UF/IFAS Researchers Make Strides in the Fight Against Citrus Greening

After a decade of fighting Florida’s most destructive plant disease, researchers at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences have developed a citrus tree that shows resistance to citrus greening.

Citrus greening has threatened Florida’s $10.7 billion citrus industry since it was first detected in the state in 2005. A bacterial disease spread by Huanglongbinginsects, citrus greening starves the trees of essential nutrients and results in green, misshapen fruit and the tree’s eventual death.  In the last 10 years, Florida has lost approximately 100,000 acres of citrus trees and $3.6 billion in revenue.

Now Florida’s many citrus producers will have hope, as researchers Jude Grosser and Manjul Dutt at UF/IFAS’ Citrus Research and Education Center have developed a genetically modified citrus tree that shows enhanced resistance to citrus greening.

Grosser and Dutt used a gene isolated from the Arabidopsis plant, of the mustard family, to create a new variety of citrus tree. The researchers planted the new trees in fields and greenhouses filled with infected trees and insects. After years of tests, their experiments showed that the new trees had enhanced resistance, reduced disease-severity, and some even remained completely disease-free.

Though it may be several years before these trees are commercially available, this research breakthrough is in important step towards conquering the disease plaguing Florida growers for the last decade.

Read more: http://news.ifas.ufl.edu/2015/11/uf-creates-trees-with-enhanced-resistance-to-greening/

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UF/IFAS Study Shows Strawberry Growers Should Harvest Earlier

A new UF Institute of Food and Agriculture Science study shows that Florida strawberry growers must pick and harvest fruit earlier in the growing season than usual  to be competitive in today’s market.

While Florida is still the largest producer of winter strawberries, at $366 million annually, Mexico has become a major competitor to the Florida strawberry industry. According to the study, the U.S. imported 360 million pounds of fresh strawberries from Mexico in 2014, while Florida produced about 200 million pounds.

Bowl_of_StrawberriesThe study’s co-author Vance Whitaker, a UF horticultural sciences associate professor, said that to stay competitive, Florida strawberry producers need to start picking in mid-November, when the domestic supply of strawberries are low and prices are high.

Whitaker said Florida strawberry yield needs to peak in the first six to eight weeks of the growing season, otherwise too much supply will lower prices and reduce profit.

“If they can’t do this or lower their costs significantly, it may be difficult for them to stay in business,” Whitaker said.

Read more here: http://news.ifas.ufl.edu/2015/11/ufifas-study-strawberry-growers-must-pick-harvest-earlier-for-best-profit/#more-9518

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Agriculture and Gardening day at UF on Nov. 7

downloadUF Athletics and UF’s Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences are inviting anyone involved in gardening or agriculture industries to “come home” to Gainesville during Homecoming weekend. On Nov. 7., these organizations are hostingAgriculture and Gardening Day  to celebrate families across the state who support these industries.

“Florida’s agricultural, gardening and related food industries add $140 billion to our economy and employ nearly 300,000 people,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “The industry is second only to tourism in Florida, and this is a great way to honor and recognize those who work so hard to put food on our tables and plants and flowers in our yards. We welcome back to Gainesville those who make agriculture and gardening part of their daily lives, and we look forward to their camaraderie.”

The event will revolve around the Homecoming football game at noon, but families who attend the event can take tours of the student-community garden and bat house, and enjoy games, giveaways and special exhibit.

For more information: http://news.ifas.ufl.edu/2015/10/ag-and-gardening-day-set-for-uf-homecoming-on-nov-7/

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UF Horticultural Professor Receives NIFA Grant

UF Horticultural Sciences professor Danielle Treadwell is part of a team of UF IFAS researchers to receive a $1.2 million grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The grant will fund the creation of the Southern Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Center to Enhance Produce Safety at UF.

This grant is part of a NIFA initiative to establish two comprehensive food safety training and education centers, as part of the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

The Southern center will be lead by UF/IFAS and will help 15 other land-grant universities and three NGO’s to educate regional audiences on new FSMA regulations.

Read more here: http://www.cattlenetwork.com/news/uf-receives-12-million-nifa-grant-spread-word-new-national-food-safety-standards

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New Varieties Produced by UF Horticulture Scientists Expand Blueberry Farming to South Florida

Three new blueberry varieties bred by University of Florida Horticulture scientist Jim Olmstead could allow Florida’s profitable blueberry production industry to extend to south end of the state. Olmstead, an associate professor of blueberry breeding and genetics, bred the Arcadia, Avanti, and Endura blueberry bushes specifically to push the current growing range for Florida farmers further south.

imagesUnlike most blueberry plants, these varieties are evergreen, meaning they don’t need to shed their leaves or go dormant in the winter. This allows Florida farmers to produce blueberries from late January to early March, when no one else in the country is able to harvest.

Read more about these new varieties here:  http://www.theledger.com/article/20151010/NEWS/151019972/1178?p=3&tc=pg

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UF Hort Scientists Featured on NPR

The work of UF horticulture scientists Drs. Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul was recently featured on NPR’s Science Friday video series. They are being honored for their research with Arabidopsis, a tenacious weed that provides insight into how plants grow in extreme conditions. Ferl and Paul’s research aims to provide solutions to growing plants in the harsh environment of space and the increasingly volatile climate conditions here on earth.

Watch the incredible video here:

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UF Hort Scientists Identify Genetic Traits for Blueberry Flavor

blueberries-690072_640After a three-year study examining consumer desire, University of Florida Horticultural Sciences  researchers were able to determine which biochemical compounds in blueberries produced flavors people liked the most.

Now that these compounds are identified, UF blueberry scientists like Jim Olmsted  now have specific breeding targets to improve flavor.

Read more here: http://www.freshplaza.com/article/146170/Scientists-zero-in-on-genetic-traits-for-best-blueberry-taste

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