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International food security expert to speak at UF

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Economics, IFAS
Oxford University Professor Charles Godfray is speaking at the University of Florida on Friday, April 4, as part of the Florida Climate Institute’s Distinguished Scholar Seminar.

See Photo Caption Below

GAINESVILLE – Oxford University Professor Charles Godfray, one of the most influential scientists involved in research and outreach on global food security, is speaking at the University of Florida on Friday, April 4, as part of the Florida Climate Institute’s Distinguished Scholar Seminar.

Godfray is Professorial Fellow in Zoology at Oxford University’s Jesus College, with interests in environmental sciences, and has published articles on ecology, evolution and epidemiology. He is interested in how the global food system will change and adapt to the challenges facing humanity in the 21st century. He is focused on the concept of “sustainable intensification” and the relationship between food production, ecosystem services and biodiversity. (more …)

UF/IFAS finds way to reduce E. coli in cows, improving food safety

Topic(s): Agriculture, Food Safety, Livestock, Research, Safety

 

K.C. Jeong, an assistant professor of animal sciences at UF/IFAS, led the study.

K.C. Jeong, an assistant professor of animal sciences at UF/IFAS, led the study.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new biological treatment could help dairy cattle stave off uterine diseases and eventually may help improve food safety for humans, a University of Florida study shows.

Kwang Cheol Jeong, an assistant professor in animal sciences and UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, examined cattle uterine illnesses because they can make cows infertile, lower milk production and because those maladies are often linked to bacteria, he said. The UF researchers did their experiments in labs and at the Dairy Unit on the Gainesville campus.

Jeong and his research team infused chitosan microparticles ─ an antimicrobial material derived from dissolved shrimp shells ─ into diseased cow uteri. When bought in stores, chitosan can be used to treat many ailments from obesity to anemia. On its own, chitosan only works at acidic pH levels, Jeong said. For cattle, Jeong’s team developed chitosan microparticles, which work in acidic and neutral pH, because cattle uteri have a neutral pH.

(more …)

UF/IFAS to conduct national search for next research dean

Topic(s): Announcements, Research

Note: This story updated 4/17/14 with names of three additional search committee members.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences will conduct a national search to find its next research dean, Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, announced Thursday.

Former UF/IFAS Research Dean John Hayes accepted a position earlier this month as dean of the College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University. He starts that job in June.

“It’s always a disappointment when a valued team member leaves, but these things happen when you have the high-caliber people we’ve got,” Payne said. “I’m confident that Dr. Place and our search committee will find the very best candidates out there.”

Nick Place, UF/IFAS dean for Extension, will chair the search committee, which is expected to begin meeting soon in hopes of securing candidates and an eventual dean by fall 2014.

Until then, Associate Deans Doug Archer and Mary Duryea will share duties as co-research deans.

The UF/IFAS dean for research provides support and strategic planning for 1,000 faculty across two schools, 15 academic departments, 12 research and education centers around the state and 67 counties.

The UF/IFAS research dean also serves as director of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of UF’s land-grant enterprise.

Besides Place, the search committee members include: Jim Lloyd, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine; Reggie Brown, executive director of the Florida Tomato Exchange; John Hoblick, president, Florida Farm Bureau; Gil McRae, director of the Florida Wildlife Commission Research Institute; Stephanie Gray, director of sponsored research, Office of the Vice President for Research; Mary Duryea, associate dean of UF/IFAS Research; Laurie Trenholm, Extension specialist, UF/IFAS Environmental Horticulture Department; Adegbola Adesogan, professor, Department of Animal Sciences;  Rosemary Loria, chair, Department of Plant Pathology; Nick Comerford, director, North Florida Research and Education Center; Al Wysocki, associate dean, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences; Lisa Conti, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; Dana Lecuyer of UF/IFAS human resources, and Nia Haynes, a UF/IFAS graduate student.

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Contact: Nick Place, 352-392-1761, nplace@ufl.edu

Citrus industry set to welcome state-of-the-art greenhouse at Mid-Florida REC in Apopka

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Citrus, IFAS, RECs

 

The UF/IFAS Mid-Florida REC in Apopka is home to a new $200,000 citrus nursery greenhouse.

See Caption Below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The citrus industry has just gotten its own state-of-the-art greenhouse, dedicated solely to citrus nursery research as the state continues its fight against citrus greening – and industry and research officials are set to celebrate the gift March 25.

The $200,000 facility is located at the University of Florida’s Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka.  Officials say it was built there to shield the young plants from greening in the state’s main citrus-crowing areas of Central and South Florida, as federal guidelines suggest. (more …)

UF/IFAS web tool successfully measures farms’ water footprint

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Crops, New Technology

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A new University of Florida web-based tool worked well during its trial run to measure water consumption at farms in four Southern states, according to a study published this month.

The system measures the so-called “water footprint” of a farm. In the broader sense, water footprints account for the amount of water used to grow or create almost everything we eat, drink, wear or otherwise use.

Researchers at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences introduced their WaterFootprint tool in the March issue of the journal Agricultural Systems, after using it to calculate water consumption at farms in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Texas.

(more …)

UF/IFAS researchers on team that sequenced, assembled, and annotated loblolly pine genome

Topic(s): Agriculture, Forestry, IFAS, Research

John M. Davis, professor and associate director of the UF School of Forest Resources and Conservation, and Katherine Smith, a biological science technician with the USDA Forest Service’s Southern Institute of Forest Genetics, took the lead in annotating the genes in a portion of the loblolly pine genome.

GAINESVILLE, Fla.  — To look at the humble loblolly pine – grown in neat rows on large farms throughout the southeastern U.S. and milled for things like building lumber and paper – you would never think that its genetic code is seven times larger than a human’s.

