IFAS News

University of Florida

Delectable delights highlight Flavors of Florida

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Aquaculture, Citrus, Crops, Cultivars, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Plants, Research, Vegetables

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — UF/IFAS scientists toil for years creating and enhancing many of the foods we consume and plants we enjoy. When it comes to plant breeding, UF/IFAS is a global leader. In fact, UF/IFAS is ranked as a top-10 horticulture program in the 2017 Center for World University Rankings.

Many of UF/IFAS’ tastiest creations will be available for consumption or on display at this year’s Flavors of Florida event.

Scheduled for April 24 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the University House, 2151 W. University Ave., Gainesville, Florida, the event offers guests an opportunity to sample foods containing UF/IFAS-developed ingredients prepared by local celebrity chefs. This year’s sample dishes will include citrus, tomatoes, meats, strawberries, blueberries and olive oil to tempt the taste buds. Additionally, non-edible plants, such as a relatively new cultivar of Mexican petunia, also will be showcased.

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The problem expands for avocado growers: More beetle species carry deadly fungus

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, RECs, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Many people love their avocados – not to mention guacamole dip. So it was bad enough when scientists said a beetle was ravaging avocado trees in South Florida. Then scientists found out that the redbay ambrosia beetle — originally determined to transmit laurel wilt — is rare in avocado groves but that six other beetle species could carry the laurel wilt pathogen.

That’s more species for scientists to track down and study. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences economists have estimated avocados bring a $100 million-a-year economic impact to South Florida.

In a new study, UF/IFAS plant pathology professor Randy Ploetz said scientists found three more types of beetles that can carry the pathogen that can kill avocado trees.

Scientist say they still don’t know how many species of ambrosia beetle transmit the fungus that causes laurel wilt, also known as Raffaelea lauricola. To serve as a “vector,” the insect must interact with the tree and the pathogen, and that interaction is hard to study, said Ploetz, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida.

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Is coconut oil good for you? UF/IFAS experts weigh in

Topic(s): Families and Consumers, Nutrition

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Google “coconut oil” and you’ll find article after article claiming numerous health benefits. However, consumers looking for heart-healthy foods would do better to look elsewhere, say nutrition experts with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, which, along with trans fat, is linked to heart disease,” said Gail Kauwell, professor of food science and human nutrition. “If you’re following a healthy diet, no more than six percent of your calories should be coming from saturated fat.”

Coconut oil has long been known to have high levels of saturated fat. But in recent years, some have made the case that because of its molecular structure, the particular kind of saturated fat in coconut oil may actually support cardiovascular health.

“Chemically speaking, fats are made of chains of carbon molecules, and these molecules are categorized as short-, medium- or long-chain triglycerides,” said Wendy Gans, a student in UF’s Master of Science – Dietetic Internship Program.

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Nutrients are nice, but produce better pass the taste test

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Consumers want produce that tickles their taste buds and is easy on the eye, but they think quality fruits and vegetables are a matter of luck, according to University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.

The fact that consumers purchase produce to satisfy their senses – not necessarily for its nutrients — should prove particularly important for growers and grocers to understand, UF/IFAS researchers say.

“They choose based on aroma and appearance,” said Amy Simonne, a professor in the UF/IFAS family, youth and community sciences department and lead author of this research. “Consumers might want to change the way they choose fruit.”

Jeff Brecht, a UF/IFAS professor of horticultural sciences and a study co-author, said the appearance of produce does not always correlate well with its flavor or aroma.

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Honor Earth Day by cutting food waste, UF/IFAS expert says

Topic(s): Environment, Families and Consumers, Green Living

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — This Earth Day — April 22 — you don’t have to leave your kitchen to start living more sustainably, says an expert with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension.

Consumers can help the environment by taking a closer look at the food they throw away, said Heidi Copeland, family and consumer sciences agent with UF/IFAS Extension Leon County.

“A surprising amount of food produced in the United States — between 30 to 40 percent — goes uneaten. It takes energy, water and farmland to grow, transport and store food, so wasted food translates into wasted natural resources,” Copeland said.

For consumers, wasted food also means wasted dollars, Copeland said.

According to a survey by the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education, 60 percent of Floridians are concerned or extremely concerned about food waste in their home, with fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products being the most common type of wasted food.

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UF/CALS student facilitates national 4-H conference roundtable with FBI

Topic(s): 4-H, CALS, Families and Consumers, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida student recently led a roundtable discussion in Washington, D.C., with Federal Bureau of Investigation representatives on cyber bullying. Students even got advice from former 4-H participant FBI Director James Comey.

