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University of Florida

Larkin Appointed Associate Dean for Research at UF/IFAS

Topic(s): Uncategorized
Sherry Larkin

Sherry Larkin

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Sherry Larkin, a professor in the Department of Food and Resource Economics in the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has been named Associate Dean for Research.

“Dr. Larkin is an excellent scientist and administrator. She was Interim Assistant Dean for Research for a little over a year and understands the responsibilities and duties of this important position,” said Jackie Burns, UF/IFAS dean of research. “We are very fortunate to have Dr. Larkin join our team.”

Larkin earned her Ph.D. in agricultural and resource economics from Oregon State University in 1998 and now specializes in natural resource and environmental economics. She has been a faculty member at UF/IFAS since 2000 and had a 70 percent research appointment and a 30 percent teaching appointment in the Food and Resource Economics Department in IFAS.

At UF/IFAS, Larkin was a sustainability fellow from 2011-2012 and currently serves as an affiliate faculty member for the School of Natural Resources and the Environment. She is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at Kasetsart University (Bangkok, Thailand).

Larkin’s research focused on projects relating to the sustainable use of marine resources. She published 42 peer-reviewed journal articles and 10 book chapters, and received more than $3 million in external research funding from state, federal and industry sources.

Larkin served on 48 graduate student committees. She served as a chair for 25 committees and was a member or co-chair on an additional 23. She has been an associate editor of the journal Marine Resource Economics since 2000.

In the profession, Larkin served as an elected member of the executive committee for the International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade and is the President-elect of the North American Association of Fisheries Economists. In the policy arena, she is actively involved in fisheries management by serving on scientific committees for both the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Councils. In addition to seafood and fisheries, Larkin’s recent research studied economic issues related to forestry, precision farming, harmful algal blooms and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Larkin said she is honored to take on the role of Associate Dean for Research at UF/IFAS. “I hope to continue to serve as an ambassador for our research programs and help to facilitate and administer projects that support our research mission,” she said.


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

Source: Sherry Larkin, 352-294-7676, slarkin@ufl.edu




Threats Prompt Reallocation of Biotech Education Funds

Topic(s): Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida will re-allocate a donation intended to improve the public’s understanding of science after public threats to the researcher. The Monsanto Company donated $25,000 to support the Talking Biotech program, a science communication effort that provided on-campus workshops to train scientists about how to engage the public on agricultural biotechnology. The university will reallocate the funds to the campus food pantry.

The program is run by Kevin Folta, professor and chairman of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Horticultural Sciences Department, and a recognized leader in bringing science to the public. Since Monsanto’s donation to the program became widely visible in a recent Nature article, Folta has experienced baseless, damaging allegations and received comments that could be construed as threats.

“I’m teaching a science that opponents of ag biotech (GMO) do not want taught,” Folta said, “Everything I teach comes from a scientific consensus and support of the literature, and sometimes it does not mesh with the beliefs promoted by TV doctors, activists advocating a single perspective, and those who profit from manufacturing food fear.”

Folta has no relationship with Monsanto in research or teaching. The funds allowed UF to administer the costs associated with the outreach program accrued when Folta volunteers his time to promote science communication across the nation.

The decision to reallocate the funds came when his home address and other personal information appeared among comments on Facebook.   Obscene, inflammatory posts also appeared on Craigslist, presumably with the intent to incite local violent action.

“This never was a discussion of my research or the science I speak about,” Folta said. “This has now turned into a threatening situation for my students and family, and I cannot risk harm to my lab or home.”

“This has taught me that this is not about what is true, it is how it is perceived, and to many a donation automatically means the company has some influence on my work when there was not,” Folta said.   “The discussion has gone to an extreme level that is frightening.”

“I had an established, effective program that a company wanted to support,” Folta said. “Science can benefit from corporate partnerships to foster efforts of scientific literacy, and that helps all of us.” Folta does not know the future of the program as some of the donation has already been spent on outreach. He says he’ll fill in those costs personally, and IFAS has also offered to assist covering costs.   ” We’ll return the funds and make this happen another way.”


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

Source: Kevin Folta, 352-273-4812, kfolta@ufl.edu


New mobile site gives info on water policies, research

Topic(s): Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Florida — Need information about water policies in a pinch? A new program from the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education helps people access and decipher complicated policy information in the palm of your hand.

