsettia plant.  Floriculture, ornamentals, decoration, holidays.  UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Results of new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences research may help control some dangerous species of fungi, known as phytophthora — or water molds —  that can cause millions of dollars in damage annually to ornamental plants and some fruit trees.

This finding could help reduce fungicide use to control the phytophthora that can menace Florida’s $15 billion-a-year ornamental industry, said G. Shad Ali, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of plant pathology.

Phytophthora are plant pathogens, one of which is known infamously for causing the Irish potato famine of the 1840s. Several phytophthora species infect thousands of different plant species, so they infect almost all ornamentals, ranging from landscape trees to small indoor flowers. Some phytophthora strains are resistant to fungicides.

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UF/IFAS and a Sumter County church are helping locals dig in the dirt

Topic(s): Agriculture, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Nutrition, Vegetables
More than 40 gardeners currently have plots in the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and United Church of Christ’s Community Garden.

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OXFORD, Fla. — Maureen McCoy has always gardened and enjoys knowing where her food comes from and exactly what is used to grow it. And that’s why she signed up for a plot in the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and United Church of Christ’s Community Garden.

“There are no words for the peace of watering your garden and gathering the bounty you have grown,” said McCoy.

More than 40 gardeners currently have plots in the church’s raised-beds on four acres of land that was once a pasture.  It cost UF/IFAS and the church about $5,000 to build the beds out of pressure-treated 2x6s and 4x4s and install irrigation from the church’s well.  Mulch for pathways was donated by Sumter County.  In addition, leftover soil was donated by Speedling in Bushnell. (more …)

UF/IFAS, Bok Tower Gardens program continues to grow

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Extension, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Vegetables
Caleb Gutierrez, Felipe Garcia, Kyra Pfingston, Alan Soule hold peppers they grew with Roosevelt Academy's agricultural program.

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LAKE WALES, Fla. — At Roosevelt Academy, horticulture teacher Ray Cruze’s class is growing enough vegetables to sell to local restaurants and at a local market, in part thanks to a partnership between Bok Tower Gardens and the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The partnership between the state’s preeminent land-grant university and the historic garden officially launched in January, and now schools are busy planting vegetables after receiving grants, and residents are learning how to organize their own community gardens. (more …)

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