During the 2017 National 4-H Conference in Washington, D.C. from March 25 to 30, UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) student Jose Alvarez led the social equity roundtable of 4-H delegates. Alvarez was partnered as a facilitator with FBI representatives to guide the delegates in creating a social media campaign and slogan to address cyber bullying.

Comey told the 4-H delegates about his 4-H experiences as a child and spent some time with them answering career-related questions and how to leverage their 4-H skills in their future occupations.

The 4-H delegates presented their final project, titled “Celebr8 Us,” to FBI representatives on March 28 to be considered as a potential solution to be implemented by the bureau. The social media project incorporated eight pillar topics from the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The students aimed to create a welcoming environment on social media with their project presentation. Messages focused on testimonials and positive solutions, such as “giving compliments generously.”

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UF/IFAS entomology department, others take top spots in global ranking

Topic(s): Announcements, CALS, Departments, Entomology and Nematology, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Invasive Species, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Center for World University Rankings has named the University of Florida entomology department first in the world among more than 26,000 degree-granting institutions of higher education. Other programs in the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences also ranked in the top 10.

The Center for World University Rankings is the only global university performance table to judge world-class universities across all of their core missions – teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. The center measures the quality of education and training of students as well as the prestige of the faculty members, and the quality of their research without relying on surveys and university data submissions.

“The quality and recognition of our program are the result of a dedicated group of faculty, staff and students,” said UF/IFAS entomology department chair Blair Siegfried. “They are committed to education, to solving important questions of both applied and fundamental significance, and to providing timely and important information to the citizens of Florida.”

The center ranked several UF/IFAS programs in the top 10:

  • Entomology (World Rank: 1, Score: 100.00)
  • Mycology (World Rank: 8, Score: 83.42)
  • Agriculture, Dairy and Animal Science (World Rank: 9, Score: 92.56)
  • Biodiversity Conservation (World Rank: 9, Score: 89.55)
  • Horticulture (World Rank: 9, Score: 90.63).

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

 

UF/IFAS Fulbright scholar to study unknown biodiversity in Poland

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, CALS, Conservation, Departments, Environment, IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For six months after she applied for a Fulbright Research Scholarship, Karolina Weclawska’s life was on hold. The University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences senior said people would ask about her plans for after graduation this spring, and all she could say was, “Well, that’s up to the Fulbright Commission.”

You can’t make alternate plans for the opportunity of a lifetime.

After months of waiting nervously while the commission deliberated over thousands of applications, the commission responded. “I almost brought down the foundation of my house jumping around and screaming,” said Weclawska, who is in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation.

Her project targets an underappreciated area of biodiversity — forest mosses. Mosses provide habitats for microscopic organisms, in turn creating miniature ecosystems. As Weclawska described it, a patch of moss is basically a tiny forest.

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UF student named one of three international 2017 Rolex Scholars

Topic(s): Announcements, CALS, IFAS

Leah Potts

GAINESVILLE, Fla. –  A University of Florida student has been chosen as one of only three 2017 Rolex Scholars in the world.

An avid scuba diver of seven years, biological engineering senior Leah Potts found her career calling by merging her love for the water with engineering. Potts will receive her scholarship at a formal ceremony in New York in late April.

The scholarship committee selected three finalists from a rigorous application process to interview in Chicago for the 2017 North American scholar title of the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society, ultimately choosing Potts. She joins a European Rolex Scholar and an Australasian scholar.

“Leah’s program is interdisciplinary, and the UF/IFAS agricultural and biological engineering department provides the opportunity for Leah to combine engineering with her interest in natural resources and water use in agricultural systems,” said department chair Dorota Haman. “The opportunity the Rolex Scholarship provides is fantastic. There is so much going on in water around the world and Leah can select several institutions and conferences to visit and “learn about water” during this coming year. Our department is very proud of her.”

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Bumblebees boost blueberry yield

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Bumblebees can boost blueberry yield by 70 percent, good news for Florida growers in the heart of their blueberry season, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

The news also accentuates the need for blueberry pollinators, said Joshua Campbell, a post-doctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS entomology and nematology department.

After caging bumblebee hives with highbush blueberry bushes, researchers found that 70 percent of the flowers produced blueberries, while less than 10 percent of those without bumblebee hives produced blueberries. That’s helpful news for blueberry growers, said Campbell, co-author of a new study published in the Journal of Environmental Entomology.

“We think our findings are very relevant for growers who are growing blueberries in greenhouses and high tunnels,” Campbell said.

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