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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.”

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New videos from UF/IFAS Communications

Topic(s): Announcements, Finances, Food Safety, Landscaping, Research, Uncategorized

UF/IFAS Communications has a slew of new videos that can be used for Extension or other educational purposes. Here is a roundup:

Vacation on a Budget -  (3:31) A fun family vacation does not have to break the bank – University of Florida/IFAS Financial Expert Dr. Michael Gutter explains how to have fun in the sun without going in the red.

Scallop Harvesting 101 (3:00)  Scallop season is underway in Florida. Betty Staugler with UF/IFAS Sea Grant Extension, has some tips to help get you started.

Operation: Protect Our Pets – When Fleas Attack – (5:11) In this installment, UF/IFAS Entomologist Faith Oi addresses the different stages of the flea life cycle while UF Veterinarian Dunbar Gram demonstrates using a flea comb to look for fleas. (more …)

UF/IFAS Florida-Friendly Landscaping program releases new mobile app

Topic(s): Florida Friendly, Landscaping

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With home gardens in the “Land of Flowers” stretching from the panhandle to the keys, Florida gardeners have so many choices for beautiful landscaping plants that it can be a dilemma to know what to plant where.

Planting decisions are now easier with the release of a mobile web application from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.  The new app features more than 400 Florida-Friendly plants that can be selected by their type, shape, and sun tolerance.  Each plant is accompanied by a color photo.

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Florida expert: Keep pets, livestock away from false parasol mushrooms

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

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Downloadable broadcast video available at https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/10837916/20130502_PETPOISON.zip

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

Contact: Matthew E. Smith, 352-273-2837, trufflesmith@ufl.edu

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Dogs are notorious for eating just about anything, and the nastier, the better – which is why a University of Florida expert is advising canine owners to keep an eye out for poisonous mushrooms as summer approaches.

One particularly common species is known scientifically as Chlorophyllum molybdites and often called the false parasol, said mycologist Matthew E. Smith, an assistant professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The large, light-colored fungus grows in grassy areas such as lawns throughout the Eastern United States and in California.

“Mushrooms can grow very quickly, so it’s important to be observant,” Smith said. “If you have a puppy or a dog, you should check the yard before you let the dog out, or supervise it when it goes outside.”

Though poisoning cases are rare, the false parasol causes intense gastrointestinal distress in people and may be deadly to dogs and horses. Puppies and adult dogs that like to chew are especially at risk for ingesting the fungus.

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Free soil testing at UF/IFAS soils open house Saturday, March 16 on campus

Topic(s): Announcements, Extension, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Vegetables

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With the weather warming up, it’s time to get out and garden – but plants need optimum soil conditions to reach their full potential, and that’s where the University of Florida Extension Landscape and Vegetable Garden Soils Open House can help.

The event happens 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 16, at the UF Extension Soil Testing Laboratory on the UF main campus in Gainesville. Visitors can bring in soil samples for free pH testing at the lab and get advice on a wide range of gardening and landscaping topics. There will also be free refreshments and hourly drawings for door prizes.

“We encourage residents to bring us their questions and concerns,” said Rao Mylavarapu, a professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and one of the event organizers. “We’ll have experts from numerous fields available to help.”

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Turfgrass alternatives offer residents additional groundcover choices, UF/IFAS experts say

Topic(s): Environment, Extension, Florida Friendly, Green Living, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Spring is right around the corner, and for some residents it may be time to think about sprucing up the yard with new landscaping.

Covering more than 5 million acres in Florida, turfgrass is the state’s most popular groundcover – but it may not be the ideal choice for every situation, say experts with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Emphasizing the Florida-Friendly Landscaping principle “right plant, right place,” UF/IFAS Extension faculty members suggest that residents who are considering groundcover options start by assessing their needs and site conditions.

“We need turf for recreation, for that open front-yard spot in your landscape, and to give us that green look,” said Wendy Wilber, an Alachua County environmental horticulture Extension agent. “A good-looking Florida-Friendly Landscape can have a mix of plants and features, if the conditions call for it.”

