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University of Florida

UF/IFAS study: Few science museums use the word “agriculture” to teach

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

Aerial Williams, left, Cynthia Brown and Laken McPherson add water and dyes to a groundwater simulator in a Tallahassee park (Wednesday 7/18). The device, which contains sand, plastic components and pipes, demonstrates how oil, pesticides and other chemicals poured on the ground can contaminate the water supply. Williams is in 11th grade at Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, Brown is a Leon County extension agent with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and McPherson is in fourth grade at Coast Charter School in Crawfordville, Fla. (AP Photo: Thomas Wright, University of Florida/IFAS)

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Walk into a science museum, and you may read the words “paleontology” or “astronomy.”

But you’re not likely to find the word “agriculture” in any science museum, even though many exhibits relate to agricultural content or practices.

Katie Stofer found this gap when she surveyed 29 science museums in cities of all sizes across the U.S., and her findings are published in a new study in the journal Science Education and Civic Engagement.

“Unfortunately, we have effectively separated agriculture from the other sciences,” said Stofer, a UF/IFAS research assistant professor in agricultural education and communication.

(more …)

UF/IFAS researchers use pigs to root out problem weeds

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Environment, Green Living, IFAS, Livestock, Research, Vegetables
Professor of Agronomy and Weed Science Greg MacDonald with his pigs.

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CITRA, Fla. — Sometimes, the old-fashioned ways are the best ways.

Back before chemical pesticides and herbicides, farmers had to come up with ways to kill the weeds that took over their fields. One method used “back in the day” was letting pigs loose in fields that were not being used for crops for a season and allowing the pigs to do what they do naturally: dig up the roots of weeds and  fertilize the land.

In the last year, Greg MacDonald, a weed science researcher with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, decided to give the method a try to combat nutsedge, a weed that looks like grass and is so resilient it can sprout up through plastic row-crop coverings and even the plastic lining of above-ground pools. (more …)

Agricultural workers can get discounted UF football tickets for Nov. 7 homecoming game

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Families and Consumers, IFAS

University of Florida Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, walkway, football, athletics, trees, grass, environmental horticulture. UF/IFAS Photo: Thomas Wright.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Farmers, ranchers, landscapers – and everyone in between – are invited to celebrate Agriculture and Gardening Day at the University of Florida’s homecoming football game, Nov. 7.

UF Athletics and UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are hosting the event and offering discounted tickets to all agricultural workers, their families and friends. (more …)

Specialty Crop Conference slated for Aug. 15 in Jacksonville

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Economics, Extension, IFAS

2011 Small Farms Conference.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The First Coast Specialty Crop Conference, created by UF/IFAS, comes to Jacksonville on Aug. 15, the first of five new regional conferences in 2015 and 2016 across the state.

The conference has evolved from an annual statewide event that began in 2009 in Kissimmee to more targeted, regional conferences across the state. A team of UF/IFAS Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Extension agents and other stakeholders created the conference series, said Danielle Treadwell, a UF/IFAS associate professor in horticultural sciences.

Experts at the program at the Student Union Building of the University of North Florida will address concerns of Northeast Florida farmers, providing them with multiple learning and networking opportunities.

Whether you are interested in improving your farming skills by enhancing your soils and pest management, obtaining practical knowledge for postharvest practices, or diversifying your farm through cut-flower production, mushrooms or microgreens, this is a great place and time to learn.

(more …)

Survey: Floridians care about endangered species, want to know more

Topic(s): Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Floridians are passionate about conserving and protecting plants, animals and their habitats, but they feel woefully uninformed, according to a survey by the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“People seem to want to do the right thing, but don’t necessarily know what that is or how to go about it,” said Ricky Telg, PIE Center director. The center conducts four public opinion surveys every year that focus on key issues to Floridians.

An online survey of 502 Floridians showed that only a quarter of residents believed they had seen news coverage of endangered species in the past month. But, 85 percent said they would pay attention to future coverage.

