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University of Florida

UF/IFAS to host renowned scientist for York-Malone Lecture on Nov. 2

Topic(s): Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Are vaccines safe? Is climate change real? As the keynote speaker for the 2015 York-Malone Distinguished Lecture, Naomi Oreskes, a renowned researcher who investigated decades of documents proving misrepresentation of truth to the American public, will explain why we should trust science in a world that is skeptical.

The lecture, “Should We Trust Science: Perspectives from the History and Philosophy of Science,” will be held at 3 p.m., Nov. 2 at the University of Florida Auditorium, 333 Newell Drive. The event is free and open to the public. A book signing with the author will take place at 2 p.m. in the University Auditorium lobby.

“Dr. Oreskes is a distinguished scholar and a courageous defender of science,” said UF President Kent Fuchs. “We are pleased to host her on our campus.”

(more …)

UF/IFAS Extension program in best management practices wins state, national awards

Topic(s): Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The UF/IFAS Extension and FDEP’s Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM Green Industries Best Management Practices (GI-BMP) program recently won two state awards and one national award for Extension program content and implementation.

The Florida Association of County Agriculture Agents (FACAA) honored the UF/IFAS GI-BMP program with two awards at the recent Extension Professional Associations of Florida’s state meeting in Naples. FACAA’s Communications award spotlighted the program’s online learning module and website interface. The Search for Excellence in Landscape Horticulture award recognized the development and implementation of an outstanding Extension education program.

“The success we have achieved for the GI-BMP program can only be attributed to teamwork”, said Esen Momol, state director for the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ program, which oversees the GI-BMP program. “All the Extension agents, FDEP coordinators, and our industry partners statewide who have put in countless hours for curriculum development and instructing hundreds of training classes can feel a great deal of satisfaction in the recognition provided by these awards. Florida is truly better off for their efforts.”

In addition to the two state awards, Don Rainey, the state coordinator for the GI-BMP program, was recently awarded the award for Excellence in Landscape Horticulture at the national meeting of the National Association of County Agriculture Agents in South Dakota. As the national winner, Rainey was the keynote speaker at the Search for Excellence Awards Luncheon.

“It was quite a thrill for our Extension program to receive such national recognition,” Rainey said. “But, most importantly, it shows how our UF/IFAS programs are leading the way nationally in protecting our natural resources.”

As part of the UF/IFAS Extension and FDEP’s Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ program, the GI-BMP program trains landscaping professionals in proper fertilization and irrigation practices that protect Florida’s water resources. To date, the program has trained more than 41,000 individuals using in-person and online classes given in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole.


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

Source: Esen Momol, 352-273-4520, eam@ufl.edu


UF/IFAS receives $49 million USAID award to aid in global food security

Topic(s): Uncategorized

Cattle at the North Florida Research and Education Center in Marianna, Flrorida.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences a $49 million, five-year cooperative agreement to establish the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems. The grant supports USAID’s agricultural research and capacity building work under Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative.

“Through our Feed the Future Innovation Labs, the U.S. Government is empowering the world’s finest universities to help improve nutrition and end widespread hunger around the world,” said Acting USAID Administrator Alfonse E. Lenhardt. “By creating and scaling cutting-edge solutions to our most pressing agricultural challenges, we can help the world’s most vulnerable people move from dependency to self-sufficiency — and out of the tragic cycle of extreme poverty.”

“With this latest award to UF/IFAS, USAID is now investing over $75 million in the University of Florida’s ability to provide leadership to the global food systems research, teaching and extension efforts,” said Jack Payne, senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources.

This newest Feed the Future Innovation Lab will improve livestock productivity and the incomes and nutrition of livestock holders through appropriate improved technologies, capacity building, and enabling policies, said Adegbola Adesogan, director of UF’s Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems and professor of animal sciences. “The program will help increase the resilience of vulnerable populations, reduce the environmental impact of livestock systems, and advance understanding of the rapidly evolving livestock systems and their roles in food safety and security, human nutrition, and human and animal health,” he said.

The Livestock Systems Innovation Lab will focus on six countries in West and East Africa and South Asia: Mali, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Cambodia and Nepal.

