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University of Florida

UF/IFAS study cautions parents about arsenic from wet wood

Topic(s): Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Research, Weather

Lena Ma

Lena Ma

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Wet wood treated with the pesticide chromated copper arsenate (CCA) loses arsenic three times more than dry wood; so if it rains, you can expect more arsenic on your wood deck surface, a new University of Florida study shows.

That may pose a potential danger to anyone who plays or walks on the deck, and that most often means children or pets, said Julia “Ky” Gress, a doctoral student in soil and water sciences at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Gress led an experiment in which she and her colleagues used standard wipe methods to collect arsenic from the surface of wood from a 25-year-old South Florida deck. Although the CCA-wood came from only one deck, it is representative of wood decks constructed before 2004, Gress said.

Before wiping the wood, researchers put water on it, then wiped it to see how much arsenic was present. They then cleaned different pieces of the decking with either tap water or a bleach-water solution, followed by pressure washing.

Results showed water alone caused three times more arsenic to form on the surface of wet wood than dry wood, and the use of bleach caused formation of chromate, another carcinogen. They also found that these chemicals remained on the wood surface for an hour after it was cleaned.

(more …)

UF/IFAS scientist finds protein critical to “iron overload”

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

Mitchell Knutson

Mitchell Knutson

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher has identified the protein that the liver uses to load iron, thereby opening the door to potential strategies to treat “iron overload” disorders.

One form of these genetic disorders is hereditary hemochromatosis. Not everyone who inherits the gene will get the disease, but those who do so inherit the defective gene from both parents. Hereditary hemochromatosis is found most often in people of Northern European descent.

Over several years, those with the disorder will see excess iron get into the liver, heart, pancreas, joints and pituitary gland, leading to health problems such as cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer, diabetes, heart disease and joint disease. People with the disease can get their blood drawn routinely to get rid of the excess iron.

“For 150 years, we did not know how iron got taken up by the liver — how it got in there,” said Mitchell Knutson, a UF associate professor in food science and human nutrition. “We knew there was a protein that took it up into to the liver. But nobody knew what that protein was. It’s such a fundamental question, and people just didn’t know the answer.”

(more …)

Light trap lures more mosquitoes, fewer bugs you don’t need to kill

Topic(s): Agriculture, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Pests, Research

Mosquito light trap 060915

See caption below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers have found a light trap that monitors mosquitoes more effectively, while ferreting out bugs no one wants or needs to kill.

The finding will help mosquito control districts more quickly identify mosquitoes before decisions are made to spray, said Phil Kaufman, an associate professor and veterinary entomologist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Mosquito control districts can run 50 or more traps in a night during the mosquito season to keep track of mosquito populations.  But mosquito control officials do not want to capture insects unnecessarily, a practice that takes time and money, Kaufman said. Those unintended captures include moths, beetles and other flies.

“The traps are returned to the mosquito control district office, and people have to sort through all of the moths, beetles and more to find and remove the mosquitoes that have to be identified to see which species are a problem or to test them for West Nile and other viruses,” Kaufman said. “Having fewer non-target insects makes their job easier.”

(more …)

UF/IFAS forest genetics expert Kirst leads team receiving four-year, $2 million grant

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Forestry, IFAS, New Technology, Research


Matias Kirst.  Assistant Professor, PhD.  Quantitative Genetics.  School of Forest Resources and Conservation.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

Matias Kirst. Associate Professor, PhD. Quantitative Genetics. School of Forest Resources and Conservation. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

Photo cutline below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Agricultural science could make huge leaps forward if scientists had reliable ways to examine seeds and accurately predict the physical characteristics of the fully grown plants that would result.

University of Florida forest genetics expert Matias Kirst leads a multi-institution academic team that recently obtained a four-year, $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop better methods of predicting the traits spawned by individual genes and groups of genes in plants, in this case the Eastern cottonwood tree, Populus deltoides.

“We’re thrilled that our previous work in this area has put us in a position to win this critical grant to help us bridge some important gaps in trait prediction,” said Kirst, an associate professor with the UF School of Forest Resources and Conservation, part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, or UF/IFAS.

The grant award provides more proof that the UF/IFAS forest genetics program is among the best in the world, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“Matias Kirst is one of our bright stars in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation,” Payne said. “This grant will support world-class scientific investigation that could make it much faster and easier to determine which new crop cultivars have commercial potential or other significant value.”

(more …)

Keep Your Home Safe during Pesticide Use

Topic(s): Environment, Families and Consumers, Florida Friendly, Food Safety, IFAS

Date: June 3, 2015

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

Source: Philip Koehler, 352-392-2484, pgk@ufl.edu

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida, with its tropical and subtropical environment, is a breeding ground for many pests in the home. Do you handle it yourself or get a pest management professional? Misconceptions about pesticides may keep you from tackling the job.

“Many people believe that pesticides are dangerous and cause a lot of poisonings, and that’s not necessarily true,” said Philip Koehler, professor of entomology at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “Poison control center statistics show that the number one cause of poisoning is analgesics. Pesticides come in at number nine on their list. There are a lot of other things such as medicines, make up and cleaning products that poison more people every year.”

