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University of Florida

UF/IFAS’ Lance Osborne wins Entomologist of the Year award

Topic(s): Uncategorized
Lance Osborne, Ph.D., Professor, IPM Biological Control of Insects & Mites at the Mid-Florida REC-Apopka. Studying plants, greenhouse. UF/IFAS Photo: Marisol Amador.

UF/IFAS Entomology Professor Lance Osborn

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida entomology professor Lance Osborne chalks up at least some of his success to his understanding and supportive wife of 43 years, Pat.

“Nothing would happen without her – she even lets me keep bugs in the refrigerator at home,” said Osborne, who also serves as the associate director of UF’s Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka.

This month, Osborne was named Entomologist of the Year at the 98th annual meeting of the Florida Entomological Society held in Fort Myers.  In addition, the Florida Nursery, Growers, and Landscape Association, Action Chapter honored him this week with the Gene A. Batson Award for outstanding service and leadership, the chapter’s highest honor.  (more …)

UF/IFAS researchers race to develop a plan to fight rose rosette virus

Topic(s): Uncategorized


GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are racing to develop a plan to prevent or treat rose rosette disease, which is decimating the rose industry in other states.

“Rose rosette is a devastating disease and one of the worst things to come along,” said Gary Knox, professor of environmental horticulture and Extension specialist in nursery crops. “So, we joined a multistate comprehensive project to find a management plan.”

The challenge is in detecting the virus before symptoms arrive, Knox said. “A nursery might not know it has the disease and sell rose plants to unsuspecting customers. Months later, the disease shows up,” he said. “The major issue is being able to detect the virus before it shows up.”

Rose rosette was first discovered in Florida in December 2013. The disease is caused by an Eriophyid mite called Phyllocoptes fructiphilus, which transmits the virus, said Mathews Paret, assistant professor of plant pathology, who is stationed at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center. The virus causes roses to have excessive thorn production, leaf distortion and excessive branch development, known as witches broom, and will eventually kill the plant, he said.

Rose rosette disease spread from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast over several decades and is poised to obliterate the rose industry because there is no known effective treatment, Paret said. Currently, The United States Department of Agriculture through its National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative has extended a $3.3 million research grant to a 17-member group headed by David Byrne of Texas A&M University to fight rose rosette disease.

At UF/IFAS, Paret leads a group of researchers in searching for methods to manage rose rosette. Paret and his team are developing techniques to detect low levels of the virus in the plant. “The goal is to detect the virus in non-symptomatic plants utilizing a rapid field-based assay.,” he said.

Industry experts and organizations are eager to work with UF/IFAS researchers to find an effective management plan. Some of the preliminary studies were funded by the Florida Nursery Growers’ and Landscape Association, Knox said. Meanwhile, Wholesale nursery growers in the Big Bend region have donated plants, labor and expertise to the experiments, he said.

“They are anxious for us to develop options for managing this virus, because this disease is doing serious harm in the rest of the country,” Knox said. Rose production is a $400 million annual business in the United States, he said. Florida is the fourth largest producer of roses in the U.S.

Now, Paret and his team are trying to develop a field-based detection system to find the virus early. “We need a technique where we can go to the field and test leaves in the field,” Paret said. “The virus has not been established in Florida and needs to be detected and managed effectively before it settles in.”

In addition, Paret is looking at new compounds for preventing or managing the disease. The team is treating plants with compounds that would potentially help plants defend themselves better against the virus, Paret said. “We are trying to reduce the severity of the symptoms,” he said.


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



Mathews Paret, 850-875-7154, paret@ufl.edu

Gary Knox, 850-875-7162, gwknox@ufl.edu


It’s a bug-eat-bug world out there for strawberry growers

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

Berry bug control 081315

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new University of Florida scientist is trying to find an insect that will eat the fly that’s damaging such fruit as strawberries and blueberries in the Sunshine State.

Such a finding would be critical in Florida, where the strawberry harvest brought in $267 million in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Justin Renkema, an assistant professor in entomology, recently developed tools to help determine whether he’s found a biological control for the Drosophila suzukii, commonly called the spotted wing drosophila.

