IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS shares in $2.45 million to research tickborne disease risk

Topic(s): Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Research

Plant ecologist Luke Flory, an associate professor with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences in Gainesville, is seen at a local facility where he researches invasive plants, in this 2013 file photo. UF/IFAS photo by Amy Stuart

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — To protect personnel on Southeastern military installations from tickborne diseases, a federal program has awarded a five-year, $2.45 million grant to a team of researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and other institutions. The grant was provided by the federal Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, an initiative supported by the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The scientists will determine how tick populations are affected by invasive plants, fire and the availability of host animals in specific locations; this information will help the team assess tickborne disease risk under future climate conditions.

Portions of the project based at UF/IFAS will receive more than $700,000 in funding, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “This project requires an interdisciplinary approach to account for all of the relevant ecological factors that influence the risk of people being exposed to tickborne diseases,” Payne said. “An ideal team of subject-matter experts has come together here, and I’m proud that UF/IFAS is involved.”

Participating faculty represent UF/IFAS, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Boston University, Payne said. Field studies will take place on more than a dozen U.S. Department of Defense properties where the lone star tick is found, including sites in six states where the tick co-exists with an invasive plant known as cogongrass — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. Researchers will also assess Midwestern sites where the tick is present but the invasive plant is not.

The team will conduct three years of field work to assess tick populations, white-tailed deer populations, plant communities, plant invasions, and pathogen presence in ticks, said Jackie Burns, UF/IFAS dean for research and director of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station. Two years of data analysis will follow, she said, with researchers using models to develop disease-exposure risk maps for future time frames and climate conditions, as well as early-warning systems and management guidelines. (more …)

Neighboring termite colonies re-invade; expose themselves to deadly bait

Topic(s): Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Household Pests, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs, Research

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Even after an insecticide bait weakens Formosan subterranean termites, a neighboring colony will invade the same area and meet the identical lethal fate, new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences research shows.

The research finding is key for a pest that accounts for much of the $32 billion annual cost caused by subterranean termites worldwide.

“The good news for a homeowner is that as soon as the colony is weakened by baits, the neighboring colony would immediately invade its tunneling system, discover the baits and consume them,” said UF/IFAS entomology professor Nan-Yao Su, co-author of the study. “This always results in the elimination of the invading colony. The results showed that as long as the baits are still present in the bait stations, they will continue to intercept and eliminate incoming colonies.”

(more …)

UF/IFAS researchers find potential bugs to eat invasive cogongrass

Topic(s): Biocontrols, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Forestry, Invasive Species, Pests, Research

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A few bugs may be able to chew up some cogongrass, a noxious weed that elbows out pasture grass, golf course greens and valuable ecosystems, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.

A worldwide research team led by UF/IFAS entomology professor James Cuda and retired entomology professor Bill Overholt found species in Japan, East Africa and Indonesia that might help in the battle against cogongrass.

Among the arthropods they found, Cuda and his team discovered a midge from Indonesia that attacks cogongrass. Cuda and his team are focusing on the Orseolia javanica midge that causes cogongrass to produce linear galls at the expense of leaves. However, when scientists brought the arthropods back to the quarantine facility at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce, Florida, they did not mate and increase in population.

(more …)

New UF/IFAS scientist brings latest technology to battle against invasive species

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Departments, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests

FORT PIERCE, Fla.— Carey Minteer, a research professor with expertise in the use of biological controls to manage invasive plants, has joined the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Florida has the most invasive species in the country, with 28 ports of entry, including seaports, airports and train stations.

Minteer, who is also an expert in geographic information systems, is based at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce, Florida. She is collaborating with professor James Cuda, UF/IFAS Extension agent Ken Gioeli and other scientists to fight the state’s most noxious weeds, including the Brazilian peppertree, one of Florida’s most widespread invasive plants.

“Dr. Minteer has demonstrated effectiveness in investigating the biological control of invasive weeds in the central U.S.A. and Florida,” said Ronald Cave, UF/IFAS Indian River REC interim director. “Her expertise in biological control is strengthened with her knowledge of sophisticated mapping technology for spatial analysis of large infestations, thereby bringing a new dimension of research capability to the laboratory.”

(more …)

Kakkar joins UF/IFAS Extension as invasive insect specialist

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, Crops, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests

FORT PIERCE, Fla. – Garima Kakkar is joining the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to help the state fight invasive pests. Kakkar, an expert in invasive insects, is a UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County Multicounty Agent.

Kakkar has a diverse range of experience in managing pest insects, and will now serve growers in the world’s premier citrus production region with the latest research findings. Her most recent assignment was working as a postdoctoral research associate for UF/IFAS, along with both UF and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in studies of an invasive whitefly, thrips vectors and a pepper whitefly.

“Dr. Kakkar has been synergistically blending research and practical information to create effective tools for the citrus and fruit crops industry,” said Ed Skvarch, director of UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County. “She believes that a channelized production system requires an Extension agent who is more than a liaison between different groups, researchers, growers or industry. Her goal is to develop programs that take research to the fields and industry, for the betterment of our agricultural production systems.”

Since taking her new position, Kakkar has focused on worker protection standards training, and she is organizing soil nutrition programs, developed in conjunction with the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, Florida, Skvarch said.

(more …)

Irula tribesmen and detector dogs help UF/IFAS and FWC remove pythons in Florida

Topic(s): Announcements, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs, Research, Safety

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) are working together on unique projects to target Burmese pythons in Florida. Two projects include using detection dogs and Irula tribesmen to help remove pythons from environmentally sensitive areas.

