IFAS News

University of Florida

Blueberries’ health benefits better than many perceive

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Extension, Families and Consumers, Nutrition, Research

Blueberry bush.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Consumers know some of the benefits blueberries provide, but they’re less aware of the advantages of reverting aging, improving vision and memory, a new University of Florida study shows.

Shuyang Qu, a doctoral student in agricultural education and communication at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, led the study. Joining Qu were Joy Rumble, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication, and Tori Bradley, a master’s student in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department. Rumble’s Florida Specialty Crop grant gave the opportunity to examine consumers’ knowledge of blueberry health benefits.

Qu and her colleagues wanted to determine how much consumers know about blueberry health benefits and see if there’s a knowledge gap with blueberry health benefits among demographic groups. Using their findings, they will identify promotional opportunities for Florida blueberries.

Researchers surveyed more than 2,000 people in 31 states – mostly on the East Coast and in the Midwest – to see what they know about the health benefits of blueberries. Most were aware of the benefits of blueberries in warding off cancer and lowering the risk of heart disease. The UF/IFAS study also found that low-income populations tend to know less about blueberry health benefits.

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UF/IFAS, Pinellas Sheriff’s office create urban farms in Pinellas County

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Vegetables

Loften Center students learning about gardening and nutrition on Thursday, May 21st, 2015.

GAINESVILLE, Fla.— Residents in a county on Florida’s Gulf Coast are getting the help they need to access healthier foods via a collaboration between the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and the Pinellas Sheriff’s Police Athletic League. The two entities have teamed up to create an urban farm in Pinellas County.

Urban farms promote an abundance of food for people in need while raising awareness of health and wellness. “It is an opportunity to teach families and children the values of nutrition and establish a level of commerce for produce distribution,” said Mark Trujillo, a public health regional specialist for UF/IFAS Family Nutrition Program.

Trujillo introduced the executive director of the Pinellas Sheriff’s PAL, Neil Brickfield, to an empty U-Pick farm in Lealman, Florida, Pinellas County. After discovering the potential that the farm had to help the county, Brickfield then began to work with UF/IFAS to identify the needs of the farm and community.

Because Lealman, Florida is considered a food desert, the idea of an urban farm was essential for the area, Trujillo said. According to Brickfield, the citizens in Lealman are more than a mile from a local grocery store. “So, the urban farm is an opportunity for people to have fresh produce readily available,” Brickfield said.

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UF/IFAS joins 12 public, private universities calling for increased federal investment in agricultural research

Topic(s): Agriculture, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Research

Carrie Harmon in the lab

Please see caption below the story.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The University of Florida and 12 other prominent research institutions in the United States joined the SoAR Foundation today in calling for a surge in federal support of food and agricultural science. “Retaking the Field,” the report released by this coalition, highlights recent scientific innovations and illustrates how U.S. agricultural production is losing ground to China and other global competitors.

“Agricultural and food science research has had a profound impact on our country’s population and quality of life,” said Jackie Burns, UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences dean for research and director of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station. “Continued investment in university research resources will ensure that today’s investments translate into innovation and food security for future generations. The SoAR Foundation publication highlights success stories in agricultural research that will improve the future lives of our citizens.”

“Retaking the Field” examines the importance of agriculture and its related industries to the U.S. economy. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this sector was responsible for nearly one in 10 jobs in 2014 and contributed $835 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product. Even though every public dollar invested in agricultural research provides $20 in economic returns, the federal budget for agricultural research has remained flat for decades. Today, the U.S. trails China in both agricultural production and public research funding.

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UF/IFAS expert: Whitefly species likely to cause growers problems

Topic(s): Agriculture, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Pests, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences expert predicts the Q-biotype whitefly discovered in April in Palm Beach County will likely cause problems for growers.

The Q-biotype whitefly – not to be confused with the B-biotype, which came to Florida in the mid-1980s – is now being seen outside greenhouses and nurseries and poses a threat to ornamental plants and agricultural crops. After the B-biotype was found in Florida in the 1980s, scientists saw big increases in the diversity and frequency of whitefly-transmitted viruses in many Florida crops, said Jane Polston, a UF/IFAS plant pathology professor. Crops like beans, tomato, watermelon and squash were hit hard by these viruses after the appearance of the B biotype.

“This Q-biotype is a pest that damages crops and resists many of the insecticides that are effective on the B-biotype, the whitefly that is common in many ornamental and vegetable crops,” Polston said. “And like other whiteflies, it is capable of transmitting viruses from one plant to another.”

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UF CALS student one of 12 National Teach Ag Ambassadors

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, CALS, Honors and Appointments

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Tyler D’Angelo

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences student will spend the next school year as one of 12 National Teach Ag Ambassadors, spreading the word about the importance of agricultural education and learning more about how to teach the subject.

Tyler D’Angelo will be a senior in agricultural education and communication in the fall and hopes to pursue his master’s degree in the same department after he graduates. After that, he hopes to teach agriculture.

“It is truly an honor to represent the profession that I love,” D’Angelo said. “I hope that through my ambassadorship that I will be able to bring more of a presence to the Teach Ag campaign to Florida. I also hope to encourage those interested in teaching agriculture to pursue a degree in agricultural education.”