Among other goals of the experiments, Renkema and his co-authors wanted to detect the DNA of spotted wing drosophila after it’s been eaten by a predatory rove beetle. This is a critical test to know whether one insect has eaten another, he said.

“The molecular tools we developed should be useful for testing whether other predators inhabiting fruit and berry fields consume spotted wing drosophila,” said Renkema, a new faculty member at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm.

(more …)

UF researchers develop machine to count dropped citrus, identify problem areas in groves

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, IFAS, New Technology, RECs

Orange grove at the University of Florida. Keywords: citrus, horticulture, fruit, tree  (UF/IFAS photo by Tara Piasio)

As citrus greening continues to impact Florida’s groves, growers have found that they need a way to quickly and accurately count the amount of fruit dropped early to help identify problem areas, which will save time and money.

University of Florida researchers Wonsuk “Daniel” Lee, Daeun “Dana” Choi, Reza Ehsani and Fritz Roka devised a “machine vision system” to count citrus fruit that has dropped early. The device is suitable for various conditions in citrus groves, including addressing problems of variable lighting, giving accurate estimates of dropped fruit counts and providing exact locations of trees with greater fruit drop, indicating a problem area. (more …)

UF/IFAS scientists: Keep up your guard for West Nile virus

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research, Weather


West Nile 080715

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for more information and a video, click here: http://bit.ly/1IrtbSv

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While Florida has never experienced a serious West Nile virus epidemic, UF/IFAS scientists caution the public to remain vigilant about this dangerous mosquito-borne illness.

Meanwhile, UF/IFAS researchers continue to study ways to nip the virus in the bud and monitor its spread. Researchers at the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology in Vero Beach track rainfall, groundwater levels, mosquito abundance, wild bird populations and virus transmission to animals including horses and sentinel chickens. Researchers use these data to track the virus transmission between mosquitoes and wild birds, noting when mosquito infection rates reach the levels that can infect humans.

West Nile virus, first detected in the U.S. in New York City in 1999, and in Florida in 2001, has been confirmed hundreds of times nationally, and it can be lethal. For example, 779 cases (with 28 deaths) were reported in California in 2004, most from three southern California counties. The next summer, 880 cases (with 19 deaths) were reported in counties across the state.

The environmental conditions that favor West Nile virus transmission in Florida include very dry winter and early spring months, followed by heavy rainfall and short periods of drought – usually 10 to 14 days — in the late spring and early to mid-summer months.

Low winter temperatures also help to predict epidemic risk, especially in south Florida, said Jonathan Day, a professor at the UF/IFAS lab in Vero Beach. Years when exceptionally cold periods were reported in south Florida, such as 1977 and 1989, were followed by mosquito-borne virus epidemics.

(more …)

Farming conference slated for Aug. 15 in Jacksonville

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


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.

“I’d like everyone that comes to walk away feeling that they have additional tools, skills that will benefit their farm,” said David Nistler, an agriculture, small farm and natural resources Extension agent for Clay County, who is part of the conference planning team.

The conference will also provide participants with marketing skills through a number of detailed skill sessions. Finally, in a small-group setting, there will be comprehensive, in-depth meetings created to provide attendees with skills like reading and interpreting soil tests as well as pest and disease identification.

Among the speakers will be UF/IFAS researchers and Extension personnel, agricultural industry experts and experienced farmers who, according to Nistler, bring a unique perspective about what they do.

“We’re very excited to see farmers who are excited and want to share with other people,” he said.

Check out the Conference Program and Register online at www.firstcoastconference.eventbrite.com. Early Bird registration is $45 if you register on or before July 28. Registration is $55 after this date. Your registration includes refreshments, lunch, and educational materials.

For more information about the conference, contact Jose Perez at 352-294-1692 or joseperezoro@ufl.edu.


Caption: 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 (see the photo above from the 2011 conference) to more targeted, regional conferences across the state.

Credit: UF/IFAS file photo.

