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IFAS News

University of Florida

Master Gardeners’ continued training conference scheduled for Kissimmee in October

Topic(s): Extension, Florida Friendly, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Vegetables
Master Gardeners teaching and working with youth in a garden.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

See Caption Below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Has your green thumb reached the master level?  The University of Florida’s 34th Florida Master Gardener Conference for continued training is scheduled for Oct. 18-21 at Kissimmee’s Embassy Suites at Lake Buena Vista South. Organizers are encouraging all active Florida Master Gardeners to sign up for early registration. (more …)

Keep Your Home Safe during Pesticide Use

Topic(s): Environment, Families and Consumers, Florida Friendly, Food Safety, IFAS

Date: June 3, 2015

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

Source: Philip Koehler, 352-392-2484, pgk@ufl.edu

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida, with its tropical and subtropical environment, is a breeding ground for many pests in the home. Do you handle it yourself or get a pest management professional? Misconceptions about pesticides may keep you from tackling the job.

“Many people believe that pesticides are dangerous and cause a lot of poisonings, and that’s not necessarily true,” said Philip Koehler, professor of entomology at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “Poison control center statistics show that the number one cause of poisoning is analgesics. Pesticides come in at number nine on their list. There are a lot of other things such as medicines, make up and cleaning products that poison more people every year.”

A second myth is that over-the-counter pesticides are safer than ones used by pesticide operators, Koehler said. But, pest control operators use the same active ingredients that are sold in retail stores, he said. “The problem comes in when the homeowner wants to store leftover pesticide. Improper storage is really dangerous especially if it is just placed under the sink or on a shelf in the garage,” Koehler explained.

When a professional handles the treatment, he takes the leftover pesticide with him so the homeowner won’t have to store pesticide in the home, he said. While most pesticides will not poison a resident, improperly stored pesticide is dangerous for children who can accidentally eat or drink it, Koehler said.

What to do with old pesticide? The product will likely have a shelf life of more than two years. “It’s common for people to pour it on the ground, in the sink or in the toilet. That contaminates the water supply and hurts the environment,” Koehler said.  He suggests taking pesticide to the county toxic waste disposal program, where professionals will properly discard the product.

Koehler offered some tips:

  • Use baits or gels that come in syringes to exterminate pests like ants and cockroaches. “The industry has moved to baits that can be put in corners, cracks and crevices where roaches and ants live,” he said. “You don’t have to be worried about spraying a plate of food and contaminating it.”
  • Make sure you are using the right product for the right insect. “Residents can take the pest to a county extension office where there is an insect identification lab. The key is to know the pest you are trying to control and use appropriate measures.”
  • Store pesticides in an area where children cannot reach it. And when ready to dispose of it, call your county toxic waste disposal program for location, days and times of collection.
  • Educate yourself about pests and pest control. Many fact sheets are available on the University of Florida IFAS website for “featured creatures.”

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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

Broschat 040815

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

Wendy Wilbur 032015

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

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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 …)

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