Monthly Archives: June 2015

Research from UF Horticulture Scientists Featured in New Book

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A new e-book from the University of Arkansas features the work of associate professors Carlene Chase and Xin Zhao on establishing a Florida organic strawberry industry.

Chase and Zhao, along with a team of UF/IFAS scientists, are determining how cover crops can be used to organically suppress weeds and nematodes and improve soil quality. Their research focuses on Florida farmers, and they reached out to more than 200 growers through several workshops and field days, and a public opinion survey.

Their research is featured in a chapter titled “Organic open-field and high tunnel strawberry cropping systems for long-term viability of the southeast industry.”

To read the book, “Moving the Needle: Accomplishments of the National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative, 2013-2014,” visit: http://strawberry.uark.edu/nssiweb.pdf.

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UF Horticulture Lab Testing Plants in Zero Gravity

This week researchers from the UF Horticultural Sciences department are in Houston, TX testing plants’ responses to changes in gravity. As part of their work to developing plants grown on the International Space Station, plant molecular biologists Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul will be exposing plants to zero gravity conditions through a parabolic flight campaign.

Parabolic flights use commercial aircraft to achieve zero gravity for 20-25 seconds by adjusting the flight angle to resemble a parabola, as shown in this diagram:

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The scientists on board the flight will be monitoring how plants react to these conditions. Since plants are not evolved to adapt to zero gravity, these flights help researchers see what previously existing pathways these plants will engage as a response to the stress.

The data they collect during these experiments will help Drs. Ferl and Paul better understand plant’s reaction to prolonged zero gravity conditions, like those on the space station.

For a more detailed look what it’s like to ride in a parabolic flight, check out the lab’s blog:

http://ufspaceplants.blogspot.com/2015/05/parabolic-flights-more-than-just-vomit.html

Photo taken from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zero_gravity_flight_trajectory_C9-565.jpg#/media/File:Zero_gravity_flight_trajectory_C9-565.jpg

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UF Hort Chairman Featured on Comedian Joe Rogan’s Podcast

UF Horticultural Sciences chairman and professor Dr. Kevin Folta busts some GMO myths on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. Watch it here:

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UF Study Shows Consumers Opinions Do Not Respond to Scientific Data

A new study by the UF Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences reveals that consumer opinions on GM foods do not improve even after being exposed to new information.

The studied surveyed 961 people and asked their feelings about statements like “Genetically modified crops are safe to eat.” The data from this round of questions showed that 36 percent of respondents did not believe GM foods were safe to eat, and 32 percent were unsure.

The survey participants were then given scientific information touting the safety of GMOs, like this quote from the Nation Research Council saying, “To date, no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population.”

The participants were surveyed again, and 43 percent of respondents said their negative opinions on GMOs was not swayed by the information, and 12 percent of respondents said they now believe GM foods are less safe than before.

The study’s author and UF assistant professor of food and resources economics Brain McFadden said this is most likely because people often form beliefs and never let them go.

“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.”

Read more information about the study here: http://news.ifas.ufl.edu/2015/06/ufifas-study-new-information-changes-few-opinions-on-gmos-global-warming/#more-8804

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New Strawberry Bred by UF Hort Scientist Improves Flavor and Shelf life

The “Florida 127” strawberry, developed by Vance Whitaker, assistant professor of strawberry breeding at UF’s Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, could be the fruit consumers and growers have been waiting for.

This promising new variety increases flavor, while still allowing for early production and prolonged shelf life. According to Whitaker, fruit from Florida 127 last longer than the typical 10-14 day shelf life by one or two days, which can make a big difference considering the primary market for Florida strawberries is the Northeast.

“I think that’s a good advance. If you’re shipping all the way to Ontario, which many Florida strawberries do, they’ve spent several days on the road,” Whitaker said. “That (shelf life) is a really important aspect we’ve got to focus on.”

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Florida 127 was planted on only 150 acres last season, but it is expected to expand to 2,000 acres for the 2-15-16 season.

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New Variety by UF Hort Professor Could Increase Florida Peach Production

Florida farmers could find new success in peach production, thanks to Dr. Jose Chaparro, an Assistant Professor of Breeding and Genetics in the UF Horticultural Sciences Department.

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Chaparro’s research on the molecular basis of peaches made it possible to develop varieties that thrive without the prolonged winter temperatures that peaches usually need to produce fruit. These peaches are ideal for the Florida climate, and they are ready to be harvested in April and May, before anywhere else in the country.

This new crop comes at a time when Florida farmers are especially vulnerable, as citrus across the state is being ravaged citrus greening.  Though Florida currently only has a few thousand acres of peach orchards, the payoff of an exclusive season and the decreasing value of the citrus industry could lead to a boom of Florida peach production in the near future.

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