The PIE Center’s Policy Extension Program, a mobile-friendly website found at piecenter.com/pep, features several tools that help residents understand Florida water policies and provide thoughtful questions that can encourage conversations about water. Users can find information on seven state and federal policies:

  • Basin Management Action Plans
  • Total Maximum Daily Loads
  • Florida Spring Initiative
  • Water Quality Assurance Act
  • Safe Drinking Water Act
  • Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan
  • Clean Water Act

In addition to the policy information, users can search a comprehensive library of UF/IFAS research into water issues from the PIE Center, the UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology, the UF Water Institute and EDIS documents.

PIE Center associate director Alexa Lamm, an assistant professor of agricultural education and communication, developed the mobile site as part of her Wells Fargo Extension Professional and Enhancement Award.

“We truly want this to be a one-stop shop for people wanting to know more about water issues in Florida,” Lamm said. “By taking this complex information and explaining it in a way that more people can understand, the policies can become part of the work people do every day.”

Lamm added that the site includes instructions for visitors to add a shortcut to their smartphone’s home screen. She will discuss the Policy Extension Program at the Extension Professional Associations of Florida conference in early September.

By: Laura Bernheim, 352-273-0793, bernheim@ufl.edu




UF food pantry grand opening set for Sept. 1

Topic(s): Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida will hold a grand opening on Sept. 1 for the Field and Fork Food Pantry. The event will take place at 10 a.m. at Newell Drive, west of the Food Science and Human Nutrition building.

The food pantry will offer members of the UF community healthy, nutritious food free of charge, said Anna Prizzia, campus food systems coordinator. Currently, there are plans to offer fresh produce, non-perishable foods, canned goods and toiletries.

The university will grow food at the UF Community Farm to stock coolers with fresh produce, said Jack Payne, UF’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “We’ll offer student-led classes in cooking, nutrition and budgeting so that we don’t just slake hunger but promote self-sufficiency,” he said.

The pantry will help stop hunger at the university, Payne said. “One in 10 University of Florida students reports going hungry at times. Among students from low-income families, the hunger rate is twice that,” Payne said. “The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has recast the starving student cliché as a serious policy issue: Hunger as a barrier to higher education.”

Other land-grant institutions have also opened food pantries, Payne said. The University of Georgia opened a student food pantry in 2011. Louisiana State University opened one in 2013.


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

Source: Anna Prizzia, 352-294-2208, aprizzia@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS faculty: Too much fresh water used to water lawns

Topic(s): Uncategorized

Elizabeth A. Felter (Liz), Extension Agent II, M.A., Mid-Florida REC - Apopka, Marketing & Communications. UF/IFAS Photo by: Sally Lanigan.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Floridians may be using too much fresh water to quench their lawns as water becomes more scarce.

A recent study conducted with homeowners in central Florida found that, on average, 64 percent of the drinking water used by homes went to irrigation. In the summer months, this percentage increased to 88 percent. As the population increases, conservation of fresh water becomes increasingly important.

The Special Issue Section of the current Technology and Innovation – Journal of the National Academy of Inventors (http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/cog/ti/2015/00000017/f0020001) focuses on challenges to fresh water from environmental changes and from the human population.

Florida homeowners—ready and willing to comply with government agency-imposed lawn watering restrictions—want to conserve water, although many are confused about how to conserve water.  At the same time, many homeowners are also required to have perfect, green lawns or risk being penalized by their Home Owner’s Associations (HOAs).

What is a homeowner to do?

In a study entitled “It’s Going to Take More Innovation than Technology to Increase Water Conservation Practices,” researchers from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences examined the perceptions of homeowners in Orange County, Florida who have automated irrigation systems and looked deeply into their water conservation knowledge and practices.

“The purpose of [our] study was to examine the perceptions of homeowners…who have automated irrigation systems [about] the use of norms that could be employed to reduce water used for lawn care,” said study co-author Liz Felter, Extension faculty in commercial horticulture at UF/IFAS.

The researchers also looked at the role of “social marketing” efforts to encourage people to conserve water, the barriers to water conservation, and how peer pressure might be involved in successfully implementing water conservation measures. They wanted to know what barriers might exist to increasing water conservation even when community- based social marketing (CBSM) was employed to encourage conservation.


In evaluating the barriers to conservation, the researchers found that several themes emerged from discussions.  “One of the major themes to emerge from the focus groups was a lack of knowledge on how to care for the grass,” explained Felter. Some sub-themes included confusion about watering restriction days, an inability to use the timer correctly, and pressure from the HOA to water excessively to achieve perfect grass.

