IFAS News

University of Florida

Crape murder? UF/IFAS researcher says trim back on pruning crapemyrtle

Topic(s): Agriculture, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Plants

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With spring around the corner, many homeowners are eyeing their crapemyrtle for a good pruning or topping. But pruning may not be necessary, and take too much off and you could harm the tree, said Gary Knox, a professor of environmental horticulture with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Traditionally, crapemyrtles were routinely topped, leaving large branch and stem stubs, Knox said. This practice has been called “crape murder” because most people dislike the winter appearance, but many professionals believe the practice impacts crapemyrtle health and structural integrity, he said.

According to Knox, homeowners and land managers should only prune a crapemyrtle for general safety, health of the tree, or if the tree is growing into a house. “Sometimes the tree will grow into a sidewalk, into the side of a building, or obscure the vision of drivers,” Knox said. “So, there is a time to prune the crapemyrtle, but you must do it carefully. Crapemyrtle may need little or no pruning if planted in full sun away from walkways and roads, and in areas with room for plant growth.”

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Valentine’s Day means more than roses; UF/IFAS breeds, suggests other plants to give

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A plant always makes for a nice gesture on Valentine’s Day, and University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are breeding flora that may emit alluring aromas to your sweetheart.

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

Deng and his team have released several gerbera daisy cultivars, and some of them performed well in industry trials in Georgia, Ohio and Texas.

The research doesn’t stop there as Deng and his lab are breeding more lines for the future. Meanwhile, they are sequencing the gerbera daisy’s genes, developing DNA-based molecular markers, and trying to find and engineer the gene or genes that control resistance to the powdery mildew.

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UF/IFAS researchers show potential market for locally grown Asian vegetables

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Asian-Americans in three East Coast states, including Florida, yearn for more of their native vegetables, and those crops can be grown in the East, say two University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.

Gene McAvoy, a UF/IFAS Extension vegetable specialist, and Shouan Zhang, a UF/IFAS plant pathology associate professor, were among a group of 17 researchers from four land-grant universities who surveyed Asian Americans’ preferences in Asian vegetables. Then the researchers tested the crops in various states to see how well they would grow.

There’s a market for locally grown Asian vegetables, researchers say.

In Florida, Asians account for 2.8 percent – or 557,000 — of the state’s 19.8 million people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The population of Asian Americans has jumped by 32 percent from 2000 to 2011, according to the census bureau. Asians are expected to make up about 40 million Americans by 2030. On the East Coast alone, there are 5.8 million Asian Americans in 2014, according to the study.

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Learn more about Florida’s water resources with new UF/IFAS website

Topic(s): Environment, Extension, Lawn & Garden, New Technology, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Are you concerned about how your water tastes? Do you want to know how much you use, or whether we’ll have enough water for the next generation? A new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences website links users with UF/IFAS programs on how to preserve and, perhaps improve the quantity and quality of water in Florida.

Click on http://water.ifas.ufl.edu and find educational resources provided by UF/IFAS, said Kati Migliaccio, a UF/IFAS professor of agricultural and biological engineering, who’s among the people who created the site.

“I think our greatest achievement is providing a website for Florida resident to quickly access answers to their questions or solve their problems concerning water,” Migliaccio said.

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2016’s Top 10 UF/IFAS Extension publications cover snakes, avocados, vegetable gardening, more

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, Invasive Species, Lawn & Garden, Pests

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Vegetable gardening, bahia grass, living with snakes and identifying poisonous plants. These are the topics for some of the top University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension documents from 2016. Here’s this year’s list of the top 10 publications from the UF/IFAS Electronic Data Information Source:

  1. Vegetable gardening offers fresh air, sunshine, exercise, enjoyment, mental therapy, nutritious, fresh vegetables and economic savings, as well as many other benefits: http://bit.ly/2hgLzbV. (124,723 visits)
  2. In the U.S., people kill thousands of snakes each year, yet only five or six people die of venomous snake bites. In order for snakes and people to safely coexist, it is important that Floridians learn to identify, understand and respect snakes: http://bit.ly/2h66sDM. (91,417)
  3. Living with snakes in Florida: About 50 species of snakes live along the Atlantic and Gulf coastal states. An EDIS document, http://bit.ly/2hgK7Xf, teaches you how to identify black snakes.  (89,724)
  4. Here’s everything you need to know about common diseases that afflict poultry: http://bit.ly/2ganzHn. (84,556)
  5. Before you go for a walk, it helps to know if there are poisonous plants along your path. Find out how to identify them: http://bit.ly/2hgJGvJ. (72,245)
  6. How do producers make sure food-handling and processing equipment stays clean? A UF/IFAS expert shows you: http://bit.ly/2hitCpe.
  7. St. Augustine grass is dense and well-adapted to Florida soils, but you’ve got to make sure you water it, according to this EDIS document, http://bit.ly/2gZIYQb. (47,072)
  8. We live with alligators here in Florida. So what do we do about it? Find out here: http://bit.ly/2hdKwpe (45,686)
  9. Bahia grass prefers acidic soil and has relatively few insect and disease problems. Find out more here: http://bit.ly/2gOaaUy. (42,178)
  10. Learn more about growing avocados in your backyard in Florida from UF/IFAS experts in this EDIS document: http://bit.ly/2m3zRU. (36,064)

EDIS, a free service of UF/IFAS Extension, provides information on topics relevant to you: profitable and sustainable agriculture, the environment and natural resources, 4-H and other youth programs, Florida-friendly landscapes, communities that are vibrant and prosperous, economic well-being and quality of life for people and families. UF/IFAS Extension faculty statewide write the documents for EDIS.