“This grant provides a tremendous opportunity to contribute towards meeting the increasing global demand for livestock products specifically and food generally, “Adesogan said. “Our research and capacity building efforts will equip students, farmers and scientists in the focal countries with the knowledge and innovative technologies to significantly increase livestock productivity and improve the nutritional status of vulnerable families.”

The award will strengthen global engagement at the University of Florida and allow the institution to better assist developing nations in addressing poverty and hunger, said Walter Bowen, director of UF/IFAS Global. “By joining the ranks of the science-based Feed the Future Innovation Labs, the University of Florida continues a strong tradition of contributing to the research, education and extension needs of small holder farmers around the world,” he said.

Feed the Future is working to scale up proven technologies and activities, expand nutrition interventions and programs, and conduct research to create the next generation of innovations that can change the lives of food producers and their families. In 2014, Feed the Future reached nearly 7 million farmers and other food producers with new technologies and management practices, while reaching more than 12 million children with high-impact nutrition interventions that improve health and development.

About Feed the Future: Feed the Future is the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. With a focus on smallholder farmers, particularly women, Feed the Future supports partner countries in developing their agriculture sectors to spur economic growth and trade that increase incomes and reduce hunger, poverty and undernutrition. For more information, visit www.feedthefuture.gov.



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


Sources: USAID Press Office, 202-712-4320, USAIDPressOfficers@usaid.gov


Adegbola Adesogan, 352-392-7527, adesogan@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS master gardener helps HOA, residents resolve disputes

Topic(s): Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Experts with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are helping Floridians and homeowner associations (HOAs) across the state resolve landscape disputes.

For example, 40 Haile Plantation Village homeowners thought they had done a good thing when they replaced their chinch-infested St. Augustine grass with Zoysia. Their lawns were rich and green again, flourishing in the hot Florida sun.

But Zoysia was not on the homeowners association’s list of approved grasses. So began a battle to keep the healthier grass while respecting the association’s rules. In steppeds Florida Master Gardener statewide coordinator Wendy Wilber, with UF/IFAS.

Wilber previously headed the Alachua County Florida-Friendly Landscaping ™ program, a UF/IFAS program that teaches people how to take care of their lawns. The program, around since the late 1990s, helps people create sustainable landscapes that don’t require a lot of water or upkeep, Wilber said. “We have Florida-Friendly agents all over the state, who work with homeowners, HOAs, landscape architects, builders and developers,” she said.

Haile Plantation, with approximately 5,000 residents, battled a devastating chinch bug infestation. “The St. Augustine grass was brown and overrun with chinch bugs; it looked awful,” Wilber explained. “Homeowners were replacing the lawn, sod and all, every two years, or having to use excessive amounts of pesticide.”

One resident, Bruce Welt, an Alachua County homeowner, reached out to Wilber and asked her to identify his grass, which was flourishing. Wilber determined that the grass was Zoysia and that it would be better than the St. Augustine.

“Dr. Welt’s grass was perfect and his neighbor’s looked terrible,” Wilber said. “He asked me to write a letter to the HOA in support of Zoysia because it is the right plant in the right place.”

Right plant, right place is one of the key principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping ™. This principle focuses on matching proper plants with site characteristics so that plants flourish and less problems arise.

Wilber’s letter convinced the HOA landscape review board to include Zoysia on the list of approved grasses. “The homeowners saved money by not having to replace their healthy grass with failing turf,” she said.

Helping Welt went a long way toward helping all residents of Haile Plantation, said attorney Robert Bunn, who represented homeowners in litigation against the HOA. “Without [Wilber’] intervention, the homeowners would have to contend with a failing, unsustainable grass,” Bunn said. “The implication of this resolution is that homeowners in Florida can turn to UF/IFAS researchers and Extension agents to mediate these disputes. IFAS should be the final authority on plants and landscaping, which will help HOAs and residents arrive at peaceful solutions.”


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


Source: Wendy Wilber, 352-273-4521, wilbewl@ufl.edu

Robert Bunn, 352-213-3920, robert@strategiclaw.com


Extension St. Johns County to host annual Datil Pepper Festival and Home and Garden Show Oct. 3-4

Topic(s): Uncategorized


GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County eighth annual Datil Pepper Festival and Home and Garden Show will be held on Oct. 3 and 4.