A second myth is that over-the-counter pesticides are safer than ones used by pesticide operators, Koehler said. But, pest control operators use the same active ingredients that are sold in retail stores, he said. “The problem comes in when the homeowner wants to store leftover pesticide. Improper storage is really dangerous especially if it is just placed under the sink or on a shelf in the garage,” Koehler explained.

When a professional handles the treatment, he takes the leftover pesticide with him so the homeowner won’t have to store pesticide in the home, he said. While most pesticides will not poison a resident, improperly stored pesticide is dangerous for children who can accidentally eat or drink it, Koehler said.

What to do with old pesticide? The product will likely have a shelf life of more than two years. “It’s common for people to pour it on the ground, in the sink or in the toilet. That contaminates the water supply and hurts the environment,” Koehler said.  He suggests taking pesticide to the county toxic waste disposal program, where professionals will properly discard the product.

Koehler offered some tips:

  • Use baits or gels that come in syringes to exterminate pests like ants and cockroaches. “The industry has moved to baits that can be put in corners, cracks and crevices where roaches and ants live,” he said. “You don’t have to be worried about spraying a plate of food and contaminating it.”
  • Make sure you are using the right product for the right insect. “Residents can take the pest to a county extension office where there is an insect identification lab. The key is to know the pest you are trying to control and use appropriate measures.”
  • Store pesticides in an area where children cannot reach it. And when ready to dispose of it, call your county toxic waste disposal program for location, days and times of collection.
  • Educate yourself about pests and pest control. Many fact sheets are available on the University of Florida IFAS website for “featured creatures.”



Researchers Honored at 8th Annual UF/IFAS FAES Awards Ceremony

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers were honored on May 19 for outstanding work in agricultural sciences, including creating new patents, new plants and fruits, and finding ways to combat diseases. The ceremony for the UF/IFAS Florida Agricultural Experiment Station Research Awards was held in the Harn Museum.


“The science and new knowledge generated by UF/IFAS researchers is changing the world,” said Jackie Burns, UF/IFAS dean for research. “Through the hard work, creativity, and diligence of UF/IFAS scientists, we are expanding the frontiers of understanding, creating new knowledge in applied and basic science, and paving the path toward a future with improved human health, a prosperous agricultural industry, and sustainable and healthy natural ecosystems.”


Awards were given for thesis and dissertation from master’s and Ph.D. students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Honors were also bestowed to early career scientists, researchers who produced outstanding publications and those who produced patents. The patents include new varieties of peanuts, a Ruellia cultivar that boasts leaves in a stunning shade of purple and an invention to improve the heat stress tolerance of plants.


Special recognition went to the university’s two newest fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Also, the Professor Emeritus Award was given to Barry Brecke, who spent 30 years with UF/IFAS.


“We salute and celebrate these successes. But perhaps more fundamentally tonight we celebrate the pursuit of scientific understanding, and our collective vision that through research we can create the foundation that will guide us to the future,” Burns said.


Below is the list of award winners in each category:


Graduate Research Awards


  1. Nathan Holt w/advisor Sanjay Shukla
  3. Cintia Ribeiro w/advisor Matias Kirst



2015 Early Career Scientists Recognition


  1. Damian Adams
  2. Soohyoun Ahn
  3. Nikolay Bliznyuk
  4. Nathan Boyd
  5. John Bromfield
  6. Samantha Brooks
  7. Zhengfei Guan
  8. Jaclyn Kropp
  9. Phillip Lancaster
  10. Guodong Liu
  11. Paul Monaghan
  12. Patricio Munoz
  13. Gulcan Onel
  14. Joshua Patterson
  15. Elizabeth Pienaar
  16. Paul Sarnoski
  17. Huiping Yang



Richard L. Jones Award

  • Jianping Wang
  • S. Luke Flory  


  1. UFRF Professors
  • Michelle Danyluk
  • Robert Fletcher
  • Bin Gao
  • Zhenli He
  • Jose Eduardo Santos
  • Gary Peter High Impact Research Award Authors:  S. L. Flory and J. T. BauerPest Control Authors:  Barbara DeRatt, Maria Ralat, Omer Kabil, Yueh-Yun Chi, Jesse GregoryAir Quality Authors:  Denis Valle, Benjamin Baiser, Christopher Woodall, Robin Chazdon  Authors:  Dongyoung Shin, Ayse Civana, Carolina Acevedo, Chelsea SmarttCrop Management Authors:  Muthusami Kumaran, Kate Fogarty, Amanda Terminello, Whitney FungCoral Reef Health Authors:  Subhas Hajeri, Nabil Killiny, Choaa El-Mohtar, William Dawson, Siddarame     Plant Patents


  3. Gowda
  4. Citrus Greening
  5. Authors: Cory Krediet, Kim Ritchie, Ali Alagely, Max Teplitski
  6. Youth Drug Use
  7. Authors:  Gregory Hendricks, Sanjay Shukla, Thomas Obreza, Willie Harris
  9. Virus Transmission
  10. Quantifying Biodiversity
  11. Authors:  Timm Kroeger, Francisco Escobedo, Jose Hernandez, Sebastian Varela, Sonia Delphin, Jonathan Fisher, Janice Waldron
  12. Human Health
  13. Authors:  Lindsy Iglesias, Teresia Nyoike, Oscar Liburd 
  15. Invasive Plants
  1. Zhanao Deng
  2. Rosanna Freyre
  3. Daniel Gorbet
  4. Brent Harbaugh
  5. Kenneth Quesenberry
  6. Donald Rockwood
  7. Dorothy Sistrunk
  8. Barry Tillman