In evaluating norms of water use, a major theme was a desire on the part of the homeowners to abide by the watering restrictions. This theme was counterpoint to not wanting to risk being penalized by their HOA if their lawns were not “perfect.”

Emerging from this study is the conclusion that “the largest barrier [to conservation], pressure from the HOA to have perfect grass by watering excessively, will have to be addressed,” Felter said. “Even with the proper information and the ability to perform the new skills needed to reduce their water use, participants were concerned about repercussions from the HOA.”

In response to this dilemma, the researchers suggested that state water regulation officials and HOA representatives meet to help with planning future water needs and use. They also concluded that community-based social marketing is a good approach for encouraging residents to increase their water conservation practices.


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

Source: Liz Felter, 407-254-9203, lfelter@ufl.edu


Florida agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam to keynote Florida 4-H fundraiser

Topic(s): Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida 4-H Foundation will host a fundraising event from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 11 to benefit the statewide UF/IFAS Extension Florida 4-H Youth Development Program.

The event, to be held at the University of Florida President’s House, will feature “Fresh From Florida” agricultural products and the opportunity to spend time with Florida’s 11th Commissioner of Agriculture and proud Florida 4-H alumnus, Adam Putnam. Putnam will be the featured speaker for the evening.

The Florida 4-H Club Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit educational organization which uses private donations to help expand and strengthen the UF/IFAS Extension 4-H Youth Development Program. For more information about the Foundation and Florida 4-H, please visit florida4h.org.

Tickets for the event are $300 per person or $500 per couple. For more information on this event, including sponsorship opportunities, please contact Ali Baker at 352-294-2906 or a.baker17@ufl.edu.



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


Source: Ali Baker, 352-294-2906; a.baker17@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS’ Lance Osborne wins Entomologist of the Year award

Topic(s): Uncategorized
Lance Osborne, Ph.D., Professor, IPM Biological Control of Insects & Mites at the Mid-Florida REC-Apopka. Studying plants, greenhouse. UF/IFAS Photo: Marisol Amador.

UF/IFAS Entomology Professor Lance Osborn

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida entomology professor Lance Osborne chalks up at least some of his success to his understanding and supportive wife of 43 years, Pat.

“Nothing would happen without her – she even lets me keep bugs in the refrigerator at home,” said Osborne, who also serves as the associate director of UF’s Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka.

This month, Osborne was named Entomologist of the Year at the 98th annual meeting of the Florida Entomological Society held in Fort Myers.  In addition, the Florida Nursery, Growers, and Landscape Association, Action Chapter honored him this week with the Gene A. Batson Award for outstanding service and leadership, the chapter’s highest honor.  (more …)

UF/IFAS researchers race to develop a plan to fight rose rosette virus

Topic(s): Uncategorized


GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are racing to develop a plan to prevent or treat rose rosette disease, which is decimating the rose industry in other states.

“Rose rosette is a devastating disease and one of the worst things to come along,” said Gary Knox, professor of environmental horticulture and Extension specialist in nursery crops. “So, we joined a multistate comprehensive project to find a management plan.”

The challenge is in detecting the virus before symptoms arrive, Knox said. “A nursery might not know it has the disease and sell rose plants to unsuspecting customers. Months later, the disease shows up,” he said. “The major issue is being able to detect the virus before it shows up.”

Rose rosette was first discovered in Florida in December 2013. The disease is caused by an Eriophyid mite called Phyllocoptes fructiphilus, which transmits the virus, said Mathews Paret, assistant professor of plant pathology, who is stationed at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center. The virus causes roses to have excessive thorn production, leaf distortion and excessive branch development, known as witches broom, and will eventually kill the plant, he said.

Rose rosette disease spread from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast over several decades and is poised to obliterate the rose industry because there is no known effective treatment, Paret said. Currently, The United States Department of Agriculture through its National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative has extended a $3.3 million research grant to a 17-member group headed by David Byrne of Texas A&M University to fight rose rosette disease.

At UF/IFAS, Paret leads a group of researchers in searching for methods to manage rose rosette. Paret and his team are developing techniques to detect low levels of the virus in the plant. “The goal is to detect the virus in non-symptomatic plants utilizing a rapid field-based assay.,” he said.

