IFAS News

University of Florida

Male jumping spiders court whomever, whenever; females decide who lives, dies

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Male jumping spiders will try to mate with any female, but that lack of discretion could cost them their lives, says a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher.

In a newly published study, UF/IFAS entomologist Lisa Taylor and her team documented the courting techniques of jumping spiders. They found that male spiders spend much time and energy – including singing and dancing — trying to mate with potential females, even when these females are the wrong species.

“We think that one reason these displays have evolved in male jumping spiders is to compensate for the fact that they can’t tell females of closely related species apart,” Taylor said. “Males run around courting everything that looks remotely like a female, and they place themselves at a very high risk of cannibalism from hungry females of the wrong species who have no interest in mating with them.”

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Time to mow more: It’s good for the environment and for curb appeal

Topic(s): Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Florida Friendly, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Research, Soil and Water Science

 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With higher temperatures come higher lawns, so now that spring is in full swing, you may mow more often. When you do, you help preserve the environment and keep your yard aesthetically pleasing, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences expert says.

Environmentally, proper lawn care can help prevent nutrients from flowing into nearby waterways, said Jason Kruse, a UF/IFAS associate professor of environmental horticulture. Mowing helps increase canopy density, increases soil stability and prevents soil erosion. These changes in the lawn will help limit fertilizer and other nutrients from flowing into waterways, Kruse said.

In addition to taking care of the environment, most people mow their lawns because they want them to look good. So how often should you mow? That depends on several factors, including the kind of grass on your lawn, time of season, amount of shade and desired use, Kruse said. If you have St. Augustinegrass, you have to mow at taller heights because it has course-textured leaf blades. If you have bermudagrass, you’ll want to mow closer to the soil because of its numerous narrow leaf blades and lower growth habit.

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Renowned plant scientist to explore relationship between plants, health for 2017 York Lecture

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Can crops be fortified to improve diets and lower the rate of chronic diseases? Cathie Martin, a world-renowned expert on plant metabolic engineering, will discuss that question at the 2017 E.T. York Lecture.

The free event will be held at 2 p.m., Thursday, April 13 in the University of Florida Emerson Alumni Hall. The UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is hosting the lecture.

Martin is a group leader at the John Innes Centre in the United Kingdom, the leading plant research institute in Europe. Also, Martin is a professor at the University of East Anglia where she researches the relationship between diet and health, and how crops can be fortified to improve diets and address the problem of escalating chronic illnesses. Her work links leading clinical and epidemiological researchers with plant breeders and metabolic engineers.

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UF helps residents save at least 65 million gallons in outdoor irrigation annually

Topic(s): Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Florida Friendly, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Participants in a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension program saved 65 million gallons in outdoor irrigation in 2016, enough to supply 15 subdivisions with water for a year, UF/IFAS experts say.

“UF/IFAS is making a difference with our limited water resources,” said Laura Warner, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication. “Seemingly small drops in the bucket really add up when we look at the big picture across the state and over time.”

Using less water also saves money: $200,000 a year in tap water utility bills, said Tatiana Borisova, a co-investigator and a UF/IFAS associate professor of food and resource economics.

Their figures come from a sample of Extension agents in 16 Florida counties, so the savings may be greater, the researchers said.

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Americans are water conscious, UF/IFAS survey shows

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Florida Friendly, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Shorten showers. Limit lawn irrigation. For the most part, Americans get it: They are fairly water conscious, according to a new national survey conducted by a team of University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.

UF/IFAS researchers based their assessment on responses to a survey of 1,052 respondents. The poll shows 46 percent are “water considerate;” 44 percent of the participants are what researchers classified as “water savvy conservationists” and 9 percent are not concerned about water conservation.

“Water considerate” consumers take a few actions to conserve water but could stand some improvement, said Laura Warner, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication. “Water savvy conservationists” are most likely to engage in landscape irrigation conservation practices, and they’re more likely to use professionals for various landscape tasks. The savvy ones are also more likely to have social support or perceive expectations to conserve from friends and family, Warner said.

So-called “unconcerned water users” lack the strong perceived value for water resources, said Warner, who is also affiliated with the UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology.

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UF hosts international symposium for Global Child Nutrition Month

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — April is Global Child Nutrition Month and researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are working to find innovative ways to combat malnutrition worldwide.