Agricultural education and communication is an academic department within the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and Brian Myers, a professor in the department, nominated D’Angelo to be an ambassador.

“Tyler will be an outstanding Teach Ag Ambassador,” Myers said. “He has a passion and excitement for agricultural education that is evident the moment you meet him. He has a tremendous skill set that will allow him to tell the story about being an agricultural educator in meaningful and impactful ways. He will be a great representative of the agriculture teaching profession and of the University of Florida.”

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UF CALS student named as prestigious ‘Cultivator’ for national conference

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, CALS, Honors and Appointments, IFAS

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Will Dezern

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences student who researches how to improve peanuts has been named as UF’s first Cultivator for the 2016 Farm Foundation® Round Table.

Will Dezern, who recently earned a bachelor’s degree in plant science from UF CALS, participated the week of June 6 at the discussion forum in Louisville, Kentucky, where he presented a poster on his research. He is one of six students selected nationwide to attend the forum. Student participants are known as “Cultivators.”

“I am very excited about this opportunity to hear from agricultural leaders from around the country,” Dezern said during the conference. “Sometimes it is easy to be very focused on just one area of work, so I look forward to gaining a better understanding of the state of the industry as a whole. I’m very honored to have been chosen to attend the Round Table event, and I hope to come back with new ideas and perspectives.”

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Survey: Most Floridians concerned about food waste, safety

Topic(s): Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, Nutrition, Research

Displays of fresh vegetables and produce. Photo taken 10-01-15.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Often without much thought, Americans throw out more than one-third of all food grown in the United States each year. However, a majority of Floridians acknowledge food waste is a major concern.

­­­Sixty percent of Floridians agreed or strongly agreed that they are concerned about food waste in their household, according to a recent food waste survey of 500 Florida residents conducted by the Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Florida. The PIE Center is part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

It was also discovered through the survey that fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products most often go to waste. Oppositely, beverages, spices and seafood are the food items that go to waste least.

The survey also captured public perceptions on food safety.

Results from the survey revealed that 42 percent of Floridians feel that food safety is a major concern and 68 percent feel responsible for their own food safety.

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UF/IFAS Mole Cricket Biological Control Program saves state millions

Topic(s): Agriculture, Departments, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs, Research

Howard Frank,left and Tom Walker check two-part trap that uses synthesized mole cricket calls to monitor both mole crickets and the beneficial flies that locate their hosts by sounds.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In a recent study, researchers with the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences in cooperation with Florida A&M University economists estimated that a 34-year program to control invasive pest mole crickets in the state has saved cattlemen approximately 13.6 million dollars a year. Over the long term, that figure balloons to 453 million dollars.

“The partnership with the State of Florida has been crucial to controlling the mole crickets,” said Norm Leppla, a UF/IFAS professor of entomology and nematology. “The Mole Cricket Biological Control Program has been worth every penny invested by the Florida Legislature and other stakeholders in the state.”

UF/IFAS researchers remember when the mole crickets reached outbreak levels in Florida during the mid-1900s and began wreaking hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of damage to crops, pastures and turf. Cattlemen were beside themselves as they watched the tiny insects tear across their pastures like a biblical swarm of locusts. The effects were devastating, but not irreversible.

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UF/IFAS Extension Lee County to host Tropical Fruit Fair on June 25

Topic(s): Agriculture, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Vegetables
Persimmons. Photo taken 10-3-15

Persimmons

MYERS, Fla. — Julie Falconer, walked through the teeming aisles of the “Taste of Lee Tropical Fruit Fair” in Ft. Myers, Florida, and popped a piece of jackfruit in her mouth. She savored the sweet, pungent taste of the fruit usually found in south and Southeast Asia.

“Everyone in our family is a gardener, and I grew up on a farm in Michigan with tons of fruit trees,” said Falconer, who lives in St. James City, Florida. “Now, we are trying to learn what grows in Florida, because we love to eat fruit and want to grow our own tropical fruits.”

The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Lee County office hosts the ninth annual “Taste of Lee Tropical Fruit Fair” on June 25 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event will be held at Gate Ministries, 1735 Jackson Street, Fort Myers, 33901. Admission is $2; children under 12 are free.

The fair, a collaboration between UF/IFAS Extension Lee County and the Coloosa Rare Fruit Exchange, draws more than 3,000 visitors each year. Young and old taste everything from mangoes to gooseberries to jack fruit.

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UF/IFAS Dairy Unit researchers keep cows cool, productive

Topic(s): Agriculture, Departments, IFAS, Livestock, Research
Dairy cows being milked in a milking parlour at the Shenandoah Dairy Farm. Milking, milk production. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – June is National Dairy Month and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Dairy Unit is studying ways to get more milk and cheese to your table. But it’s no easy task to keep cows cool enough to produce in the scorching Florida sun.

That’s where researchers with the UF/IFAS Dairy Unit, in Hague, Florida come in. “It is difficult for a dairy cow in a hot environment to meet her full potential for either milk yield or fertility,” said Geoff Dahl, chair of the UF/IFAS animal sciences department. “The physiological adjustments the cow makes to prevent body temperature from rising during heat stress reduce productivity.”

This is especially true for cows in their dry period—cows in late pregnancy or who are not lactating. “These are times when we don’t milk the cows, because for six to eight weeks they don’t produce milk,” Dahl explained.

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