Industry experts and organizations are eager to work with UF/IFAS researchers to find an effective management plan. Some of the preliminary studies were funded by the Florida Nursery Growers’ and Landscape Association, Knox said. Meanwhile, Wholesale nursery growers in the Big Bend region have donated plants, labor and expertise to the experiments, he said.

“They are anxious for us to develop options for managing this virus, because this disease is doing serious harm in the rest of the country,” Knox said. Rose production is a $400 million annual business in the United States, he said. Florida is the fourth largest producer of roses in the U.S.

Now, Paret and his team are trying to develop a field-based detection system to find the virus early. “We need a technique where we can go to the field and test leaves in the field,” Paret said. “The virus has not been established in Florida and needs to be detected and managed effectively before it settles in.”

In addition, Paret is looking at new compounds for preventing or managing the disease. The team is treating plants with compounds that would potentially help plants defend themselves better against the virus, Paret said. “We are trying to reduce the severity of the symptoms,” he said.


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



Mathews Paret, 850-875-7154, paret@ufl.edu

Gary Knox, 850-875-7162, gwknox@ufl.edu


Local families, state economy benefit from UF/IFAS prisoner farm worker programs

Topic(s): Uncategorized
In this photo released from the University of FloridaÕs Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Scott Taylor, director of operations for UFÕs Hastings Demonstration Unit, supervises St. Johns County Jail inmates renovating a UF building in downtown Hastings Ð Thursday, Nov. 2. The inmates, who are serving short sentences, volunteered for the work as part of a program arranged by UF and the St. Johns County SheriffÕs Office. Taylor estimates that inmate assistance at the demonstration unit will save taxpayers about $80,000 in labor costs this year. (University of Florida/IFAS photo by Josh Wickham)

Please see caption below.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – In a move that helps Florida save money, aids local families and helps prisoners eat healthier, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has beefed up its programs that allow inmates to work on university farms.

At the UF/IFAS West Florida Research and Education Center in Jay, Florida, prisoners produced nearly $1 million of fresh produce that fed hundreds of needy families and saved the state money.

Each weekday morning, a van of 10 inmates from the Berrydale Forestry Camp–a minimum-security satellite facility of Century Correctional Institution–arrives at the farm. Under the supervision of correction officer Randy Dozier, prisoners work a 10-acre plot of land at the 640-acre research facility. Inmates grow sweet corn, collards, snap peas, tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons and squash.

“They spend seven hours a day learning about farming, how to check for diseases on plants, how to identify insects and lots of other skills,” Dozier said.

UF/IFAS staff and prison officials said they look forward to years of working together. “This partnership is fruitful because everybody benefits,” said Wes Wood, center director of the West Florida REC. “It really is phenomenal to see prisoners working hard, seeing the results of that hard work while they are giving back to the community.”

Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida, and the Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra have partnerships with local prisons to work at their facilities.

The Gulf Coast REC employs a squad of 15 inmates from the Hardee Correctional Institution through the Community Work Squad Program.  The inmates work four, six-hour days a week at a rate of $2 per hour, said Gary Vallad, Gulf Coast REC associate director. “They perform tasks vital for the production of ornamentals, vegetables and small fruit crops; tasks such as land preparation, planting, thinning, staking and tying, harvesting, and clean-up at the end of the season,” he said.

Also, inmates assist with the environmental horticulture research and extension projects at the center, provide labor for small construction projects and help maintain the grounds at the research center, Vallad said.  “We donate produce every season to the Hardee Correctional Institute,” he said.

At the UF/IFAS Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra, the Plant Science Unit and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office farm sent $1.25 million worth of produce into the prison kitchen with $823,227 coming from research projects in Citra, said James Boyer, coordinator of research programs at UF/IFAS.  “It is an excellent program in which, ultimately, Florida taxpayers win,” he said.

UF/IFAS Citra developed a partnership with MCSO and started out with two inmates. Currently, the county sends one deputy with 24 male inmates and a deputy with 10 female inmates daily to work in Citra, Boyer said.  And costs for meals at the prison have dropped significantly because of the addition of produce grown at Citra.

“Before this program, the MCSO meal cost was approximately $1.27 per inmate per meal and we are helping to reduce that cost to $0.51 per meal,” Boyer said. “With up to 2,000 inmates in our local jail, it is a substantial savings to the public.”