“EDIS is a longstanding public-service tradition of UF/IFAS Extension in which we use an electronic system to disseminate top-notch, science-based research to our many stakeholders,” said Nick Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension. “We hope people continue to go to the website and read this critical information that provides solutions for their lives.”

That website is www.edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

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Caption: Vegetable gardening, bahia grass, living with snakes and identifying poisonous plants. Those are among the 10 most popular UF/IFAS Extension publications for 2016.

Credit: UF/IFAS file.

By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS Extension program trains inmates for green industry careers

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — At Avon Park Correctional Institution, some inmates are getting a new kind of vocational training, thanks to faculty and volunteers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Highlands County.

The UF/IFAS Extension program prepares inmates for a career in Florida’s nursery and landscaping industries, said David Austin, horticulture agent and Master Gardener coordinator for UF/IFAS Extension Highlands County. For the past two years, Austin and Master Gardener volunteer Charlie Reynolds have helped inmates master the practical horticultural skills they’ll need to pass the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association’s certification exam.

“The FNGLA certification is a widely respected credential for green industry professionals in Florida, and it is mandatory for anyone working in a Florida nursery,” Reynolds explained.

“This kind of training is different than the kind of apprenticeship other inmates get in a woodworking or welding class, for example,” Austin said. “Now they have proof of formal training that will mean a lot to those in the business.”

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UF/IFAS survey shows homeowners want incentives to conserve more water

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Homeowners with irrigation systems would use less water if they were offered more incentives, according to a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences report.

Most will even pay more for better water quality.

Respondents to a UF/IFAS online survey of 3,000 such homeowners in Florida, Texas and California said reducing the price of water-efficient equipment would be the most effective strategy. That was followed by more practical information on household water conservation, easier identification of water-efficient appliances and better landscape irrigation ordinances.

Additionally, respondents liked the idea of a real-time water use mobile app and more information on the environmental impacts of water conservation.

“We know that informed homeowners are aware and concerned about the environmental consequences of excessive irrigation water use. However, awareness and concern are necessary, but not sufficient, conditions for resource and water conservation.” said Hayk Khachatryan, an assistant professor of food and resource economics and the lead investigator in the survey. “Efforts in promoting the adoption of water-saving irrigation systems and practices will be more successful when environmental conservation measures are combined with economic incentives such as utility or manufacturer rebates on smart irrigation equipment.”

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UF/IFAS researcher: Neighborly conversations can help with water conservation

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Lawn & Garden, Research

People work at a rain barrel building workshop at the Alachua County Extension Office. Photo taken December 4th, 2015.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Your neighbors and peers probably care more about water conservation than one might assume, and that may mean they’re open to some new ideas about using less water, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.

Laura Warner, who will publish a new study on UF/IFAS Extension water conservation programs, thinks these neighborly discussions could prove fruitful.

“You may not notice the ways someone conserves, but they may already be taking action to not waste water by using good irrigation practices, and they may be open to some new ideas if you strike up a conversation about how you save water in the home landscape,” said Warner, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communications.

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UF/IFAS Extension Desoto County combines library and agriculture to draw youth to 4-H

Topic(s): 4-H, Agriculture, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Nutrition, Vegetables
Kristie Popa. Photo taken on 9-2-15

Kristie Popa

ARCADIA, Fla. — Families in Desoto County who visit their local library could walk away as gardeners and healthier eaters. That’s because the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Desoto County has implemented a program that creates a garden at the local library.

The Family Learning and Literacy Garden was started in 2015 via a partnership between UF/IFAS Extension Desoto County and other community organizations, said Kristie Popa, a UF/IFAS Extension 4-H agent. So far, eight families have successfully completed their first growing season, she said. They are currently preparing their plots for their next crop, she said.

The idea was to educate youth and their families about gardening, health, nutrition and agriculture, Popa said. “We wanted to immerse families in books to encourage a love of reading, while engaging young people in 4-H who may not have had the opportunity before,” she said. “So, gardening at the library gave us the perfect opportunity to engage families in literature and in healthy living.”

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UF/IFAS help snowbirds navigate Florida gardening, landscaping

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

A watering tin and gardening gloves at a home garden.

OCALA, Fla. — Robert and Christy Cathcart had just moved to Florida, and wondered how soon they could replicate their bountiful garden back home in Connecticut. They soon realized that they would need help with gardening and landscaping in their new home state. They turned to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Marion County office.

“Back in Connecticut, we had 13 raised beds and we grew everything from corn to tomatoes to herbs, pumpkins and lettuce,” Christy Cathcart said. “Here, the soil is sandy, and there is a finite amount of available water. There’s not as much rain in Florida as in the Northeast, so gardening and landscaping are very different.”

UF/IFAS Extension Marion County offers a course to the state’s snowbirds, and the Cathcarts eagerly signed up. “From Newbie to Native: Transitioning to Central Florida,” is offered in Ocala to residents who hail from other parts of the country, but spend part of the year in Florida, or who have recently made the state their permanent home.

“Often times, the newcomers will want to garden or have nice landscaping, but are not use to the Florida soil or climate,” said Jack LeCroy, the Florida Friendly Landscape UF/IFAS Extension agent Marion County. “Also, they don’t know the state’s rules and regulations on irrigation, so they end up wasting a lot of water.”

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