University of Florida

UF/IFAS professor attracts non-agriculture majors to class; gives student 40,000th plant

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, CALS, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Professor David Clark knows how to entice a broad range of students to his horticultural class: He gives away a plant that he bred. Recently, he donated his 40,000th plant to an undergraduate psychology student.

For the ceremony, Clark, a professor in the Department of Environmental Horticulture, brought Anna Ball, a third generation owner of Ball Horticultural Company, as a special guest lecturer on Oct. 22. Ball, based in West Chicago, Illinois, is one of three companies that licenses Clark’s UF coleus varieties. Ball has sold more UF coleuses than any other company, Clark said.

Ball gave a UF/IFAS coleus plant – in this case a ‘Wasabi,’ bred by Clark and licensed by Ball — to undergraduate student Kendall Stacey, a freshman psychology major. Stacey works with Clark’s new UF/IFAS Plant Innovation Center undergraduate science writing team. Clark is the director of the center.

Stacey is gaining plenty of knowledge about plants from Clark’s class, even as he inspires her.

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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.

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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 …)

UF/IFAS scientist uses special fertilizer to keep palms, soil and water healthy

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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UF/IFAS researchers build searchable database of non-native plants

Topic(s): Agriculture, Environment, Families and Consumers, Florida Friendly, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, New Technology, Uncategorized
The air potato vine is an  invasive species prohibited by the state

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Ever wonder what that plant is in your yard that seems to be taking over? The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has a new website designed to help you figure it out.

Researchers with UF/IFAS’ Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants spent more than a year developing a searchable website and database to help Floridians assess problem— or just plain puzzling —non-native plants. (more …)

Beloved crape myrtle in nurseries now susceptible to bacterial leaf spot, researchers say

Topic(s): Landscaping, Pests, RECs, Research, Uncategorized


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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