More than half of those surveyed didn’t know what species were endangered in Florida, while many were also unaware of government, industry or policy impacts on endangered species.

Despite feeling uninformed, a majority of Floridians surveyed—almost 90 percent—would support or strongly support imposing fines on people who harm endangered species. Also, 88 percent agreed with imposing fines on those who harm habitats of endangered species.

When respondents were asked to prioritize which native species should be conserved, 90 percent agreed that mammals should be saved, followed by birds at 85 percent, and fish and plants at 84 percent. Floridians felt reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and microorganisms were the least important to protect.

In addition, 79 percent of Floridians agreed that the importance of maintaining a diverse ecosystem was the most important criteria to consider when prioritizing which species to protect. More than 70 percent identified the severity and urgency of the threat to endangered species as major concerns, but fewer than 30 percent prioritized the size, intelligence or attractiveness of the species.

Survey respondents said they were more likely to engage in conservation by donating to organizations and visiting zoos and museums compared to joining an organization. Floridians also showed mixed results when evaluating current policies and punishments for interfering with endangered species. More than half believed that lighting restrictions protecting sea turtles should be strengthened, while almost 60 percent felt penalties for harming gopher tortoises or their habitat were adequate.



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


Source: Ricky Telg, 352-273-2094


Shining a red light to slow downy mildew on basil

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, IFAS, RECs, Research

Basil Downy Mildew symptoms 072115

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Basil can add a little zest to any meal. But downy mildew disease threatens the herb’s very existence.

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are trying to manage the disease with little or no spraying.

For his latest experiments, Shouan Zhang, a UF/IFAS plant pathology associate professor at the Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, inoculated basil plants with the downy mildew pathogen. The scientist then put the plants under red lights in a greenhouse and found the process is slowing down the disease’s growth.

Jaimin Patel, a postdoctoral research associate for Zhang, said they put one set of plants on a bench in the dark for 12 hours, starting at 8 p.m. each day. Another set of plants was placed under red lights for the same time period. The downy mildew appeared on plants in the dark six days after inoculation, while no symptoms showed up on the plants that were under the red lights, Patel said. They repeated the experiment and found the disease symptoms five days after inoculation on the plants placed in the dark – and still, little to no symptoms of the downy mildew was found on the basil plants exposed to the red lights.

(more …)

Updated Florida Citrus Rootstock Selection Guide available

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, Crops, Extension, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

ROOTSTOCK guide 071415

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The 3rd edition of the Florida Citrus Rootstock Selection Guide is now available. The updated guide is a convenient, easy-to-use reference to 20 characteristics of 45 rootstocks. It highlights 21 recently released rootstocks, some of which show reduced citrus greening incidence in early field trials.

Of the 45 rootstocks, 12 are time-honored commercial ones, 12 are minor commercial ones that are less frequently used but may have been prominent once. The third group is the most recently released rootstocks for which there is limited commercial experience, but are increasingly being used in the Florida citrus industry.

The revised guide is important because rootstocks basically provide the root system of a citrus tree and influence many traits of the whole plant. When a Valencia orange or Marsh grapefruit is grafted to the rootstock seedling, such things as tree size, fruit quantity and quality are usually improved by the rootstock.

(more …)

Third Annual UF/IFAS South Florida Bee College event returns Aug. 14-15

Topic(s): Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The state’s biggest educational event for honey bee hobbyists, professionals and anyone interested in honey bees has expanded to South Florida, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences officials announced this week.


UF’s Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory is hosting its third annual South Florida Bee College at the UF/IFAS Ft. Lauderdale Research and Education Center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 14 and 15 in Davie, Florida.


The two-day event offers classes for all ages and experience levels, from novice to seasoned beekeeper.  This year’s schedule includes more than 40 classes. “Whether you are starting your own beekeeping endeavor or merely have an interest in honey bees, there is a class for all levels,” said Lyndall Brezina, the extension technician with the UF/IFAS Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory Department of Entomology and Nematology.