That is just one of the things researchers, including two from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and the UF Genetics Institute, learned as they sequenced the loblolly pine genome for the first time.  They also discovered genes resistant to a devastating pine forest disease. (more …)

New study finds Burmese pythons have homing sense

Topic(s): Invasive Species, RECs, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If you pick them up and drop them in a new location, most snakes will move rapidly but erratically, often traversing the same terrain before giving up and settling into their new digs.

Burmese pythons aren’t most snakes.

A team of researchers including scientists from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has discovered that the giant snakes – which have invaded and affected the food chain in Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve – can find their way home even when moved more than 20 miles away.

The findings, to be published March 19 by the Royal Society’s Biology Letters, change how researchers understand pythons’ behaviors and intellect.

“This is way more sophisticated behavior than we’ve been attributing to them,” said Frank Mazzotti, a UF/IFAS wildlife ecology and conservation professor based at the Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center. “It’s one of those things where nature makes us go ‘wow.’ That is truly the significance of this.”

In 2006 and 2007, researchers captured 12 pythons and surgically implanted radio transmitters that allowed them to track the snakes’ movements. As a control group, they returned six of the snakes to the spot of their capture and turned them loose.

The remaining six snakes were taken to spots ranging from 13 to 22 miles away from where they had been captured and turned loose. To the researchers’ surprise, the snakes oriented themselves toward “home” and maintained their bearings as they traveled.

And although it took between 94 and 296 days for five of the six snakes to get within three miles of home, partly due to it being the snakes’ dormant season, the reptiles kept that orientation – a clear signal to scientists that the snakes have both “map” and “compass” senses.

The relocated snakes appeared to use local cues at the release site to understand their position relative to home (the map sense), and appeared to use cues along the way (their compass sense) to ensure that they remained on track, although the researchers don’t yet know what those cues are: smell, perhaps the stars, light or some kind of magnetic force.

Mazzotti said it’s helpful for researchers to know that the snakes move purposefully through their environment, but in reality, it’s not that much help.

“It amps up a little bit our concern about the snakes, but given all the other things we know about pythons, the amount of increasing concern is minor,” he said.

The Burmese python has been an invasive species in South Florida since about 2000 likely stemming from accidental or purposeful releases by former pet owners. The largest python found in the Everglades area had grown to more than 18 feet.

The snakes suffocate and eat even large animals, such as deer and alligators, and in 2012, a research team that included Mazzotti found severe declines in sightings in python-heavy areas of native animals including raccoons, opossum, bobcats and rabbits.

In 2012, the federal government banned the import and interstate trade of four exotic snake species: the Burmese python, the yellow anaconda, and North and South African python.

Besides Mazzotti, the team of authors behind the Biology Letters paper include lead author Shannon Pittman, a doctoral candidate at University of Missouri-Columbia; Kristen Hart, a United States Geological Survey researcher, Michael Cherkiss, a USGS senior wildlife biologist; Skip Snow, a United States National Park Service biologist, Ikuko Fujisaki, a quantitative ecologist with the Fort Lauderdale REC, Brian Smith, a USGS biologist and Michael Dorcas, a Davidson College biology professor.

A link to frequently asked questions:

http://www.usgs.gov/faq/categories/10721/4751

Contacts

Writer: Mickie Anderson, 352-273-3566, mickiea@ufl.edu

Source: Frank Mazzotti, 954-577-6338, fjma@ufl.edu

Photo caption: A snake handler displays a Burmese python for onlookers at the 2013 Python Challenge event at the Ft. Lauderdale Research and Education Center in Davie, Florida. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

Water management district, UF/IFAS and UF Water Institute team up to examine springs

Topic(s): Announcements, Aquaculture, Environment, IFAS, Pollution
The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and the St. Johns River Water Management District, along with UF's Water Institute, are teaming up under a $3 million grant from the state to examine the deteriorating health of Florida's springs.

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March 18, 2014

GAINESVILLE, Fla. –The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is joining forces with two entities as part of a $3 million, three-year contract to provide scientific data to help protect and restore the state’s springs system. UF/IFAS’ partners in the effort are the St. Johns River Water Management District, which is funding the project, and UF’s Water Institute. (more …)

UF/IFAS part of $4.9 million national child obesity study

Topic(s): Agriculture, Families and Consumers, Nutrition, Research
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida students will create obesity prevention programs for their peers and later, for high school students, as part of a $4.9 million federal research and extension grant awarded last week.

University of Tennessee Assistant Professor Sarah Colby will lead the national study, called “Get Fruved,” a phrase that alludes to fruits and vegetables.

“Get Fruved” is a campaign that uses peer interaction to try to get high school and college students to eat more fruits and vegetables, exercise more and manage stress more effectively.

(more …)

UF/IFAS scientists to conduct experiment on plants in space (Updated)

Topic(s): IFAS, Research
Anna-Lisa Paul, a  research associate professor in plant molecular genetics at UF/IFAS, is leading the latest University of Florida plant experiment in space. Plants will be launched March 16 from Kennedy Space Center. UF/IFAS file photo

Anna-Lisa Paul, a research associate professor in plant molecular genetics at UF/IFAS, is leading the latest University of Florida plant experiment in space. Plants will be launched March 16 from Kennedy Space Center.
UF/IFAS file photo

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two University of Florida scientists are tentatively set to go to Kennedy Space Center March 30 for the launch of the SpaceX-3 Dragon capsule to the International Space Station, to send up and then monitor an experiment designed to help them understand biological functions in space.

These experiments are important queries into the concepts of where life can exist in the universe and what it takes to survive in space for longer periods of time.

(more …)

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