Utility Patents

Group 1: Balasubramanian Rathinasaabapathi and Walid Fouad

Group 2: Balasubramanian Rathinasaabapathi and Sabarinath Sundaram

Group 3: William Dawson (Not Present), Svetlana Folimonova, Alexey Folimonov

Group 4: Bruce Welt and Ayman Abdellatief

Group 5: Harry Klee, Denise Tieman

Group 6: Dennis Gray, Zhijan Li

Group 7: Lonnie Ingram, Brent Wood, Lorraine Yomano, Sean York

Group 8: Lonnie Ingram), Keelnatham Shanmugam, Shengde Zhou, Lorraine Yomano, Sean York

Group 9: Lonnie Ingram, Jonathan Moore, Keelnatham Shanmugam, Kaemwich Jantama, Mark John Haupt, Xueli Zhang

Group 10: Nan-Yao Su

Group 11: Marty Marshall, Kurt Schulbach

Group 12: Arnold Schumann

Group 13: Nikolas Georgelis, Curt Hannah

Group 14: Curt Hannah and Carla Lyerly Linebarger


Special Honors

National Academy of Sciences Recognition

  • Linda Bartoshuk
  • Robert Cousins
  • James Jones
  • Harry Klee
  • Lonnie Ingram


AAAS Awardee

  • Robert Cousins
  • Andrew Hanson Research Professor Emeritus
  • Barry Brecke




UF/IFAS study: New information changes few opinions on GMOs, global warming

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Crops, Economics, Environment, Food Safety, IFAS, Research, Weather

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — First impressions are important. So much so that even armed with new information, many people won’t change their minds about genetically modified foods and global warming, a new University of Florida study shows.

In fact, some grow even more stubborn in their beliefs that GMOs are unsafe, said Brandon McFadden, an assistant professor in food and resource economics in the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

After they read scientific information stating that genetically modified foods are safe, 12 percent of the study’s participants said they felt such foods were less safe – not more, much to McFadden’s astonishment.

That’s partly because people form beliefs and often never let go of them, he said.

“This is critical and hopefully demonstrates that as a society we should be more flexible in our beliefs before collecting information from multiple sources,” McFadden said. “Also, this indicates that scientific findings about a societal risk likely have diminishing value over time.”

(more …)

Study: Brain activity can ID potential buyers

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


Brandon McFadden


GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Brain activation may reveal people who are less certain about a product and indicate they are more easily swayed by an ad, a University of Florida researcher says.

In a study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers found that activation of the prefrontal cortex of the brain identifies people who are more responsive to campaign advertisements.

Studies in social sciences, including agricultural economics, often rely on survey data, which counts on participants’ honesty. But tracking blood flow in the brain gives much more tried-and-true data, said Brandon McFadden, a UF assistant professor of food and resource economics and one of the researchers for the study. This study may help researchers understand brain function while people decide what to buy, he said.

“This allows us to peek behind the curtain,” McFadden said.

(more …)

Low-altitude aerial images allow early detection of devastating avocado disease

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

LAUREL WILT - CAMERA STUDY - 052015 (over Homestead) (2)

Caption below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Low-altitude aerial images can detect laurel wilt, a devastating avocado disease, giving growers an early way to identify diseased trees and perhaps help reduce losses to the $100 million-a-year economic impact avocados provide Florida.

Reza Ehsani, an associate professor in agricultural and biological engineering at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, used a multi-spectral camera that distinguishes between laurel wilt-affected trees and healthy ones.

Images taken with the camera from a helicopter have significant implications in the management of this important disease and for the commercial avocado industry in Florida. Ehsani said he expects the Federal Aviation Administration to open U.S. airspace for commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles, which could be equipped with such cameras, by 2017.

“Ultimately, we think that small UAVs, equipped with the right multi-band camera, can be used for scouting for this disease, which could potentially be very cost-effective,” Ehsani said. “The results of this study will enable growers or service companies that use UAVs to detect this disease at an early stage.”

(more …)

UF/IFAS researcher using “precision breeding” to create disease-resistant grapes

Topic(s): Agriculture, Cultivars, IFAS, Research
UF/IFAS developmental biologist Dennis Gray looks at the progress of grapevines in a vineyard. Photo by UF/IFAS

see caption below

Apopka, Fla. — Powdery mildew and black rot are two scourges of grape growers, but University of Florida researcher Dennis Gray is developing disease-resistant grapes, using what he calls “precision breeding” to create these super varieties.

Gray, a developmental biologist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, has successfully bred Thompson Seedless, Seyval Blanc and Syrah that resist mildew and fungus. Those are just three of only 35 grape varieties that accounted for 66 percent of the world grape acreage in 2014, he said. (more …)

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