By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Source: Jose Perez, 352-294-1692, joseperezoro@ufl.edu


Local families, state economy benefit from UF/IFAS prisoner farm worker programs

Topic(s): Uncategorized
In this photo released from the University of FloridaÕs Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Scott Taylor, director of operations for UFÕs Hastings Demonstration Unit, supervises St. Johns County Jail inmates renovating a UF building in downtown Hastings Ð Thursday, Nov. 2. The inmates, who are serving short sentences, volunteered for the work as part of a program arranged by UF and the St. Johns County SheriffÕs Office. Taylor estimates that inmate assistance at the demonstration unit will save taxpayers about $80,000 in labor costs this year. (University of Florida/IFAS photo by Josh Wickham)

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – In a move that helps Florida save money, aids local families and helps prisoners eat healthier, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has beefed up its programs that allow inmates to work on university farms.

At the UF/IFAS West Florida Research and Education Center in Jay, Florida, prisoners produced nearly $1 million of fresh produce that fed hundreds of needy families and saved the state money.

Each weekday morning, a van of 10 inmates from the Berrydale Forestry Camp–a minimum-security satellite facility of Century Correctional Institution–arrives at the farm. Under the supervision of correction officer Randy Dozier, prisoners work a 10-acre plot of land at the 640-acre research facility. Inmates grow sweet corn, collards, snap peas, tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons and squash.

“They spend seven hours a day learning about farming, how to check for diseases on plants, how to identify insects and lots of other skills,” Dozier said.

UF/IFAS staff and prison officials said they look forward to years of working together. “This partnership is fruitful because everybody benefits,” said Wes Wood, center director of the West Florida REC. “It really is phenomenal to see prisoners working hard, seeing the results of that hard work while they are giving back to the community.”

Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida, and the Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra have partnerships with local prisons to work at their facilities.

The Gulf Coast REC employs a squad of 15 inmates from the Hardee Correctional Institution through the Community Work Squad Program.  The inmates work four, six-hour days a week at a rate of $2 per hour, said Gary Vallad, Gulf Coast REC associate director. “They perform tasks vital for the production of ornamentals, vegetables and small fruit crops; tasks such as land preparation, planting, thinning, staking and tying, harvesting, and clean-up at the end of the season,” he said.

Also, inmates assist with the environmental horticulture research and extension projects at the center, provide labor for small construction projects and help maintain the grounds at the research center, Vallad said.  “We donate produce every season to the Hardee Correctional Institute,” he said.

At the UF/IFAS Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra, the Plant Science Unit and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office farm sent $1.25 million worth of produce into the prison kitchen with $823,227 coming from research projects in Citra, said James Boyer, coordinator of research programs at UF/IFAS.  “It is an excellent program in which, ultimately, Florida taxpayers win,” he said.

UF/IFAS Citra developed a partnership with MCSO and started out with two inmates. Currently, the county sends one deputy with 24 male inmates and a deputy with 10 female inmates daily to work in Citra, Boyer said.  And costs for meals at the prison have dropped significantly because of the addition of produce grown at Citra.

“Before this program, the MCSO meal cost was approximately $1.27 per inmate per meal and we are helping to reduce that cost to $0.51 per meal,” Boyer said. “With up to 2,000 inmates in our local jail, it is a substantial savings to the public.”

The inmates receive five days off of their sentence for every 30 days they work at the facility, Boyer said. All inmates have a one year or less conviction with no violent or sexual offenses in their past, he said.  “We have successfully used their help for 14 years, and faculty enjoy and appreciate the extra help

An eight-man crew of prisoners from the Ortiz Work Camp in Fort Myers, Florida works every Friday at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, Florida, said John Dunckelman, coordinator of research programs at UF/IFAS Southwest REC. Additional crews come at harvest time, to help with destruction and tear-out of finished crops, to aid in maintenance and management of ditches, roads, fire breaks and woods, he said.

“We depend heavily on the Florida Department of Corrections for able-bodied help with some tough work that would be hard to accomplish without the manpower that they can bring,” Dunckelman said.

