IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS Extension Broward County program prevents tree abuse through education

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A volunteer of the Duval County Tree Stewards trims a tree limb at a park near Jacksonville, Florida.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Have you ever had a tree trimmed back to bare bones because you thought you were getting your money’s worth? You may be guilty of tree abuse, says a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension agent.

For the last 16 years, the UF/IFAS Extension Broward County Tree Trimmer Program has been teaching tree trimmers and arborists in South Florida how to avoid tree abuse with best pruning practices. Broward County requires tree trimming businesses to be certified and licensed, and the Extension program provides the certification training. Since its start in 2001, the program has issued between 10,000 and 11,000 certifications.

UF/IFAS Extension Broward County agent Michael Orfanedes developed and now oversees the training program. Orfanedes said that when it comes to pruning trees, “Some customers think that the more that gets removed, the better the job.” However, certain pruning practices are considered tree abuse because they can make trees vulnerable to decay and instability. “When trees decline and fall apart, there can be liability and loss of property,” Orfanedes said.

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UF/IFAS researchers: Florida sees dramatic increase in school gardens

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

4H counselor gardening with children.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — School gardens have been popping up like pea plants all over Florida, and students and teachers are eating up the benefits.

There are approximately 1,300 school gardens in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. These gardens provide numerous benefits to students and teachers, said Kohrine Counts, a dietetics intern and master’s student at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

A recent study by Counts and Karla Shelnutt, an associate professor in the department of family, youth and community sciences and UF/IFAS Extension nutrition specialist, shows that school gardens are an excellent way to get fresh produce into classrooms and cafeterias. And, they also provide students with a living classroom where concepts related to science, math, agriculture and nutrition can be learned and applied, Counts said.

“School gardens get children outside and offers an interactive learning environment,” Counts said. “It gives them a chance to see where their food comes from, and allows children to develop life skills such as leadership, self-awareness, decision making and responsibility.”

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Local, organic top consumers’ desired qualities in $280 million fruit-producing plant market

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

Grape vine with grapes

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If you’re a consumer in the market for a fruit-producing plant, you’re more likely to buy one if it’s locally grown or organic, an important finding for those making their living in the approximately $280 million-a-year niche U.S. market, new University of Florida research shows.

Limited availability of organically produced edible plants has created markets for these types of plants, according to a new Extension document, http://bit.ly/21KQ6zb, co-authored by Assistant Professor Hayk Khachatryan and Post-doctoral Researcher Alicia Rihn, both researchers at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

As part of a larger study, Khachatryan and Rihn tested 95 Floridians to investigate the effects of plant type, price, production method and origin on consumer preferences for fruit-producing plants. They asked participants to look at images of fruit-producing plants with different attributes and rate them on a scale, with 1 being very unlikely and 7 being very likely to purchase.

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UF/IFAS study: Water conservation important to many; only some take action

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

Sprinklers watering athletic fields. UF/IFAS Phto by Tyler Jones.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — How long do you shower? Would you be willing to set a timer for yourself while you bathe? That may be something to consider as you try to reduce your water consumption, say University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.

In a study that used an online survey of 932 Floridians, UF/IFAS researchers sought to identify characteristics of so-called “high-water users,” based on residents’ perceived importance of plentiful water and their water conservation behaviors.

Researchers were most interested in the 24 percent of the respondents who saw water conservation as important yet take little action to do so – for example, people who take long showers and those who may use excessive water to irrigate their lawns. That’s because researchers want residents, homeowners associations, Extension agents and the media to target their water conservation measures to these water users.

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UF/IFAS Urban Landscape Summit set for March 23

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, RECs, Research, Soil and Water Science

WHO: The University of Florida IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology will host the first Urban Landscape Summit on March 23.

WHAT: All are invited to hear summit speakers discuss water, landscape management, urban pest issues, social issues, economics and more. Presentations will include “Why do we adopt environmentally friendly lawn care?”; “Managing pests in lawn care: Is it necessary?”; and “Smart water application technologies.”

WHERE: The event will be held at the Straughn UF/IFAS Extension Professional Development Center, 2142 Shealy Drive, Gainesville.

WHEN: The summit will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday, March 23. For more information, visit http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/clce/events/urban-landscape-summit.html

To register, log onto   http://2016urbanlandscapesummit.eventbrite.com

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

Source: Michael Dukes, 352-392-1864, ext. 205, mddukes@ufl.edu

Find out what’s ripe, when to plant with the Florida Fresh app

Topic(s): Announcements, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Vegetables

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Do you want to know if it’s the right time of year to plant a vegetable? Want to buy Florida produce but you don’t know whether it’s in season? UF/IFAS has a new app to guide you.

It’s called the “Florida Fresh” veggie app, and you can now download it for free on your mobile device.

Sydney Park Brown, an associate professor emeritus with the UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology, said the idea for the app emanated from one of the most popular Extension documents ever written: “The Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide.”

It’s pretty simple: You enter your Zip code, and the app tells you what vegetables to plant at that time of year.

“This type of information is really popular, so we thought it would be cool have an app,” said Park Brown. “We see it as useful to gardeners who see vegetable seeds and plants for sale, but don’t know if it’s really the right time to plant them.”

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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 …)

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