IFAS News

University of Florida

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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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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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 …)

Florida peaches pack a punch as a succulent snack

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida peaches make for a succulent snack, say consumers surveyed by a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher.

That’s encouraging news for Florida producers trying to expand their reach, not only in the Sunshine State but nationally, said Joy Rumble, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication.

“I was surprised to see that one of the most common ways people reported eating peaches was as a snack,” Rumble said. “I thought that people would be consuming them as part of a meal such as lunch or in a dish such as cobbler or as a topping, like on yogurt. This finding is encouraging for the Florida peach industry because the Florida peach tends to be smaller than those produced elsewhere. There is an opportunity to position and market the Florida peach as the perfect snack.”

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UF/IFAS Global honors three faculty members for international work

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Departments, Extension, IFAS, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Taking the charge to bring agricultural solutions to countries far and wide, three faculty members with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have done just that. Thus, they were honored at the third annual UF/IFAS Global forum and awards ceremony in February.

Luke Flory, an assistant professor in the agronomy department, received the UF/IFAS Global International Achievement award for his work on reducing the effects of invasive plants around the world. His research has received international recognition, with invitations to speak at universities and organizations in Asia, Canada and Europe, said Rob Gilbert in a nomination letter.

William Giuliano, a professor and UF/IFAS Extension specialist in the department of wildlife, ecology and conservation, was named a UF/IFAS Global International Fellow. Giuliano secured substantial funding for, established, and now directs the Program for Tropical Ecology and Conservation Science and its associated two field stations in Belize. Also, he established a program to conduct research with and train Belizean scientists, said nominator and colleague Eric Hellgren.

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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.”

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UF researcher: Online tool helps make neighborhoods more bird-friendly

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Research

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When it comes to urban planning, sometimes a bird in hand is not worth two in the bush. Researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have created an online tool to help planners strategically conserve forest fragments and tree canopy that will attract more birds and enhance future biodiversity.

The Building for Birds web tool predicts how the distribution of trees and tree patches in a new development will impact resident and migrating bird habitat. Users can test different arrangements to see how they can optimize habitat for different development scenarios.

“When planners do sustainable development, they usually consider factors such as water, energy or transportation. With this tool, they can also consider biodiversity and show good diligence and stewardship,” said Mark Hostetler, professor of wildlife ecology and conservation who developed the web tool with UF graduate student Jan-Michael Archer.

It’s often not possible to include large swaths of undeveloped land in new developments, so the challenge is knowing how to make the most of the habitat that can be retained, Hostetler said.

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‘Gloom’ and doom when these insects are on hot, dry red maple trees

Topic(s): Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, Forestry, Green Living, IFAS, Landscaping, Pests, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — They are known as gloomy scales, and these insects can make a red maple tree’s life downright dreary. This is because the arthropods feed and thrive on them, especially in warm and dry urban landscapes, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.

Melanaspis tenebricosa, or gloomy scale insects, reproduce more, especially when the trees they live on are under the stress of heat and drought, according to new study led by UF/IFAS entomology assistant professor Adam Dale.

Dale’s new research is important as residents and urban landscapers decide when and where to plant red maple trees, which are native and widely distributed in North America from Florida to Canada and whose canopy helps cool urban areas.

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UF/IFAS researchers find a probiotic combination that might curb allergy symptoms

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

Bobbi Langkamp-Henken

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As we head into allergy season, you may feel less likely to grab a hanky and sneeze. That’s because new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences research shows a probiotic combination might help reduce hay fever symptoms, if it’s taken during allergy season.

Many published studies have shown a probiotic’s ability to regulate the body’s immune response to allergies, but not all of the probiotics show a benefit, UF/IFAS researchers say.

“Not all probiotics work for allergies. This one did,” said Jennifer Dennis, a doctoral student in the UF/IFAS food science and human nutrition department and first author on the latest study.

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