In their first eight days on the job, the Irula tribesmen — world-renowned snake catchers from India — removed 13 pythons, including four on their first visit to Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge on North Key Largo in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Traditionally, the main occupation of the Irula tribe has been catching snakes. They have successfully hunted and captured Indian pythons in their home province of Tamil Nadu.

“Since the Irula have been so successful in their homeland at removing pythons, we are hoping they can teach people in Florida some of these skills,” said Kristen Sommers, section leader of the FWC’s Wildlife Impact Management Section. “We are working with our partners to improve our ability to find and capture pythons in the wild. These projects are two of several new efforts focused on the removal of these snakes.”

(more …)

Nature Coast research internships give UF students an edge

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pollution, Research

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Last summer, Cory Gillis found himself waking before dawn at the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, where he’d been assigned to track the breeding calls of the northern bobwhite quail as part of an internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But he wasn’t complaining.

“It was amazing to be out in the forest before sunrise in an area without any human influence, not even a sound,” said Gillis, now a senior in the University of Florida department of wildlife ecology and conservation.

Summer internships like Gillis’ are made possible by Nature Coast Biological Station, part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Each year, the station selects a handful of students in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences for internships with various researchers, agencies and labs on Florida’s Nature Coast.

Applications for 2017 summer internships will be open in February, said Savanna Barry, Florida Sea Grant regional specialized agent based at the UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station. This winter, another group of students will intern with the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, where they will collect data on manatee-human interactions and assist with other duties around the busy manatee tourism season, Barry said.

(more …)

Big Bend Science Symposium puts research on public view

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pollution, Research

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Scientists on Florida’s Big Bend coastline spend their careers studying local ecosystems and finding solutions to challenges such as oyster reef decline or the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  Feb 1 to 3, the second annual Big Bend Science Symposium will hold an open forum where the public can meet these scientists and learn about their discoveries and projects.

“The goal of the symposium is to communicate the latest science being done in the Big Bend region and to give visitors a chance to engage directly with scientists,” said Mendy Allen, program coordinator for the Nature Coast Biological Station, part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Symposium scientists will represent several universities, including the University of Florida, state and federal agencies, and conservation groups.

Oral presentations will begin Feb. 1 at 9 a.m. at the Cedar Key Community Center located at 809 6th Street, Cedar Key, FL 32625. All presenters registered with the symposium may attend.

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Citrus greening, invasive species head 2016 UF/IFAS stories

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A trio of projects aimed at helping Florida producers cope with the bacterial disease known as citrus greening topped the list of stories shared by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences in 2016.

This year marked the beginning of the state’s second decade battling greening disease, which is also known as Huanglongbing or HLB. Other top stories for the year involved invasive organisms causing negative impacts to Florida’s economy and environment, and even the health of its residents.

Here are the top 10 UF/IFAS 2016 stories:

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2016’s Top 10 UF/IFAS Extension publications cover snakes, avocados, vegetable gardening, more

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, Invasive Species, Lawn & Garden, Pests

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Vegetable gardening, bahia grass, living with snakes and identifying poisonous plants. These are the topics for some of the top University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension documents from 2016. Here’s this year’s list of the top 10 publications from the UF/IFAS Electronic Data Information Source:

  1. Vegetable gardening offers fresh air, sunshine, exercise, enjoyment, mental therapy, nutritious, fresh vegetables and economic savings, as well as many other benefits: http://bit.ly/2hgLzbV. (124,723 visits)
  2. In the U.S., people kill thousands of snakes each year, yet only five or six people die of venomous snake bites. In order for snakes and people to safely coexist, it is important that Floridians learn to identify, understand and respect snakes: http://bit.ly/2h66sDM. (91,417)
  3. Living with snakes in Florida: About 50 species of snakes live along the Atlantic and Gulf coastal states. An EDIS document, http://bit.ly/2hgK7Xf, teaches you how to identify black snakes.  (89,724)
  4. Here’s everything you need to know about common diseases that afflict poultry: http://bit.ly/2ganzHn. (84,556)
  5. Before you go for a walk, it helps to know if there are poisonous plants along your path. Find out how to identify them: http://bit.ly/2hgJGvJ. (72,245)
  6. How do producers make sure food-handling and processing equipment stays clean? A UF/IFAS expert shows you: http://bit.ly/2hitCpe.
  7. St. Augustine grass is dense and well-adapted to Florida soils, but you’ve got to make sure you water it, according to this EDIS document, http://bit.ly/2gZIYQb. (47,072)
  8. We live with alligators here in Florida. So what do we do about it? Find out here: http://bit.ly/2hdKwpe (45,686)
  9. Bahia grass prefers acidic soil and has relatively few insect and disease problems. Find out more here: http://bit.ly/2gOaaUy. (42,178)
  10. Learn more about growing avocados in your backyard in Florida from UF/IFAS experts in this EDIS document: http://bit.ly/2m3zRU. (36,064)

EDIS, a free service of UF/IFAS Extension, provides information on topics relevant to you: profitable and sustainable agriculture, the environment and natural resources, 4-H and other youth programs, Florida-friendly landscapes, communities that are vibrant and prosperous, economic well-being and quality of life for people and families. UF/IFAS Extension faculty statewide write the documents for EDIS.

“EDIS is a longstanding public-service tradition of UF/IFAS Extension in which we use an electronic system to disseminate top-notch, science-based research to our many stakeholders,” said Nick Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension. “We hope people continue to go to the website and read this critical information that provides solutions for their lives.”

That website is www.edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

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Caption: Vegetable gardening, bahia grass, living with snakes and identifying poisonous plants. Those are among the 10 most popular UF/IFAS Extension publications for 2016.

Credit: UF/IFAS file.

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

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