The inmates receive five days off of their sentence for every 30 days they work at the facility, Boyer said. All inmates have a one year or less conviction with no violent or sexual offenses in their past, he said.  “We have successfully used their help for 14 years, and faculty enjoy and appreciate the extra help

An eight-man crew of prisoners from the Ortiz Work Camp in Fort Myers, Florida works every Friday at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, Florida, said John Dunckelman, coordinator of research programs at UF/IFAS Southwest REC. Additional crews come at harvest time, to help with destruction and tear-out of finished crops, to aid in maintenance and management of ditches, roads, fire breaks and woods, he said.

“We depend heavily on the Florida Department of Corrections for able-bodied help with some tough work that would be hard to accomplish without the manpower that they can bring,” Dunckelman said.

The program at West Florida REC started in 2009 when farm manager Greg Kimmons suggested using prisoners to help renovate buildings and do maintenance at the facility. The program would provide manpower at the farm and give prisoners fresh produce to eat, Wood said. The prisoners started out working three acres on the Jay facility, and performed maintenance on farm equipment, cleaned offices, laid carpet and tiling, put up drywall and painted, Wood said.

“We are really proud of this program it’s a big help to us. It is a mutually beneficial relationship that has made us the model for other prisons and farms to work together,” Wood said.

Prisoners enjoy seeing the results of their hard work, and the state saves money, said Warden Douglas “John” Sloan. “Prisoners really appreciate the opportunity to work outdoors, stay busy and get exercise,” Sloan said. “And, the program benefits the prison by bringing in healthy food and lowering the amount of money we spend on food that we purchase for prisoners. The food is healthy and locally grown, so we can substitute the processed foods with the farm foods.”

Also, prisoners who have never worked on a farm have an opportunity to learn new skills, Sloan said. Prisoners who participate in the program have new skills when they leave the prison and re-enter society, he said.

In addition, the program provides fresh produce for needy families during Thanksgiving week through the Farm to City program. “Prisoners help us grow food for the Farm to City program for families in Santa Rosa and Escambia counties,” Wood said. “Last year, we fed 600 families with the produce that prisoners grew.”


Caption: Scott Taylor, director of operations for UF’s Hastings Demonstration Unit, supervises St. Johns County Jail inmates renovating a UF building.

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

Sources: Wes Wood, 850-475-5230, woodwes@ufl.edu

Warden Douglas “John” Sloan, 850-256-6505

James Boyer, 352-591-2678, ja.boyer@ufl.edu

John Dunckelman, 239-658-3421, jdunck@ufl.edu

Gary Vallad, 813-633-4121, gvallad@ufl.edu


UF/IFAS Chef Bearl spreads the word on healthy, nutritious meals

Topic(s): Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — David Bearl knows a thing or two about preparing healthy meals. The guest White House chef currently helps the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences get the word out about how to eat nutritiously.

Bearl, who joined UF/IFAS in December 2012, has been an ACF certified chef for more than 30 years, and has worked with the ACF Chef and the Child Foundation for many years. His passion is healthy cooking.

“I would love to see every child receive fresh and nutritious food every day, and work to help families and school systems work towards that goal,” Bearl said.

Bearl trains program assistants in the UF/IFAS Family Nutrition Program, who then train Florida families on healthy cooking techniques. Also, he is a chef for the Farm to School and Farm to Table programs. Bearl also trains public school system employees on how to prepare nutritious meals through the Smarter Lunchrooms program.

“I love helping others understand how to feed children nutritious meals, because these students deserve to have healthy meal options during the school day,” Bearl said. According to the Florida Department of Education, in 2013 more than 59 percent of Florida students qualified for free or reduced lunch at school.

For parents who pack their children’s lunches, Bearl suggests packaging fruits and vegetables to make them more attractive. And, he said, parents should avoid processed foods.

“The biggest mistake I see parents make is that they use a lot of processed foods and they are not cooking enough fresh foods,” Bearl said. “In their defense, some parent don’t have the resources to provide nutritious meals, or they live in a food desert where healthy foods are not available.”

Bearl vows to continue promoting healthy eating across the state. Besides demonstrations on healthy lunches, the chef is the administrator for two culinary programs: the SMA Behavioral Health Services Inc.’s Reality House Culinary Arts Program in Daytona Beach, Florida and the SMA Vince Carter Sanctuary – Project WARM (Women Assisting Recovering Mothers) in Bunnell, Florida.

At WARM, the culinary arts program brings women out to the farms and into the kitchen to learn how to cook nutritiously. “My goal is to spread the gospel of healthy eating,” Bearl said.



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


Source: David Bearl, 904-669-1340


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