The Junior Bee College, an all-day event on Saturday, Aug. 15, is open to children ages 6 through 16. Participants will learn everything from basic entomology and bee biology to practical beekeeping through hands-on, fun, interactive, games and lessons.


Participants in Bee College are also welcome to showcase their home-made bee products and other bee-related material in the South Florida Bee College Honey Show, one of the state’s largest competitions of its kind. The competition includes 20 entry classes, from comb honey, to extracted honey, and even beekeeping gadgets. Visit www.ufhoneybee.com for rules.


Special guest speakers for the event include Jerry Hayes, former Florida Chief Apiary Inspector and current Lead Honey Bee Expert for Monsanto who will host a question and answer session. Entomologist experts in honey bees, and the fields of chemical ecology, pesticides and pest management will also lead workshops.



Participants must register by Aug. 14 at eventbrite.com, keywords South Florida Bee College 2015. For more details about the event, please visit www.UFhoneybee.com.


The cost is $135 per person to attend for one day or $185 for two days. Family and other discount rates are offered.



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


Source: Lyndall Brezina, 352-273-3932, lbrezina@ufl.edu


UF/IFAS RECs hold workshops during International Year of Soils

Topic(s): Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is offering workshops at various research and education centers to celebrate the 2015 International Year of Soils. The workshops, aimed primarily toward high school agriscience and science teachers, are free and open to the public.

“The workshops are for any teacher who wants to incorporate more soil-based information into his or her lessons,” said Libbie Johnson, agriculture agent at Escambia County Extension. Researchers will discuss soil texture, how soils protect the environment, water retention and movement, Johnson said.

Workshops will be held:

  • July 20 at Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, 2685 SR 29 North, Immokalee, Florida 34142. 239-658-3400. Register at https://eventbright.com/event/16767084802
  • July 28 at Range Cattle Research and Education Center, 3401 Experiment Station, Ona, Florida, 33865. 863-735-1314. Register at https://ventbrit.com/event/16658529109

Participants can register online, or call the REC location listed above. In-service credit for professional development are awarded by the school districts through Master Inservice Plan. Certificates of attendance will be provided.

Events were held at five other RECS earlier this summer and around the world at other sites. Researchers hope to convey the important role that soil plays in everyday life, Johnson said.

“Soil is living, so there are a lot of organisms in soil that are useful to our health,” she said. “We want participants to walk away with information that they can share with students, but also to convey that humanity’s wellbeing is tied to soil and we need to protect it.”



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


Source: Libbie Johnson, 850-475-5230, libbiej@ufl.edu


Ag’s next frontier? Growing plants in space

Topic(s): Agriculture, Environment, IFAS, New Technology, Research

Anna-Lisa Paul.  Research Associate Scientist PhD.  Plant Molecular Genetics, Horticulture Sciences.  Photo by UF/IFAS Photographer Tyler Jones.

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Rob Ferl, a professor of molecular biology at the University of Florida, holds a dish, Monday DEC 22, 2003,  containing different specimens of the Arabidopsis plant an alpine weed commonly used in botanical and genetic research. Ferl and other researchers at UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences hope to grow seeds of the plant in a greenhouse on a future unmanned space mission to the surface of Mars. (AP photo/University of Florida/IFAS/Thomas Wright)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Space may not be the final frontier for Anna-Lisa Paul and Robert Ferl; they want to grow plants there. Because, who knows, we may one day try to live on Mars, and to survive, we’ll have to grow our own food.

Thus far, experiments by the two pioneering scientists have proven so successful that, earlier this month, NASA recognized their research with one of its three awards in the category of the Most Compelling Results. Paul and Ferl have been conducting plants-in-space research for 20 years.

“It was indeed nice to receive the recognition from NASA,” said Paul, a research professor in the UF/IFAS Department of Horticultural Sciences. “The award recognizes our research approaches of using transgenic plants to serve as biological sensors of the space flight environment. This research is another step in moving our science forward in our exploration of how plants respond to this novel environment.”

Paul explained how all this research helps us on planet Earth.

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