The weekend of events will kick off with the Datil Pepper Festival at 10 a.m., Saturday Oct. 3 with a presentation from Bonnie Wells, UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County agriculture agent, “450 Years of Agriculture in St. Johns County.”

The highlight of the weekend is Saturday’s Datil Pepper Festival Restaurant Cook-Off, featuring datil inspired cuisine prepared by participating local restaurants. Participating restaurants will create an appetizer and entrée, using the datil pepper.

There are two divisions in the competition: Professional and People’s Choice. The professional division will be privately judged by a panel of local celebrity chefs, food enthusiasts and county officials. The people’s choice division is judged by the participating public (festival attendees who buy taste tickets). Taste tickets are $1 and go on sale 30 minutes before the cook-off. Awards will include cash and trophies.

Also on Saturday, there will be an Amateur Datil Pepper Hot Sauce Contest. Hot sauce entries should be submitted to the UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County Agricultural Center by 4 pm Friday October 2. Multiple entries are accepted per individual.

A private panel of judges will decide the winning hot sauce and a cash prize will be awarded. Submission forms for the hot sauce contest can be found at http://stjohns.ifas.ufl.edu

The Home and Garden Show, which will be held on both days, will feature vendors with plant sales, gifts, crafts, datil pepper products, and will include educational events such as garden talks, rain barrel and composter workshops, a Master Gardener Plant Clinic and an Open Horticulture Show featuring unique container plants created by residents of St. Johns County. Wendy Wilber, UF/IFAS Extension Statewide Master Gardener Coordinator will be the featured speaker at 10 a.m., Sunday Oct. 4.




Saturday- Datil Pepper Festival and Home and Garden Show (9 a.m. – 4 p.m.)


9:00 a.m.- Grounds open for Home and Garden Show


10:00 a.m.- Datil Pepper Festival Begins


Kick-Off Presentation: UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County Agricultural Center Wind Mitigation Building, 3111 Agriculture


“450 Years of Agriculture in St. Johns County,” Bonnie C. Wells, DPM, Commercial Agriculture Agent, UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County


11:00 a.m.- Taste tickets for People’s Choice Division in Restaurant Datil Cook-Off sales begin




11:30 a.m -1:00 p.m. – Restaurant Datil Cook-Off



2:00 p.m. – Winners Announced for Datil Cook-Off and Amateur Hot Sauce Contest


Sunday- Home and Garden Show (10 a.m. -3 p.m.)

10 a.m.- “Tomatoes and Other Awesome Veggies,” Wendy Wilber, UF/IFAS Extension Statewide Master Gardener Coordinator


Social Media:     Facebook page: www.facebook.com/event/938389686234117/

                                Official Hashtag: #DatFest15




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


Source: Bonnie Wells, 904-209-0430, bcwells@ufl.edu


Survey: Floridians favor farmers in water usage decisions

Topic(s): Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A majority of Floridians believe farmers are using water the right way, according to a survey by the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Nearly 90 percent of state residents agreed or strongly agreed that farmers are concerned about water when making decisions. Almost 80 percent thought farmers used sound reasoning when making decisions about water.

Local government officials, however, weren’t quite as trustful. Only 36 percent of policymakers said valid principles guided farmers’ behaviors with water use, and 54 percent agreed or strongly agreed that farmers felt concerned about water when making decisions. Overall, local government officials were more confident in the quantity and quality of Florida’s water supplies.

More than 70 percent of policymakers were highly or extremely confident in the quality of tap water in their home, compared to 42 percent of the public. The public, however, felt stronger about the quality of Florida’s lakes, rivers and wetlands.

Even though 69 percent of residents agreed that farmers can be relied upon to keep their promises when it comes to water, more than half said that farmers should be watched closely so they don’t take advantage of water resources.

For more information, and to view other survey results, visit the PIE Center at http://www.centerpie.com/.


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

Source: Ricky Telg, 352-273-2094, rwtelg@ufl.edu


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




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