The program at West Florida REC started in 2009 when farm manager Greg Kimmons suggested using prisoners to help renovate buildings and do maintenance at the facility. The program would provide manpower at the farm and give prisoners fresh produce to eat, Wood said. The prisoners started out working three acres on the Jay facility, and performed maintenance on farm equipment, cleaned offices, laid carpet and tiling, put up drywall and painted, Wood said.

“We are really proud of this program it’s a big help to us. It is a mutually beneficial relationship that has made us the model for other prisons and farms to work together,” Wood said.

Prisoners enjoy seeing the results of their hard work, and the state saves money, said Warden Douglas “John” Sloan. “Prisoners really appreciate the opportunity to work outdoors, stay busy and get exercise,” Sloan said. “And, the program benefits the prison by bringing in healthy food and lowering the amount of money we spend on food that we purchase for prisoners. The food is healthy and locally grown, so we can substitute the processed foods with the farm foods.”

Also, prisoners who have never worked on a farm have an opportunity to learn new skills, Sloan said. Prisoners who participate in the program have new skills when they leave the prison and re-enter society, he said.

In addition, the program provides fresh produce for needy families during Thanksgiving week through the Farm to City program. “Prisoners help us grow food for the Farm to City program for families in Santa Rosa and Escambia counties,” Wood said. “Last year, we fed 600 families with the produce that prisoners grew.”


Caption: Scott Taylor, director of operations for UF’s Hastings Demonstration Unit, supervises St. Johns County Jail inmates renovating a UF building.

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

Sources: Wes Wood, 850-475-5230, woodwes@ufl.edu

Warden Douglas “John” Sloan, 850-256-6505

James Boyer, 352-591-2678, ja.boyer@ufl.edu

John Dunckelman, 239-658-3421, jdunck@ufl.edu

Gary Vallad, 813-633-4121, gvallad@ufl.edu


UF/IFAS expert urges returning college students to read, know their lease

Topic(s): Economics, Extension, Families and Consumers, Finances, IFAS

Michael S. Gutter, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Family Youth and Community Sciences.  UF/IFAS Photo.

Michael Gutter

For more information, check out this video: http://bit.ly/1STpVY0

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As thousands of college students across America return to school for the fall, a UF/IFAS financial expert has quick, simple advice: Read the apartment lease.

To some, reviewing the lease may seem obvious; to others, it may seem onerous. But it’s time well spent, said Michael Gutter, an associate professor of family financial management and associate dean of Extension at UF/IFAS.

Most students won’t understand the legal language of a lease, but if they read it, they’ll know whether they’re responsible for cleaning the carpet and the kitchen, for example, Gutter said. They’ll also find out major points, including the conditions under which a deposit is refundable.

Also, keep in mind that whoever signs the lease must pay the rent, Gutter said. Sometimes, at least one parent or legal guardian may have to co-sign the lease to ensure the rent is paid. That’s because some college students have little to no credit.

“Like any business owner, landlords want to make sure that they’re going to get paid,” Gutter said. “The co-signer is very much the back-up plan. If the tenant fails to make the payments on time, they may contact the co-signer for payment. There’s a true commitment; it’s not just a moral backing.”

(more …)

Downy mildew confirmed on popular purple velvet plants

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

Purple velvet 080515

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Downy mildew, a disease known to damage dozens of plant species in Florida, has now been found on purple velvet plants in South Florida, UF/IFAS scientists say.

Purple velvet plants are popularly used for foliage and cut flowers, said Aaron Palmateer, associate professor in plant pathology at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead.

“The upside to reporting any disease, especially aggressive diseases like downy mildew, is to get the word out,” said Palmateer, who co-authored a paper on the finding that appears online in the journal Plant Disease. “This allows growers to take preventive action and to start applying fungicides labeled for downy mildew before a disease outbreak, which is the ideal approach for disease management.

“The downside is the added expense of applying additional fungicides to control the downy mildew,” he said. “This is a disease that can kill the plant, so it’s a definite game-changer.”

(more …)

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