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To help homeowners, industry personnel, UF/IFAS posts videos on turfgrass research

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Crops, Cultivars, Environment, Green Living, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences recently completed the state’s largest-ever study of landscape turfgrass and fertilizer use, and new online videos will help homeowners and lawn-care professionals understand the findings.

The eight-year, $4.2 million study was funded by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to determine the effectiveness of current UF/IFAS fertilizer recommendations, which have been in use since about 2000, said John Hayes, UF/IFAS dean for research. Florida has more than 5 million acres of home and commercial turf.

“This work is an important body of information generated here to address important questions about nutrient management,” Hayes said. “We’re proud to communicate our findings and we hope they will play a substantial role in helping residents, industry personnel and policymakers protect water quality.”

Three hours of technical presentations from a Jan. 15 live symposium are available at http://tinyurl.com/be2la7q and a three-minute video aimed at educating the public has been posted at http://tinyurl.com/ajy4ytr.

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UF/IFAS entomology department is new home to School of Ants project

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The nationwide School of Ants has set up shop at the University of Florida, but picnickers can relax – none of its “students” are the six-legged variety.

The school is an example of citizen science, a project where ordinary people collect and submit data for experts to review and compile. Participants collect ants from their yards and neighborhoods, then entomologists identify each species and plot its location on digital maps that, eventually, will provide a snapshot of ant distribution around the country.

“Knowledge of the presence of a species of ant might help for things like quarantine and control, if the species is a problem,” said founder Andrea Lucky, an assistant scientist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “If we find a rare ant, or an ant that’s way outside its known range, we may want to keep an eye on it purely for academic purposes.”

The school was launched at North Carolina State University in 2011, a collaboration between Lucky and Rob Dunn, a biology assistant professor. Then last semester, Lucky took a position with UF’s entomology and nematology department. Though the North Carolina branch will remain active, Lucky says she’s thrilled to relocate the project headquarters to Florida, which has more ant species than any other state.

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Crazy ant control strategies taking shape for UF/IFAS researchers

Topic(s): Agriculture, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Pests

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Their name is comical, but when crazy ants infest a neighborhood it’s no laughing matter.

The fast-moving, invasive insects are present in Florida and several other Gulf Coast states. They can establish colonies with multiple queens and millions of workers, blanketing lawns and sidewalks, killing native species, shorting out electrical systems and creating headaches for homeowners and pest-control operators.

So far, efforts to control crazy ants have involved a patchwork of approaches, many of which failed. But a team of University of Florida researchers is developing an integrated pest management system tailored to the species’ unique characteristics and habits.

This week at the Entomological Society of America annual meeting in Knoxville, Tenn., two of those researchers presented findings on 15 insecticidal baits evaluated for the system.

Though none of the products were developed specifically for crazy ants, the researchers found that two granular baits – Amdro Pro and Maxforce Complete – killed crazy ants fastest in laboratory testing, probably because those baits had the most “appetite appeal” and were eaten more readily than other products, said Dawn Calibeo, an entomology doctoral candidate with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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New public television show aimed at Southern gardeners hits the air May 9

Topic(s): Agriculture, Extension, Florida Friendly, Green Living, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Vegetables

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Southern gardeners will soon have a new tool to help them in the garden. “Your Southern Garden” with Walter Reeves is an educational television show created to help gardeners of all levels learn new tricks, get fresh ideas and visit interesting sites.

“This show provides the opportunity to really educate Floridians and others in the region about landscaping and outdoor water conservation,” said Millie Ferrer, interim extension dean for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “Watering in the landscape is such an important issue right now and the faculty at UF and UGA can provide great tips and information to help conserve water.”

The show, produced by University of Florida IFAS Extension and the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, is a one-of-a-kind program specifically for the Southeast.

The 2009 season of “Your Southern Garden” premieres May 9 on public broadcast stations in the Tampa Bay and north central Florida areas. Beginning in April 2010, it will air throughout most of north and central Florida area and the Georgia Public Broadcasting viewing area. (more …)

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