According to 2015 UNICEF, WHO and World Bank estimates, approximately 24 percent of children in the world, roughly 159 million in 2014, suffer from chronic malnutrition, and almost half of all child deaths worldwide are linked to undernutrition.

Thus, scientists from across the globe are gathering at UF on March 29 and 30 to share experiences in research and programs, and to discuss ways to improve nutrition through animal-source foods in some of the most impoverished regions in the world. The theme of the Global Nutrition Symposium, is “Nurturing Development: Improving human nutrition with animal-source foods.”

The effects of malnutrition are devastating, said Adegbola Adesogan, director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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UF CALS student wins regional award for mosquito research and leadership in the entomology field

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, IFAS, Pests

Casey Parker

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences graduate student received the prestigious Kirby L. Hays Memorial Award. The award, from the Entomological Society of America’s southeastern branch, was presented at the branch’s 91st annual meeting in Memphis, Tenn., on March 12 to 15.

Casey Parker recently began her Ph.D. program at the Florida Medical Entomology Lab and is dual enrolled in the master of public health program. She hopes to become a leader in the field of medical and veterinary entomology.

The award honors her work as an outstanding master’s student in entomology and nematology, taking into account her teaching experience, outreach, research and past awards.

“This is a huge honor for me,” Parker said. “Before I was presented the award, the chair of the student awards committee said one of the many reasons I was chosen for this award was because of my leadership ability in teaching, research and Extension like Dr. Hays, after whom the award is named.”

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Antique turpentine still to be unveiled at UF Austin Cary Forest

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

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If you’ve ever sipped Gatorade, eaten a Cadbury Crème Egg, put on a Band-Aid or used a Post-It note, you have a forest to thank.

These products are on a long list of items with ingredients derived from pine gum, the sticky substance that oozes from tapped pine trees, said Wayne Smith, emeritus professor with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

One hundred years ago, Florida was the world’s leading producer of pine gum, which was processed into turpentine and rosin, Smith said.

On April 1, the UF/IFAS Austin Cary Forest Campus will commemorate the turpentine industry’s impact on the state with the dedication of the A. Chester Skinner Jr. Family Turpentine Education Site. The site includes traditional and modern pine gum collection techniques, an antique turpentine still restored to historic accuracy, four educational kiosks, and ADA compliant paths connecting the site to the other buildings and trails on the campus.

The dedication will kick off the annual Spring Celebration for alumni and students of the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. Dedication, ribbon-cutting and site tours are set for 10 a.m., followed by a barbeque lunch, and the School’s annual scholarship and awards ceremony.

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UF students learn how to save environment, lessen wildfires with prescribed burns

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Crops, Departments, Environment, Forestry, IFAS, Pollution, Safety, Weather

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Assistant professor Raelene Crandall walks her 18 students into Austin Cary Forest, part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, where they will set a fire. Crandall and the students stand out in their lemon yellow shirts, forest green pants, leather boots and gloves, and hard hats—all fireproof.

“Wildfire season is starting early this year, because we’re seeing a warmer, drier spring,” said Crandall, who teaches fire ecology in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. “Experts predict an unusually bad wildfire season this year with the dry conditions and prescribed burns may help lower that number.”

The students check the plow line, which is used to contain a fire to a particular area and then start a fire along the edge. They stand back as plants begin to burn and the fire gradually progresses. “If we don’t conduct prescribed burns, we will get larger, often catastrophic fires that threaten families and structures,” Crandall explained.

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Wet ‘dry season’ damaged valuable ornamentals

Topic(s): Economics, Extension, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, RECs, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s winters are usually dry, but the wet winter of 2015-2016 helped spread pathogens that destroyed ornamental plants in Miami-Dade County. That’s a problem in an area where the industry generated an estimated $998 million annually in sales in 2015, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers say.

Damage figures are not yet available from the 2015-2016 winter rains, but UF/IFAS scientists have found the pathogens Phytophthora and Pythium caused the most destruction. Rain spreads those pathogens, said Georgina Sanahuja, a post-doctoral researcher at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida.

Meteorologists consider Florida’s “dry season” to run from Oct. 1 to March 1 and the rest of the year to be the “wet season.” But last year, the “dry season” wasn’t so dry, because of El Niño, which brought more rain than South Florida has seen since records were kept starting in 1932, a new study published in the journal HortTechnology says.

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